Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fragmentary Aspects of Philosophy Occult and Academic In Which the Truth of Reincarnation is Ably Discussed

By Israel Regardie (1929)
(Part 1 of 3)
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 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.

[1] Henri Bergson (1859-1941) was one of the most influential French philosophers of the late 19th century-early 20th century. He was also the brother of Moina Mathers.
[3] Johann Gottlieb Fichte: a major figure in German philosophy who developed a system of transcendental philosophy called Wissenschaftslehre.
[4] Often considered a pessimist, Arthur Schopenhauer contended that at its core, the universe is not a rational place.
[5] German philosopher Immanuel Kant is considered one of the most influential thinkers of modern times.
[6] Matthew Arnold: a Victorian poet who is now better known for his critical essays.