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or Metempsychosis Transmigration of the Soul

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TRANSMIGRATION OF THE SOUL, or METEMPSYCHOSIS, the belief of many races and tribes at all times, to the effect that the soul after the death of the body passes into the bodies of the lower animals or other human bodies, or, it may be, of plants or in animate objects. Among various tribes of Africa and America the belief is found entirely unconnected, so far as can now be discovered, with any ethical notions. In the teaching of the Brahmanic Hindus. among whom the doc trine can be traced further hack than in any other race, it has its foundation in the belief of the connection of all living beings and of the gradual purification of the spiritual part of man and its return to the common source and origin of all things — God. By some the migra tion of a human soul through various bodies is regarded partly as a penance and partly as a means of purification. E. B. Tylor says in 'Primitive Culture,' that ethe theory of the Transmigration of Souls. which has indeed risen from its lower stages to establish itself among huge religious communities of Asia, great in history, enormous even in present mass, yet arrested and as it seems henceforth un progressive in movement ; but the more highly educated world has rejected the ancient belief and it now only survives in Europe in dwindling remnants!' Probably the greatest in telligence who believed in metempsychosis was Plato. The doctrine was and is common in Asia and was accepted by some of the early Christians, and there are suggestions of it in the Kabbala.

Pythagoras is the first Greek philosopher in whose system the doctrine occupied an im portant place, but Thales and Pherecydes are both said to have preceded him in teaching it. Plato in his (Phwdo' advances some probable arguments in favor of the doctrine, propound ing the speculation that souls return into the Godhead after a cycle of 10,000 years, during which they have to abide in the bodies of ani mals and men. Plotinus treats of two kinds of transmigrations, a passage of souls from in visible ethereal bodies into earthly ones and from earthly into other earthly bodies. Among the Romans, Cicero alludes to this doctrine, and Virgil, and more especially Ovid, in many passages give it a poetical treatment. Caesar informs us that it was believed in by the Gauls, who, he says, in this faith were able to despise death. The doctrine is also found in the Tal mud. but only a minority of the Jewish rabbis appear to have adopted it. They treat the sub ject of transmigration in their peculiar way, maintaining that God created but a certain number of Jewish souls, which, therefore, con stantly return on earth as long as Jews are to be found here and are sometimes made to dwell in the bodies of animals for the sake of penance, but at the day of the resurrection will all be purified, and in the bodies of the just revive on the soil of the promised land. The

doctrine of the transmigration of souls has also been held by various Christian sects, for example, by the Carpocratians, Valentinians and Manichaa.ns. It was also professed by the Arabs before Mohammed, but was not admitted by him into the Koran. Even some modern European writers have inclined to this doc trine. Among these may be mentioned Lessing in Germany and Pierre Lerou and Jean Rey nand in France. The reasoning of Lessing in support of the doctrine amounts to this, that the human soul can acquire the infinite con ceptions of which it is capable only in an in finite series of successive existences that the soul in one condition may supply the deficiencies of another, and thus gradually fit itself for a perfect life.

He thus appears more of a reincarnationist, and this emphasizes a distinction that many lose sight of. Reincarnation and transmigra tion are not at all identical. Obviously all human intelligences have a conscious ego which the majority conceive to be an immortal soul. Whatever we call it, we have something that raises us above the animal body which we in habit. This soul or ego comes from somewhere or is created when each of us is born. Inasmuch as some souls very early show vast abilities and others are very dull and stupid, the as sumption that the wise souls have lived before is not irrational. This being granted, we have our choice of two momentous but quite differ ent theories. Transmigration supposes that the soul at death goes into another body, perhaps the body of a beast if punishment is deserved, perhaps is born into a wealthy and brainy family if reward is deserved. Reincarnation, as gen erally taught and accepted by Theosophists, is but one day in a larger life; it propounds that as individual souls die here they pass a time on the hirer planes, and are then reborn to acquire further experiences, advancing or evoluting from the lower to the higher. This is an extension of the idea of evolution and far more reasonable than the transmigration doctrine. Many, therefore, regard transmigra tion as a mere corruption of the rational theory of reincarnation. Consult Besant, A. (1895) ; Sinnett, A. P.,