THE idea of re-incarnation, that is to say of a succession of earth-lives passed through by each individual monad, seems so new and so daring to the Western World, that we are always being asked, “Where are your proofs ? Are we to take such a startling hypothesis as this simply on your ipse dixit, or on the authority of some ancient Oriental book or “problematical” Mahatma ? ”
To such a question the reply cannot be given in two or three words for, while maintaining that there is at least as much reliance to be placed upon the Sacred Books of the East as on those of any other religion, and while holding firm to the belief that there are beings of a higher order of intelligence living upon this earth, and mixing even in its great life-currents, we cannot expect that merely because we say “Man does not leave this earth for good and all at Death”, we therefore shall gain credence. Before the world of Science our position would have to be that of a Young with his undulatory hypothesis of light, or a Dalton with his atomic theory. We cannot bring proof positive to those who desire an Euclidic demonstration; we can only offer to them a hypothesis, and bid them treat it calmly and dispassionately, not flying straightway into a fury of abuse at our great impudence in daring to suggest a heresy, but weighing it with care, and trying whether or no it will explain some of the dark riddles of existence.
To ourselves, merely as a working hypothesis, the doctrine of reincarnation seems to throw so much long-sought-for light upon the bewildering enigmas of life, and the strange vagaries of a fickle fortune, that we could not, even if we would, lay aside so fluent an interpreter of the utterances of the Sphinx — Existence. The seeming injustices in the lot of man fall into line as units of the great battalion of cause and effect; “What a man sows that must he also reap”. How else account for all the misery that cries aloud on every hand, the starving multitudes, the good man persecuted, the charlatan triumphant ? In the small purview of a life summed up in three-score years and ten, where is the indication of a Divine intelligence that metes to each his due ?
But if this brief existence be not the only one that man incarnate must pass through, if it be, as we are assured, but one short link in a chain that spans a fathomless expanse of myriad years, then does the eternity of justice proclaim itself, handed on from birth to birth in the dark fuel of the torch of life.
Our purpose now, however, is not to strive to catalogue the countless instances where destiny appears to cry aloud, into the deaf ears of man, that life is fraught with dire responsibility for future life, but to point to [Page 297] a case where she, in kindlier mood, has shown the gracious aspect of her face.
For the last few months London has been taken by storm by the marvellous musical talent of a child whose life, in this incarnation at least, is barely ten years old. We allude, of course, to Josef Hofmann. None of our readers who have heard this boy but must have wondered whence this phenomenal skill could have been derived. Other children have come before the public, and roused its listlessness a little with exhibitions of infantile precocity. But this young Josef has taken at once front rank among the stars of the musical world, and won a place only to be compared to that of the fairy-child Mozart.
Whence comes this breadth of feeling, this grasp of musical expression ? It is certain that it comes not from his teacher; for his father alone has filled that capacity, and it does not show itself in his performance; and again, the only unsatisfactory part of the boy’s playing is clearly the result of mannerisms such as the second-rate conductor of a provincial orchestra would, without fail, extol and inculcate. No; it is clear that the swing of rhythm, the determination of attack, the delicacy of sentiment, must come from a man’s heart beating within that boyish frame, and a man’s mind shining through that childish head. Could one forget the name of the performer for one instant, and shut from one’s eyes his physical presence, it were a man that was revealing to us the secrets of the notes. The rife experience of years must needs precede such rendering of musical thought; an experience earned in many a fight with varying fortune, in sympathy with many a tale of woe, in rejoicing over many a glimpse of Love and Brotherhood.
Yet ten short years are all his tale ! What magician could crowd into that tiny space the parti-coloured pictures of a fevered life of energy ? No, it must be that the child has lived upon this earth before, has borne his lance in the thickest of the fray, has achieved distinction in some great branch of art and garnered up a store of thought and feeling, into the inheritance of which his heir, himself, has entered. He may squander it again; alas, so many have before; but there it is, for him to use aright or wrongly, and serious is the charge imposed upon his guardians that they shall lay the lesson to heart that to whom much is given, from him shall much be expected. But with that aspect of the case it is not for us here to deal. We have only adduced this boy’s genius as one of the indications that life is in its succession a far more complex problem than the materialists or the orthodox religionists would lead us to believe. There are countless other suggestive little facts of early talent that must have come within the circle of the daily life of each of us; but without the thread of Karma whereon to string them, we pass them by; and it is only when some remarkable phenomenon, such as that of Josef Hofmann, bursts upon the world, that men fall to wondering. Yet it is by the accumulation of small [Page 298] details that a philosopher like Darwin worked out his scheme of natural evolution; and it is by the testing of such a theory as that of re-incarnation by many a little hitherto unexplained incident that we shall find its worth. Nor is it merely as a curious prying into mysteries that we should regard such research; for, once let a man convince himself that though “Art is long”, yet Life, in its recurrence, is longer, he will find in the thought that he is really laying up treasure in heaven (the lives to come), encouragement, despite all temporary failure, to do