In the preceding chapter we have explained that the soul, falling into the second soul-slumber, is caught up by the currents of the Karmic attraction, and is carried on toward re-birth in an environment, and with ties, in accordance with the sum of its character and desires. As we shall see in the succeeding chapter, some souls escape this current of rebirth, and are, instead, carried on to higher spheres of activity and being. But, by far, the great majority of the souls on the Astral Plane move forward toward earthly re-birth—such being their Karma.
But here, we must caution the student against falling into the far too common error of supposing that this Karma is a stern something meting out rewards and punishments according to some established code. Instead, Karma is simply the law of spiritual cause and effect—we are punished not because of our sins, but by them; we are rewarded not because of our good deeds, but by them. In short, our rewards and punishments arise by the very nature of our character, and our character is the sum total of our desires. Therefore, desire is the motive power of Karma, and, through Karma, of our re-births.
The Life Beyond Death
To many, it seems as if re-birth upon earth is something forced upon the soul in spite of its desires. The very opposite is true, for the sum of the desires of the soul constitute the very actual motive power leading to the re-birth.
Those who are re-born on earth are not re-born against their will or desire. On the contrary, they are re-born because they actually desire it. They are carried into the current of re-birth because their tastes and desires have created longings that can be satisfied only by renewed life in the flesh. Although they are not conscious of it, they instinctively place themselves again within the operations of the Law of Attraction, and are swept on to re-birth, in exactly the environment best calculated to enable them to live out and outlive these desires—to express and exhaust the force of desire. They hunger to satisfy their longings, and, until that hunger is appeased, the desires cannot be discarded. This does not mean that every desire must necessarily be lived out, for it happens frequently that new insight and experience causes the soul to turn with loathing from the former object of desire, and the desire thus dies a natural death. But so long as the desire remains alive it tends to attract the soul toward objects and environment which is likely to satisfy it. This is true of the soul on the Astral Plane, as well as in earth life. Desire is always the great motive power of the soul in determining rebirth.
The soul, preserving its desire for material things—the things of flesh and the material life—and not being able to divorce itself from these things, will naturally fall into the current of rebirth which will lead it toward conditions in which these desires will flourish and become manifest. It is only when the soul, by means of many earth-lives, begins to see the worthlessness and illusory nature of earthly desires, that it begins to become attracted by the things of the life of its higher nature, and, escaping the flowing currents of earthly re-birth, it rises above them and is carried to higher spheres.
The average person, after years of earthly experience, is apt to say that he or she has no more desire for earth life, and that his or her only desire is to leave the same behind forever. These persons are perfectly sincere in their statements and beliefs, but a glance into their inmost soul would reveal an entirely different state of affairs. They are not, as a rule, really tired of earth-life, but merely of the particular kind of earth life which they have experienced during that incarnation. They have discovered the illusory nature of a certain set of earthly experiences, and feel disgusted at the same. But, they are still full of another set of desires, and of hunger for another set of experiences on earth. They have failed to find happiness or satisfaction in their own experience, but they will admit, if they are honest with themselves, that if they could have had things “so and so,” instead of “this and thus,” they would have found happiness and satisfaction. The “if” may have been satisfied love, wealth, fame, gratified ambition, success of various kinds, etc.—but, be it what it may, the “if” is nearly always there and that “if really is the seed of their remaining desires. And the longing for that “if” is really the motive for the re-birth.
Very few persons would care to live over their earth life, according to their own statements—and they are honest enough in the statement. But, like old Omar they would be perfectly willing to remake the world according to their heart’s desire—and then live the earth life. Do you see what we mean? It is not earth life that is distasteful to them, but merely the particular experiences of earth-life which are disdained. Give to the average man and woman youth, health, wealth, talent, and love, and they will be very willing to begin the round of earth life afresh. It is only the absence of, or failure in, these or similar things, which causes them to feel that life is a failure—a thing to be joyfully left behind.
The soul, in its sojourn on the Astral is rested, refreshed and reinvigorated. It has forgotten the weariness of life which it had experienced during the previous incarnation. It is again young,
The Life Beyond Death
hopeful, vigorous, and ambitious. It feels within itself the call to action—the urge of unfulfilled desires, aspirations, and ambitions—and it readily falls into the currents which lead it to the scene of action in which these desires may be manifested.
We have many instances of this change of feeling in earth-life. We feel tired, discouraged, nay, even disgusted, with our earthly affairs, at the close of the day, the year, or the exciting period. But rest, sleep, change of scene, and the influx of new impressions, make a change, and before long we are filled with longing for new activities and action. The majority of persons are not really tired of life, or disgusted with the things of life. They are merely experiencing the race impulse toward “something else, some other place”—a change of scene and occupation would work a speedy cure for them. They are not world weary—they are merely mentally and emotionally tired. And thus it is with the tired soul. Change its place of abode to the Astral, and give it the Elixir of Life—and it is ready for another part to play in the Drama of Life.
Another point upon which there is much misunderstanding is the matter of the unconsciousness of the soul in the matter of choice of the environment of the new birth. It is true that in souls of low development, the process is almost wholly instinctive, and there is practically no conscious realization or choice in the matter. But when the soul begins to develop and unfold in spiritual knowledge, it begins to have spiritual insight and consciousness, and in many cases it sees dimly as in a dream, (during the second soul-slumber) the conditions toward which it is being drawn, and often exercises a decided choice. In the case of a strong personality, provided the spiritual development is there, there is often more than a dreamlike choice, for such a soul does much to “make circumstances” for itself in its new birth, always within the limitations of its Karma, of course.
Another point, which should be cleared up, is that regarding the character of the desires which serve as the motive power for re-birth. It is not meant that these desires are necessarily
low or unworthy desires or longings. On the contrary, they may be of the highest character, and might be more properly styled aspirations, ambitions, or high aims, but the principle of desire is in them all. Desires, high and low, are the seeds of action. And the impulse toward action is always the distinguishing feature of desire. Desire always wants to have things, or to do things, or to be things. Love, even of the most unselfish kind, is a form of desire; so is aspiration of the noblest kind. A desire to benefit others is as much a desire as its opposite. In fact, many unselfish souls are drawn back into rebirth simply by the insistent aspirations to accomplish some great work for the race, or to serve others, or to fulfill some duty inspired by love. But, high or low, if these desires are connected in any way with the things of earth, they are re-birth motives and rudders.
But, in conclusion, let us say that no soul which does not in its inmost soul desire rebirth on earth will ever be so re-born. Such a soul is attracted toward other spheres, where the attractions of earth exist not. Its Karma carries it away from earth—not toward it. But this is the condition of but few, although, little by little, every soul will experience it in the aeons to come. For all are on The Path, and spiritual evolution moves surely though slowly. Those who are interested in this higher life of the soul are invited to read the next, the last, chapter. If its words appeal to you, you have already taken the first steps toward the attainment.