Rosicrucian Fellowship Online Magazine Archives
Three Theories of Life
Only three noteworthy theories have been offered as solutions to the
riddle of existence and in order that we may be able to make the important
choice between them, we will state briefly what they are and give some of
the arguments which lead us to advocate the Doctrine of Rebirth as the
method which favors soul-growth and the ultimate attainment of perfection,
thus offering the best solution to the problem of life.
1) THE MATERIALISTIC THEORY teaches that life is but a short journey from
the cradle to the grave; that there is no higher intelligence in the universe
than man; that his mind is produced by certain correlations of matter and that
therefore death and dissolution of the body terminate existence.
2) THE THEORY OF THEOLOGY claims that just prior to each birth a soul is
created by God and enters into the world where it lives for a time varying
from a few minutes to a few score years; that at the end of this short span of
life to returns through the portal of death to the invisible beyond, where it
remains forever in a condition of happiness or misery according to the deeds
done in the body during the few years it lived here.
Plato insisted upon the necessity of a clear definition of terms as a
basis of argument and we contend that that is as necessary in discussing the
problem of life from the biblical point of view as in arguments from the
platonic standpoint. According to the Bible man is a composite being
consisting of body, soul, and Spirit. The two latter are usually taken to be
synonymous but we insist that they are not interchangeable and present the
following to support our dictum.
All things are in a state of vibration. Vibrations from objects in our sur
roundings are constantly impinging upon us and carry to our senses a
cognition of the external world. The vibrations in the ether act upon our
eyes so that we see, and vibrations in the air transmit sounds to the ear.
We also breathe the air and ether which is thus charged with pictures of our
surroundings and the sounds in our environment, so that by means of the
breath we receive at each moment of our life, INTERNALLY, an accurate
picture of our external surroundings.
That is a scientific proposition. Science does not explain what becomes of
these vibrations, however, they are transmitted to the blood, and then
etched upon a little atom in the heart as automatically as a moving picture
is imprinted upon the sensitized film, and a record of sounds is engraved
upon the phonographic disc. This breath-record starts with the first breath
of the newborn babe and ends only with the last gasp of the dying man, and
"soul" is a product of the breath. Genesis also shows the connection between
breath and soul in the words: "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of
the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man
became a living soul" (The same word: "nephesh," is translated breath and
soul in the above quotation.) In the post-mortem existence the breath-record
is disposed of. The good acts of life produce feelings of pleasure and the
intensity of attraction incorporates them into the Spirit as soul-power.
THUS THE BREATH-RECORDS OF OUR GOOD ACTS ARE THE SOUL WHICH IS SAVED, for by
the union with the Spirit they become immortal. As they accumulate life
after life, we become more soulful and they are thus also the basis of soul-
growth. The record of our evil acts is also derived from our breath in the
moments when they were committed. The pain and suffering they bring cause
the Spirit to expel the breath-record from it being in Purgatory. As that
cannot exist independently of the life-giving Spirit, the breath-record of
our sins disintegrates upon expurgation, and thus we see that "the soul that
sinneth, it shall die." The memory of the suffering incidental to
expurgation, however, remains with the Spirit as CONSCIENCE, to deter from
repetition of the same evil in later lives.
Thus both our good and evil acts are recorded through the agency of the
breath, which is therefore the basis of the soul, but while the breath-
record of good acts amalgamates with the Spirit and lives on forever as an
immortal soul, the breath-record of evil deeds is disintegrated; it is the
soul that sinneth and dies.
While the Bible teaches that immortality of the soul is conditional upon
well-doing, it makes no distinction in respect of the Spirit. The statement
is clear and emphatic when..."The silver cord be loosed...then shall the
dust return to the earth as it was and the spirit shall return to God who
Thus the Bible teaches that the body is made of dust and returns thereto,
that a part of the soul generated in the breath is perishable, but that the
Spirit survives bodily death and persists forever. Therefore a "lost soul"
in the common acceptance of that term is not a Bible teaching, for the
Spirit is uncreate and eternal as God Himself, and therefore the orthodox
theory cannot be true.
3) THE THEORY OF REBIRTH: which teaches that each Spirit is an integral
part of God, that it enfolds all divine possibilities as the acorn enfolds
the oak; that by means of many existences in an earthly body of gradually
improving texture its latent powers are being slowly unfolded and become
available as dynamic energy; that none can be lost but that all will
ultimately attain to perfection and reunion with God, each bringing with it
the accumulated experiences which are the fruitage of its pilgrimage through
Or, as we may poetically express it:
We Are Eternal
On whistling stormcloud; on Zephyrus wing,
The Spirit-choir loud the world-anthems sing;
Hark! List to their voice: "We have passed through death's door,
There's no Death; rejoice! life lives evermore."
We are, have always been, will ever be.
We are a portion of Eternity,
Older than Creation, a part of One Great Whole,
Is each Individual and immortal Soul.
On Time's whirring loom our garments we've wrought,
Eternally weave we on network of Thought,
Our kin and our country, by Mind brought to birth,
Were patterned in heaven ere molded on earth.
We have shone in the jewel and danced on the wave,
We have sparkled in fire, defying the grave;
Through shapes everchanging, in size, kind and name
Our individual essence still is the same.
And when we have reached to the highest of all,
The gradations of growth our minds shall recall,
So that link by link we may join them together
And trace step by step the way we reached thither.
Thus in time we shall know, if only we do
What lifts, ennobles, is right and true.
With kindness to all, with malice to none,
That in and through us God's will may be done.
We venture to make the assertion that there is but one sin: IGNORANCE, and
but one salvation: APPLIED KNOWLEDGE. Even the wisest among us know but
litte of what may be learned, however, and no one has attained to
perfection, or an attain in one single short life, but we note that
everywhere in nature slow persistent unfoldment makes for higher and higher
development of everything, and we call this process evolution.
One of the chief characteristics of evolution lies in the fact that it
manifests in alternating periods of activity and rest. The busy summer, when
all things upon earth are exerting themselves to bring forth, is followed by
the flood-tide. Thus, as all other things move in cycles, the life that
expresses itself here upon Earth for a few years is not to be thought of as
ended when death has been reached, but as surely as the Sun rises in the
morning after having set at night, will the life that was ended by the death
of one body be taken up again in a new vehicle and in a different
This earth may, in fact, be likened to a school to which we return life
after life to learn new lessons, as our children go to school day after day
to increase their knowledge. The child sleeps through the night which
intervenes between death and a new birth. There are also different classes
in this world school which correspond to the various grades from
kindergarten to college. In the lower classes we find Spirits who have gone
to the school of life but a few times, they are savages now, but in time
they will become wiser and better than we are, and we ourselves shall
progress in future lives to spiritual heights of which we cannot even
conceive at the present. If we apply ourselves to learn the lessons of life,
we shall of course advance much faster in the school of life than if we
dilly-dally and idle our time away. This, on the same principle which
governs in one of our own institutions of learning.
We are not here then by the caprice of God. He has not placed one in
clover and another in a desert, nor has He given one a healthy body so that
he may live at ease from pain and sickness, while He placed another in poor
circumstances with never a rest from pain. But what we are, we are on
account of our own diligence or negligence, and what we shall be in the
future depends upon what we will to be and not upon divine caprice or upon
inexorable fate. No matter what the circumstances, it lies with us to master
them, or to be mastered as we will. Sir Edwin Arnold puts the teaching most
beautifully in his "Light of Asia:"
The Books say well, my Brothers! each man's life
The outcome of his former living is;
The bygone wrongs bring forth sorrows and woes,
The bygone right breeds bliss.
Each has such lordship as the loftiest ones,
Nay, for with powers around, above, below,
As with all flesh and whatsoever lives ACT maketh joy or woe.
Who toiled, a slave, may come anew a prince
For gentle worthiness and merit won,
Who ruled, a king, may wander earth in rags
For things done or undone.
Or, as Ella Wheeler Wilcox says:
One ship sails East and another sails West
With the self same winds that blow.
'Tis the set of the sail, and not the gale,
Which determines the way they go.
As the winds of the sea are the ways of fate
As we voyage along through life.
'Tis the act of the soul, which determines the goal
And not the calm or the strife.
When we wish to engage someone to undertake a certain mission we choose
some one whom we think particularly fitted to fulfill the requirements, and
we must suppose that a Divine Being would use at least as much common sense
and not choose anyone to do his errand who was not fitted therefor. So when
we read in the Bible that Samson was fore-ordained to be the slayer of the
Philistines and that Jeremiah was predestined to be a prophet, it is but
logical to suppose that they must have been particularly suited to such
occupations. John the Baptist, also, was born to be a herald of the coming
Saviour and to preach the Kingdom of God which is to take the place of the
kingdom of men.
Had these people had no previous training, how could they have developed
such a fitness to fulfill their various missions, and if they had been
fitted, how else could they have received their training if not in earlier
lives? The Jews believed in the Doctrine of Rebirth or they would not have
asked John the Baptist if he were Elijah, as recorded in the first chapter
of John. The Apostles of Christ also held the belief as we may see from the
incident recorded in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew where the Christ asked
them the question: "Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" The
Apostles replied: "Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias; and
others Jeremias or one of the Prophets." Upon this occasion the Christ
tacitly assented to the teaching of Rebirth because He did not correct the
disciples as would have been His plain duty in His capacity as teacher, when
the pupils entertained a mistaken idea. But to Nicodemus He said
unequivocally: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of
God," and in the eleventh chapter of Matthew, the fourteenth verse, He said,
speaking of John the Baptist: "THIS IS ELIJAH." In the seventeenth chapter
of Matthew, the twelfth verse, He said: "Elijah is come already and they
knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed." "Then the
disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptist."
Thus we maintain that the Doctrine of Rebirth offers the only solution to
the problem of life which is in harmony with the laws of nature, which
answers the ethical requirements of the case and permits us to love God
without blinding our reason to the inequalities of life and the varying
circumstances which give to a few the ease and comfort, the health and
wealth, which are denied to the any.
The theory of heredity advanced by materialists applies only to the FORM,
for as a carpenter uses material from a certain pile of lumber to build a
house in which he afterward lives, so does the Spirit take the substance
wherewith to build its house from the parents. The carpenter cannot build a
house of hard wood from spruce lumber, and the Spirit also must build a body
which is like those from which the material was taken. But the theory of
heredity does not apply upon the moral plane, for it is a known fact that in
the rogues galleries of America and Europe there is no case where both
father and son are represented. Thus the sons of criminals, though they have
the tendencies to crime, keep out of the clutches of the law. Neither will
heredity hold good upon the plane of the intellect, for many cases may be
cited where a genius and an idiot spring from the same stock. The great
Cuvier, whose brain was of about the same weight, as Daniel Webster's, and
whose intellect was as great, had five children who all died of paresis;
the brother of Alexander the Great was an idiot; and thus we hold that
another solution must be found to account for the facts of life.
The Law of Rebirth coupled with its companion law, the Law of Causation,
does that. When we die after one life, we return to earth later, under
circumstances determined by the manner in which we lived before. The gambler
is drawn to pool parlors and race tracks to associate with others of like
taste, the musician is attracted to the concert halls and music studios
where there are congenial Spirits, and the returning Ego also carries with
it likes and dislikes which cause it to seek parents among the class to
which it belongs.
But then someone will point to cases where we find people of entirely
opposite tastes living lives of torture, because grouped in the same family,
and forced by circumstances to stay there contrary to their wills. But that
does not vitiate the law in the slightest. In each life we contact certain
obligations which cannot then be fulfilled. Perhaps we have run away from a
duty such as the care of an invalid relative and have met death without
coming to a realization of our mistake. That relative upon the other hand
may have suffered severely from our neglect, and have stored up a bitterness
against us before death terminates the suffering. Death and the subsequent
removal to another environment does not pay our debts in this life, any more
than the removal from the city where we now live to another place will pay
the debts we have contracted prior to our removal. It is therefore quite
possible that the two who have injured each other as described, may find
themselves members of the same family. Then, whether they remember the past
grudge or not, the old enmity will assert itself and cause them to hate anew
until the consequent discomfort force them to tolerate each other, and
perhaps later they may learn to love where they hated.
The question also arises in the mind of inquirers: If we have been here
before why do we not remember? And the answer is that while most people are
not aware of how their previous existences were spent, there are others who
have a very distinct recollection of previous lives. A friend of the writer
(Max Heindel), for instance, when living in France, one day started to read
to her son about a certain city where they were then going upon a bicycle
tour, and the boy exclaimed: "You do not need to tell me about that, Mother.
I know that city. I lived there and was killed!" He then commenced to
describe the city and also a certain bridge. Later he took his mother to
that bridge and showed her the spot where he had met death centuries before.
Another friend travelling in Ireland saw a scene which she recognized, and
she also described to the party the scene around the bend of the road which
she had never seen in this life, so it must have been a memory from a
previous life. Numerous other instances could be given where such minor
flashes of memory reveal to us glimpses from a past life. The verified case
in which a little three year old girl in Santa Barbara described her life
and death has been given in "The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception." It is
perhaps the most conclusive evidence as it hinges on the veracity of a child
too young to have learned deception.
This theory of life does not rest upon speculation, however. It is one of
the first facts of life demonstrated to the pupil of a Mystery School. He is
taught to watch a child in the act of dying, also, to watch it in the
invisible world from day to day, until it comes to a new birth a year or two
later. Then he knows with absolute certainty that we return to Earth to reap
in a future life what we now sow.
The reason for taking a child to watch in preference to an adult is that
the child is reborn very quickly, for its short life on Earth has borne but
few fruits and these are soon assimilated, while the adult who has lived a
long life and had much experience remains in the invisible worlds for
centuries, so that the pupil could not watch him from death to rebirth. The
cause of infant mortality will be explained later; here we merely desire to
emphasize the fact that it is within the range of possibilities of every one
without exception to become able to know at first hand that which is here
The average interval between two Earth-lives is about a thousand years. It
is determined by the movement of the Sun known to astronomers as "precession
of the equinox," by which the Sun moves through one of the signs of the
Zodiac in about 2,100 years. During that time the conditions upon Earth have
changed so much that the Spirit will find entirely new experiences here, and
therefore it returns.
The Great Leaders of evolution always obtain the maximum benefit from each
condition designed by them, and as the experiences in the same social condi-
tions are very different in the case of a man from what they are for a woman,
the human Spirit takes birth twice during the 2,100 years measured by the
precession of the equinox, as already explained: it is born once as a man
and another time as a woman. Such is the rule, but it is subject to whatever
modifications may be necessary to facilitate reaping what the Spirit has
sown, as required under the Law of Causation which works hand in hand with
the Law of Rebirth. Thus, at times a Spirit may be brought to birth long ere
the thousand years have expired, in order to fulfill a certain mission, or
it may be detained in the invisible worlds after the time when it should
have come to birth according to the strict requirements of a blind law. The
laws of nature are not that, however. They are Great Intelligences who
always subordinate minor considerations to higher ends, and under their
beneficent guidance we are constantly progressing from life to life under
conditions exactly suited to each individual, until in time we shall attain
to a higher evolution and become Supermen.
Oliver Wendell Holmes has so beautifully voiced that aspiration and its
consummation in the lines:
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past;
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!
This article was adapted from "The Rosicrucian Mysteries" by Max Heindel,
page 21-35, published by The Rosicrucian Fellowship.