Several explanations have been proposed to account for human differences, whether of abilities, opportunities, or circumstances. Each has implications for the degree of control that we have over our lives.
One explanation usually given by religion is that each soul is a creation by God. This suggests that our destinies are controlled or guided by a will which may appear to be arbitrary and inscrutable.
Materialistic science proposes that human differences are due to the combined influence of heredity and environment. This also implies a considerable degree of powerlessness on our part. We are the result of inherited and environmental factors over which we have only limited control.
A third explanation involves reincarnation, or a succession of rebirths. When reincarnation is considered in conjunction with the law of cause and effect, of action and reaction, our present condition can be seen to be the consequences of our past actions. This implies that we can have some control over our current and future lives. We can influence our destiny by our present thoughts, feelings and actions.
In the first of these explanations, special creation by God, we have no individual past, but we do have an endless future Our characters are specially created by God, and imposed on us without any choice of our own.
In the heredity \environment explanation, evolution becomes significant. However, there is difficulty in accounting for qualities such as saintliness or genius.
For the third explanation, reincarnation, evolution is an essential aspect, but with added features not yet recognised by science. For reincarnation applies to our intellectual and spiritual evolution, as well as to our physical evolution which is influenced by hereditary and environmental factors.
Reincarnation with the law of cause and effect, provides for choice and restores justice. Every spiritual soul enters into a cycle of incarnation; that is each of us begins our soul pilgrimage, without knowledge, conscious or discrimination. We learn from our experiences, pleasant and painful, and the results of these experiences help to develop our mental and moral faculties.
Thus the character with which we are born at the beginning of each new life is self -made and marks the stage we have reached in our long evolutionary journey. The hereditary and environment we encounter in one life are compatible with the consequences of our actions in previous lives. The good or bad disposition, the fine capacities, our total nature, are the results of past actions, thoughts and emotions. All this development is the result of choices we have made through our incarnations. Those choices become more thoughtful and deliberate as we progress.
Memory Of Previous Lives
A question often asked, when reincarnation is mentioned is: "If I have been here before, why do I not remember my past lives"? Surely we would agree that we forget more of our present lives than we remember. Many people cannot remember learning to read, yet the fact that they can read proves that they did learn to do so. Incidents of childhood and youth have faded from memory, yet they left traces on our character. A fall in babyhood is forgotten, yet the victim may be a cripple as a result of it.
If it is true that we are greatly affected by experiences encountered in the present body, how much more must it be that we are also reflecting the results of our experiences encountered in former bodies? As our present body and brain have had no share in those far-off happenings, how could we remember any of them?
This is not to say that the memory of these past -life events disappears altogether. It is suggested that those events do leave a permanent record, accessible to individuals when they achieve a certain degree of spiritual evolution.
Consideration of what reincarnates will help answer the question of memory. The human constitution is complex and multi- dimensional. On one hand, it consists of temporary aspects, which we call the personality and which mostly reflect the experience obtained in the present life. On the other hand, there are also relatively permanent aspects which contain the accumulation of all the results of experience obtained over many lives. All these aspects of the human constitution are not separate but interconnected.
Our more permanent body which remains with us throughout the cycle of reincarnation, is the spiritual body often called the soul. At death, the impermanent aspects fall away and return to their elements before we come into incarnation again. The new mental, emotional and physical matter, which gathers and is moulded for a new life, receives from the soul, not the direct experiences of the past but the qualities, tendencies and capacities which are the results of those experiences. Our conscience, our instinctive response to emotional and intellectual appeals, our recognition of the force of a logical argument, our assent to fundamental principals of right and wrong, these are the traces of past experiences.
Growth Of Capacity
Evolutionary development is an important and integral aspect of reincarnation The emphasis is on continual growth toward human perfection. When a philosophy or a science is quickly grasped and applied, when an art is mastered without study, it is the result of past accomplishments, although facts leamed in past lives are forgotten. When we feel we know a stranger on first meeting, the soul may recognise a friend of the past. When we shrink back with strong repulsion from another stranger, it could be the soul's recognition of an old enemy.
These affinities, or warnings, come from the undying spiritual centre which is our truth Self. We remember, but as the body and brain are new, we are not able to recall the details. The soul furnishes the new personality with the results of the past, not with the memory of its events. How we handle those reactions in each life contributes to our spiritual progress.
As an accountant closing a year's accounts and opening new ones does not enter in all the items of the old, but only its balances, so does the soul hand on to the new brain its assessment on the experiences of the previous life, the conclusions to which it has come, and the decisions at which it has arrived. This is the wisdom handed on to the new life, the real memory of the soul.
Memory of past lives can be recovered. But the gaining of this faculty is related to spiritual growth and is a matter of steady effort. It is important that the restless mind be controlled and made quiet, so that it may be responsive to the soul. Only when we hear the still, small voice of the soul may the story of the past be unrolled, and the lessons it contains be fully learned. It is the soul alone which can truly remember.
Pain follows mistakes, but this can be constructive for we learn not to make the same mistakes again. Strength is developed by effort. We learn from every experience the inevitable consequences: happiness grows out of doing what is right, sorrow out of error.
In every case, the past explains the present, and the present influences the future. When the laws of spiritual growth are understood and obeyed, we become more responsible for building our own future. Our lives will then become increasingly fulfilling, until we reach the goal of human perfection. Along the way we are able to make a more and more effective contribution toward the upliftment of humanity.