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Unity Magazine November 1938 - Reincarnation

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From Unity Magazine, November 1938

Download a PDF of Reincarnation from Unity November 1938.




The teaching of Jesus Christ is that all men will, through Him, be made free from sin and be saved to the uttermost—spirit, soul, and body. But until this salvation is attained there is death. There must be some way to give men opportunity to get the full benefit of salvation. Life is necessary, and a body through which to express life is also necessary. So when by death a person loses his body, the law of expression works within him for re-embodiment and he takes advantage of Adam's habit of generation to regain a body. This compelling force of the soul to embody itself is called reincarnation. But the process of reincarnation is not strictly under the divine law; divine mercy permits it in order that man may have further opportunity to demonstrate eternal life. Generation and death must give place to regeneration and eternal life. The necessity of rebirth must therefore eventually pass away with all other makeshifts of the sense-governed man. It has no place when men take advantage of the regenerating life of Christ and quit giving up their bodies to death.

Re-embodiment should not be given undue importance, because it is merely a temporary remedy, to be followed by the real, which is resurrection or regeneration. The whole man—spirit, soul, and body—must be lifted up into the Christ consciousness of life and perfection, which is the goal of man’s existence. “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

Through “the light [the indwelling Christ] which lighteth every man, coming into the world” the so-called heathen have discerned many principles of Truth to which the more material-minded Christians of the newer countries have been blind. Whenever there has been a nation of thinkers who were not bound in materialism, those thinkers have accepted re-embodiment as a fact. It is rejected only where the craze for wealth and for fame and for the things of the world has darkened the mind with materiality.

But those who do not understand Truth as revealed by Jesus Christ do not know where and how re-embodiment fits into the plan of race redemption; to them it is a fixed, unalterable law. They believe in karma, the accumulated effects of the sins of past lives. The burden of karma they have carried for ages, and they expect to carry it for ages more, until they have worked out of it. This makes them victims of a blind fatalism, weary treadmill travelers from birth to death and from death to rebirth, through countless ages and aeons until the soul has outworked its karma.

But there is no such hopeless note in the doctrine of Jesus Christ. He came to bring a full consciousness of abundant life, complete forgiveness and redemption from all sin, victory over death, and the grace to deliver man from any occasion for re-embodiment and from all ideas of the bondage of sin-imposed karma.

Jesus teaches that rebirth or reincarnation is the unifying force of nature at work in its effort to restore man to his original deathless estate. Man through his disregard of the law of life brought death upon himself, as taught in the 3d chapter of Genesis. But a single span of life, from the birth of an infant to the death of an old man, does not constitute all of man’s opportunity for living. Life is continuous but in harmony with the wholeness of Being only when it is expressed in a perfect body; hence man must have a body in order to gain an abiding consciousness of life. Through repeated trials at living, man is finding out that he must learn to control the issues of life in his body. Paul says in 1 Cor. 9:27, “I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.” The divine law, as taught by Jesus Christ, must be understood and applied in all life’s details, and when this is done the Edenic state will be restored in man’s organism.

The objections that the natural man raises to reembodiment arise largely from the fact that he lives in the personal consciousness and cannot see things in the spiritual and universal. He thinks that by re-embodiment he loses his identity. But identity endures. Personal consciousness does not endure. The personal man is not immortal, and he dies. This is clear to any one who is willing to give up his belief in the reality and importance of the natural-man consciousness.

The personal man with all his limitations, all his relations, must give way to the universal, the Christ, man. The privilege is ours to give up or forsake everything—father, mother, wife, children, houses, lands—for Christ’s sake and so enter into the consciousness of eternal life. By doing this we come into the realization of eternal life and receive a hundredfold more of the very things that we have forsaken. If we refuse or neglect to make this “sacrifice” and prefer to live in the narrow, personal self, and cling to the old personal relationships, there is nothing for us to do but meet the result of our choice and to give up all those relationships by death.

It is just a question of giving up a little for the all and of thus gaining eternal life. So if re-embodiment frees one from the old personal relationships, it is not such a dreadful thing after all. But it cannot give anything more than new personal relationships at each reincarnation. Rising out of these into the universal is a work that every one must do willingly for himself. Re-embodiment does not give redemption. Reincarnation only offers opportunity to lay hold of redemption and eternal life without death of the body. This overcoming of death, as Jesus overcame it, is attained by following Him in the regeneration (see Matt. 19:28).

Paul, writing to the Romans, said: “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now . . . waiting for . . . the redemption of our body.” He discerned with remarkable clearness that the body was to be saved from death, the grave, and corruption by the transforming power of the Christ mind dwelling in the body. The pure, incorruptible substance of Spirit, built into the organism through true, pure, spiritual thought and word, makes the body incorruptible and eternal. As the mind changes from error to Truth, corresponding changes take place in the body, and the ultimate of these changes is perfection and wholeness in every part. Therefore those who are trying to lay hold of eternal life have ground for their faith in the promise that they will be saved from the grave.

Since we know that spirit, soul, and body are all necessary to man and that he cannot truly be said to live except in their conscious union and expression, the error of believing that death is the open door to a higher life, the gateway to heaven, is easily seen. There is no progress in death. Death is negation. The demonstration of eternal life can be made only in life; soul and body together must work out the problem and together must be lifted up.

The idea of progress through death has its origin in the sensate mind, which reasons from its own limitations instead of from absolute Truth. The sensate mind desires to preserve eternally the personal consciousness and all personal relationships. Man therefore attempts to make and to people a heaven or spirit world where all the old family relationships are as he knows them in his present life. He clings to this idea with a tenacity worthy of a better object, and it is usually only after hard experience that he is willing to drop the personal and to say: “Whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Eternal life cannot be demonstrated through personal consciousness. The great family of Jesus Christ, the redeemed Adam race, are all one, and the little relationships of Adam have no place in the new order.

Another illogical belief about the destiny of man is that the patriarchs and the prophets and all others who have lived have been lying in their graves, some of them for thousands of years, having no place in the onward movement of the race. Another teaching, unfounded in Scripture or in reason, holds that those who formerly lived are now either in a realm of eternal bliss or in a state of unending torment. It is far more logical to believe that the race is a unit and that all its members grow and develop together as well as individually. Thus we find it only reasonable to think of every man and every woman as coming onto the stage of life repeatedly, keeping up connection with the race and its experiences. A definite instance of this is written in the Scriptures concerning Elijah’s appearance and work as John the Baptist. "And the disciples asked him, saying, ‘Why then do the scribes say, that Elijah must first come?’ He answering, said, ‘Elijah indeed comes, and will restore all things. But I say to you, that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him whatever they wished. . . Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them concerning John.” (Matt. 17:10-14; Emphatic Diaglott.)

God is no respecter of persons; there is one universal law for all men, and what was true of Elijah is true of you and me. We have lived and died in sense-thought consciousness numerous times and will continue to do so until we overcome sin, sickness, and death, and raise our body to the “place” or fourth dimension of Jesus Christ. The great men and women of past ages are the great men and women of today. As Shakespeare says, we all are merely actors in a great world drama, each one playing many parts. Abraham Lincoln, the emancipator, may have been Moses come again with his freeing spirit.

Sense consciousness has no power to lift itself out of ignorance and sin, so the mere matter of repeated births has not taken the race forward but has merely kept us with each rebirth repeating the old states of mind. It is the descent of Spirit from time to time, as the people have been able to receive it, that has made all progress. As man’s growth has made it possible, new principles of Truth have been discerned and new dispensations have come. When the time was ripe Jesus came and brought the good news of salvation from death. But His words had to work in the race consciousness for nearly two thousand years before any one was sufficiently awakened and quickened to believe in a complete redemption of the body from death and to strive to lay hold of it. The promise is that the leaven of the word will finally leaven the whole of the human family and that all will come into the light of life.

From the standpoint of creative mind it is plain that re-emhodiment serves a purpose in affording opportunities for spiritual development. All that is gained in spiritual growth in one life experience becomes part of the individual’s real identity; and if he is faithful, he will finally gather such a store of spiritual power and wisdom that he can demonstrate salvation of his body through Christ, who is "able to save to the uttermost.” But, we would repeat, reincarnation is only an opportunity, not an achievement.

If generation and reincarnation are not the means of restoring to their place in the race those who have died, what is the means that measures up to the divine law? The answer is resurrection. The Scriptures make very plain that all men are already “dead through . . . trespasses and sins.” Whether they still walk the earth or have ceased to breathe and have been buried from sight, all are spiritually in a dead state, and all must be raised from the grave of ignorance and sin to light and life in Christ. “The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live . . . Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.”

“The hour . . . now is.” Right now the resurrection work is going on, and men and women are awakening out of the tombs of material consciousness to a new understanding of life and perfection of body. This resurrection work must extend to every member of the Adam race, whether he is what we call alive or whether he sleeps, as Jesus said of the dead. All must be awakened and be unified in spirit, soul, and body.

Many of the present-day ideas of resurrection have come down from past centuries of ignorance and have been accepted without question because they seem to be supported by a literal interpretation of certain Bible texts. But in these, as in all Scripture, we should go back of the letter and see the spiritual meaning of the parables and the symbols used to teach the true nature of the raising of the dead. Thus we shall find unfolding day by day in ourselves the awakening and resurrection of thought that we once supposed would come in a single day to the bodies of those in the grave. When this raising of our dying and dead thoughts has gone far enough in us, we shall find ourselves gradually slipping into continuous health; that is, we shall realize that our body is self-renewing and therefore naturally immortal. Such a mighty and far-reaching work would be included in the promise “Greater works than these shall he [man] do.”

“The dead in Christ shall rise first.” This is reasonable. Jesus said that many would strive to demonstrate eternal life without Christ and would not be able. But by their efforts to lay hold of life in one incarnation such persons build up a spiritual consciousness that is more easily reached by the spoken, resurrecting word in the next or a succeeding incarnation. They will come forth to “the resurrection of life”; that is, they will be raised in the consciousness of life that they have attained and will go on growing into the full Christ realization, finally making the complete demonstration so that they will not die again.

Mention is also made in John’s Gospel (King James Version) of “the resurrection of damnation.” Damnation is condemnation. Paul makes it very clear that by Adam’s transgression condemnation came upon all his race. As death has no power to help any one, the condition of the Adam man is not bettered by dying. Therefore when people are raised they “come forth . . . unto the resurrection of judgment,” in other words, condemnation or correction. Every one begins where he left off. But though a person may have died in condemnation and may have been raised in that state, he has opportunity when raised to come up into Jesus Christ (in whom is no condemnation), to identify himself with the Jesus Christ race, and to demonstrate through Him the deathless life. So is proved the divine justice of including all in sin in Adam, that all might be delivered in one, even Jesus Christ.

In some of Paul’s statements about resurrection, he seemingly contradicts Jesus, but we must remember that there are steps and phases to this great process, and when we understand them we shall see that men will be raised to their place in the Adam race (the resurrection to condemnation), then raised out of Adam into Christ.

Every one who would demonstrate that he is risen with Christ must first lay hold of life by faith and affirm without wavering that he is raised out of sin and condemnation and death into eternal life. Then the word of life carries on day by day the resurrecting, redeeming work in the mind and in the body. "I die daily,” I am raised daily. Every day some old limitation or error loses its hold and passes away and the imperishable, incorruptible substance of Truth becomes a little more firmly established in consciousness. In this way the body is transformed and raised up in honor, incorruptible, immortal. This is the raising of the dead, as commanded by Jesus.

However some of the details of this great work of restitution must of necessity at this time be mere speculation. It is not profitable to allow our mind to dwell on material questionings about how the work of Spirit is to be done in and through us.

Physical science is making tremendous discoveries of the innate capacity of the human organism, a capacity apparently unused. It finds that the body cells are composed of countless atoms, and that every atom has at its center great electrical energies, and that there are billions of these energy centers in the body; indeed that there is power enough in a single teardrop, if it were suddenly released, to blow up a ten-story building. Why are we not releasing this wonderful life and intelligence implanted in the body by infinite Mind? The only answer is that we are ignorant of our sleeping powers; they are sleeping in the tombs of our dead thoughts.

It is our place to hold ourselves in a positive life thought, realizing always the omnipresence and perfection of life in God, thus bringing it more and more into manifestation in ourselves and in others. When we realize how much our faithfulness means to the race, we shall rejoice in being true to the great principles of Truth that will bring to pass the time when death and the grave will be no more. “And death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.”

That you do not remember your past lives proves nothing. Neither do you remember the day when you were born, but you do not on that account question the fact of your birth. Comparatively little of your present life is remembered. But that does not alter the fact that you have lived. Memory to the natural man is a matter of phonographic brain records. The memory of experienccs in past lives is not dearly recorded in the new brain structure of the infant. Memory is usually in the nature of impressions; identity is blurred. But in the book of life, the great Mind of the universe, all identity is sharply marked, and as the individual becomes quickened and raised out of personal consciousness into the universal, he will be able to bridge over the breaks in personal experience. He will come to himself. Realizing his spiritual identity as a son of God, he will not entangle himself with either present or past personality but will claim and demonstrate his divine sonship. He will no longer limit himself to a brief span of life, beginning with birth and ending with death, but will live in the consciousness of eternal life, which has neither end nor beginning.

Some have thought that they could demonstrate eternal life by believing in the never-ending life, while holding to the idea of life with a beginning. But nothing is eternal that has a beginning. So if we would live forever we must give up every limitation of sense ignorance and say with Jesus: “Before Abraham was . . . I am.” “Glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”

To be dead in “trespasses and sins” is to lack the realization of God and to be ignorant of His law and disobedient to it. When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life,” He was telling of the power of the Christ mind to enter the mind and body of man and awaken the whole consciousness to the knowledge of God. This resurrecting process is now going on in many. It is a gradual change that brings about a complete transformation of the body through the renewing of the mind. Spirit, soul, and body become unified with the Christ mind, and body and soul become immortal and incorruptible. In this way death is overcome.

Those who insist that men do not die as a result of sin are building up a false hope of finding life after death, while those who understand that eternal life has been lost to the race through sin and can be regained only through the resurrecting power of the Christ mind in the individual are building on the eternal foundation of Truth. Every one at some time must come to understand that this statement is absolutely true: “He that hath the Son [consciousness of Christ] hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life.”

The teaching that death is the open door to a higher life is not true, and those who teach it prove that they do not believe it to be true by striving, like all other people, to live as long as possible. There is no attainment of eternal life by the soul that is detached from the body. It is through the relation between mind and substance, or soul and body, that man gains consciousness of the relation between substance and life; and when this relation is sundered the soul loses its opportunity to grow under the law. Those who have left their body have done so because of transgression of law. It may have been through ignorance; but ignorance is no excuse, and they must again take up the problems of this plane; which means that those who have died and are living in the realm of souls must reincarnate.

Those who have left the body are not separate from those in the body, except in environment. Their minds are functioning, and they are being moved by the thoughts that dominated them while in the body. If their physical vitality was strong when the body was vacated, they are still vital and active; if they were weary and wanted to rest, they are resting. “Where the tree falleth, there shall it be.”

The claim that the earth is but a temporary state of abode and that other places in the spiritual world are better adapted to our unfoldment is not substantiated. The soul that leaves its substance body has a temporary body, but it is merely a mental picture of the substance body that has been left, and it has no abiding life in it. The Hindus call this body the astral body. It gradually fades away, and the soul is left as a thinking entity without a substance vehicle. It then comes under the law of its original creation, and returns and again becomes an infant and makes another body in the flesh. This is called reincarnation. You may call it the appearing and disappearing and reappearing of the man ego in its efforts to perfect itself.

The Scriptures teach that death is a transgression of the law of life; that man was created to live in his body, refining it by every thought and act until it becomes just as spiritual as the mind. This righteous process would make health perpetual and of course would do away with death. This was the teaching and demonstration of Jesus Christ, and to it we all must come before we solve the laws of being and set up the kingdom of heaven or spiritual surroundings here on the earth.

You can easily see how illogical, unwise, and futile it is to teach that man can lay off his body as a worn-out garment and go on to higher attainments by weakly giving up and dying. We know whereof we speak, and we must proclaim this great principle of Truth taught by Jesus Christ: “Whosoever liveth and believeth on me [spiritual I am] shall never die.” If God created man to die and to go on to a spirit land to get his education, then it would he better for him to die in infancy and escape the hardships of life. Also if death is part of God’s law, we are defeating that law every time we try to escape death by trying to heal the body.

This theory of continuous progressive life after death contradicts the teachings of the Bible. God did not create man to die. Death is the result of a transgression of divine law. Practical Christianity teaches that man was created to live in his body, refining it as his thoughts unfold, and that the work of every true follower of Jesus is to restore this state; that is, to unite spirit, soul, and body here on earth. This work must be fulfilled in the whole race, and every thought of death or of leaving the body must be put out of the mind.

Practical Christians object to thoughts that tend to the separation of soul and body, because by these thoughts a consciousness is built that brings about that dissolution.

If you want to know all the mysteries of life, study life and put out of your mind every thought about death or about the condition of the dead. Then through the law of thought formation you will build up in yourself such a strong consciousness of life that its negation or absence will ever be to you nonexistent. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “If a man keep my word, he shall never see death.”