The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, by W.Y. Evans-Wentz, , at sacred-texts.com
'If all things which partook of life were to die, and after they were dead remained in the form of death, and did not come to life again, all would at last die, and nothing would be alive--what other result could there be?'--SOCRATES, as reported by Plato.
'The soul, if immortal, existed before our birth. What is incorruptible must be ungenerable.'--HUME.
'If there be no reasons to suppose that we have existed before that period at which our existence apparently commences, then there are no grounds for supposing that we shall continue to exist after our existence has apparently ceased.' --SHELLEY.
The extension of the terms Fairy and Fairyland--The real man as an invisible force acting through a body-conductor--A psychical organ essential for memory--Pre-existence a scientific necessity--The vitalistic view of evolution--Old theory of heredity disproved--Embryology supports re-birth doctrine--Psycho-physical evolution--Memory of previous existences in subconsciousness--Examples--Dream psychology furnishes clearest illustrations--No post-existence without pre-existence--Resurrection as re-birth--The Circle of Life--The mystical corollary--Conclusion: the Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth and Otherworld is essentially scientific.
IN the esoteric Fairy-Faith, the terms Fairy and Fairyland attain their broadest meaning. To the Celtic mystic, the universe is divisible into two interpenetrating parts or aspects: the visible in which we are now, and the invisible which is Fairyland or the Otherworld; and a fairy is an intelligent being, either embodied as a member of the human race or else resident in the Otherworld. The latter class includes many distinct hierarchies and lower orders. Some, like the highest of the Tuatha De Danann, who are the same in character as the gods of the Greeks and Hindoos, are super-human;
others are the souls of the dead; while many are subhuman and have never been embodied in gross physical bodies. These last include daemons (incorrectly regarded by Christian and other theologies as being in all cases evil, and called demons); and other like spirits, such as those which Dr. Tylor, in Primitive Culture, has designated nature spirits (leprechauns, 'pixies, knockers, corrigans, lutins, little folk, elves generally, and their counterparts in all non-Celtic Fairy-Faiths), which are the elementals of mediaeval mystics.
In the preceding chapter chiefly the lower species of fairies were under consideration, but now the higher orders (including human souls embodied and disembodied), in their relation toward one another, are to be considered independently. It becomes necessary, then, to present here a view of life and death not yet scientifically orthodox.
The Celt in all ages of his long history, like the ancient Greek thinkers with whom his ancestors were contemporary, has always been inclined, unlike modern scientists, to seek an explanation for the phenomena of evolutionary life by postulating a noumenal world of causes as the background of the phenomenal world of effects. To-day, the rapid march of scientific pioneers, chiefly those in psychical research, is bringing our own cold and exact science very close to that indefinable boundary which separates the two worlds; and for that reason alone a presentation of the Celtic theory of the causes operating to produce death and birth will be, at least by way of suggestion, of some value.
Facts of common everyday knowledge are apt to lose their significance through too great familiarity. A fact of this character is that when each child is born it must awaken into life. Often it is not known whether the newly-born babe is dead or alive until it stretches forth its arms and breathes or cries. And this phenomenon of our first awakening and entry upon the visible plane of life and conscious action seems to corroborate what the early Celt who thoughtfully observed it held to be true, and what the Celt of to-day holds to be true: that the material substance composing the body of man is merely a means of expression for life, a conductor for
an unknown force which exhibits volition and individual consciousness; just as material substance in a condition called inanimate is a conductor for another unknown force called electricity, which does not exhibit any volition or consciousness. Destroy the human body, and there is no manifestation of its life force; destroy a wire, and there is no manifestation of electric light: the human body seems to be merely incidental in the history of the individual consciousness, as a wire is incidental to electric light.
But is this consciousness of man which we call life simply a phenomenon of matter non-existent without a physical means of expression, or does it--like electricity after the wire is destroyed--continue to exist in an unmanifested state when the human body is cold and motionless in death? And in the case of a child born dead has this consciousness found some organic imperfection in the newly-constructed infant body which made its manifestation impossible? A few thoughts to aid in answering these questions will probably suggest themselves if we briefly consider the great difference between a human body in life and a human body in death. In life, there is the highly organized, delicately adjusted, perfectly balanced human body responding to the will of an invisible power; and it is admitted by all schools of philosophers, moralists, and scientists that this invisible power--whatever it may be--is the real man.
This invisible power, beginning its manifestation through a microscopic bit of germ-plasm, gradually builds for itself a more and more complex physical habitation, until, after the short space of nine months, it claims membership among the ranks of men. During the many years of its sojourn on our planet, it renews its habitation many times. Every atom it began with in childhood is discarded and replaced by a new one long before the age of manhood is reached, and yet upon reaching manhood the invisible power remembers what it did in a child's frame. This indicates that memory or consciousness as a psychical process does not depend essentially upon a material brain nor upon a certain grouping of ever-changing brain-substance; for if it did, apparently it would slowly
and imperceptibly undergo change as completely as the whole physical body and brains This physiological process furnishes sufficient data to allow us to postulate that there is a psychical organ of memory behind the physical sense-consciousness, and that such an organ in itself is, at least during a human-life period, unchanging in its composition. Without such an organ, the process of memory when more fully analysed (in a way we cannot here attempt) is inexplicable. 1
The simplest hypothesis is to conceive that organ as the one connected with the subconsciousness or super-sense-consciousness, by means of which the invisible power or rememberer is able to remember and to impress its memory upon the temporary and continually unstable physical brain. In the process of memory there must be first of all a thing to be remembered; second, a record of that thing to be remembered; and third, something to remember that thing. The thing remembered is the result of a conscious experience, the record of it the result of its impress at the time it was experienced, but the rememberer is neither.
That invisible power, which we have called the real mans animates the body, it places food in it as fuel to produce animal heat, animal vitality and force, and tries to keep it in good working order as long as possible. If the body is imperfect at birth or becomes so later, that invisible power is forced to act through it imperfectly; if the brain is diseased, there is insanity, if undeveloped, idiocy; and when the body ceases to respond either perfectly or imperfectly, the invisible power must surrender it entirely, and there is what we call death.
Now what is this invisible power or force which has entirely vanished, leaving the physical body and brain cold and motionless? Let us see if there is an answer. Chemical analysis proves that the visible parts of the body of man are merely transformed gases; but in a complete analysis of a living body such as man's there are certain elements to
be considered which are always invisible. 1 Thus at death there is instantly a cessation of all bodily consciousness--of all willing, thinking, movement. The power which has made the body conscious, and which cannot be compared to any known form of matter, is entirely gone. But there is left in the body a moment after its departure everything which we know to be material--the animal heat, the animal magnetism, the animal vitality. When these are gone, the body is cold and stiff, and in no essential way unlike any other mass of inert matter. If heat be applied to the body, or magnetism, or vital forces, there is nothing in it to retain them any more than there would be in a stone. The real man is gone. Then the body begins to disintegrate. The law of the conservation of energy and the indestructibility of matter makes it certain that in the process of death nothing has been lost, certainly nothing material. The animal heat has gone off somewhere in the atmosphere or in some other matter; the animal magnetism and vitality are momentarily lost sight of, but soon they will be attached to other organic beings such as plants or animals to begin a new cycle of embodiment. The physical constituents of the body will go to their appropriate places, into the air as gases, into the water as fluids, into the earth as salts and minerals, and in a short time may form the parts of a flower, or fruit, or animal. But where or what is the willing, the thinking, the remembering, the directing force which once controlled all these and held them together in unity? Ultra-violet rays are invisible, but they show their existence through their chemical action; similarly a soul or Ego may exist invisibly and show its existence through the vital and physical unity manifested by a living human being. As we have already seen in the preceding chapter, there are a number of the first men of science who feel that when
all, the data of the latest scientific discoveries in the realm of psychology and of psychical research are impartially examined there is no escape from some such hypothesis as the ancient hypothesis of a soul.
If we accept the soul hypothesis, as it seems we must, and regard a soul as an indestructible unit of invisible power possessing consciousness and volition, and normally able to exist independently of a human body, then it becomes a logical and a scientific necessity to postulate its preexistence, because as such a unit it is indestructible, in accordance with the law of the conservation of energy and indestructibility of matter. We speak here not of the ordinary soul or human personal consciousness, but of that Ego which Celtic mystics conceive as the permanent principle (though probably itself relative to some still higher power) behind the personality--which, in turn, they believe is a temporary combination wholly dependent upon the Ego. Accordingly, it is scientifically possible for such a soul as a homogeneous unit of force or conscious energy to pass from one mass of matter or physical body to another without disintegration, diminution, or loss of its own identity. It is scientifically certain, also, from experiments performed to test the power of resistance to decomposition exhibited by the force which we call life in an organic body, that such a force is capable of outwearing many physical embodiments. 1 Recent demonstrations tend to show that the heredity hypothesis cannot be held to account fully for such widely varied character or soul individuality as may be exhibited by members of one family. We must therefore account for mental, moral, and certainly psychical inequalities among our race by some other hypothesis; and no hypothesis is more scientific, more in line with known physiological and psychical processes, or more in accord with the law of evolution, than that of re-birth.
The theory of the mechanical transmission of acquired characteristics in a purely physical manner through the germ-plasm is no longer tenable when all the data of physiology and psychology are admitted. A vitalistic view of evolution is rapidly developing in the scientific world, and the weight of evidence is decidedly in favour of regarding all evolutionary processes, reaching from the lowest to the highest organisms, as illustrating a gradual unfolding in the sensuous world of a pre-existing psychical power through an ever-increasing complexity of specialized structures, this complexity being brought about by natural selection. Such a view is also strongly supported if not confirmed by the general scientific belief that spontaneous generation of life is and always has been impossible on our planet or on any planet: there must have been life before its physical manifestation or its physical evolution began.
We may regard this psychical power as like a vast reservoir of consciousness ever trying to force itself through matter, the walls of the reservoir. Through the microscopic body of an amoeba there has percolated a very minute drop from the reservoir. As evolution advances, the walls of the reservoir become more and more porous, and little by little the drop increases to a tiny rivulet. Through the higher animals, the tiny rivulet flows as a brook. Through man as he is, the brook flows as a deep and broad river. Throughout the completely evolved man of the far distant future, the deep and broad river will have overflowed all its banks, it will have inundated and completely overwhelmed the animal-human nature of the individual through whom it flows, as the whole volume of the vast reservoir pours itself out. The ordinary consciousness of man will then have been transmuted into the subconsciousness, of which it had always been a pale reflection. In other words, if the theory of the mechanical transmission of acquired characteristics has failed, as seems to be the case, then we must assume that there is, as the bearer of all gains made from generation to generation, some sort of psychical or vitalistic principle. This, making use of the germ-plasm merely as a physical
basis for its manifestation, begins to build up a body suited to its further evolutionary needs.
The brilliant discoveries of Dr. Jacques Loeb and of M. Yves Delage have demolished absolutely the old idea that each organ and each tissue contained in embryo in the normal egg-germ must develop in a particular and coordinate way into a normal organism and after the parental type: it is possible to make a head grow where there ought to be feet; and at Zürich, Standfuss, solely through changing the temperature of his laboratory, was able to obtain from the same species of butterfly forms which were tropical and forms which were arctic. 1 All this helps to establish the hypothesis, which amounts to certainty, that the conformation of a physical body, or even the kind of species to be born, is directly determined by physical environment and not by heredity, and that the chief factor to consider in organisms is the life animating the body. Physical environment affects only the physical organism; it does not affect the invisible and unknown life-principle resident within the physical organism.
The process of fertilization is a physical process. As such it is simply initiatory to embryonic evolution which also is physical. Once the proper physical conditions are set up by the parents, life pursues its marvellous progress in the womb of the human mother, from the amoeba-like initial embryo to man. That is to say, parents set in motion the laws governing, the reproduction of physical bodies. They create such conditions as enable the invisible life-force to begin its physical manifestation. 2 In the two fused germs from the
parents resides the physical inheritance of the offspring, to be outwardly shaped by environment; but the physical inheritance is a thing distinct from the psychical part of the living being, just as much as the dead human body is a thing apart from the life which has left it. Though the old heredity theory is overthrown by late discoveries, the question as to what life is in human bodies under all possible environmental conditions remains unsolved; and so do the questions why there should be sports in nature, which among man are called geniuses, and why every human being has a distinct and highly developed individual character, essentially unlike that of his immediate ancestors.
Embryology proves conclusively that the human embryo retraces in its growth the evolution of lower life-forms. At first consisting of two single cells fused into one, it is like the amoeba. By cell-division it grows and progresses step by step through each lower realm of being until it comes to be a water-creature with gills; and science teaches that all organic life on this planet once dwelt in the seas. It grows progressively out of the water-world stage of organic life into the world of air-breathing creatures. Nature at last achieves her highest product, and a human being is born out of the Womb of Time. The initial microscopic bit of germ-plasm is endowed with power of motion, thought, and human consciousness, with dominion over all the lower kingdoms through which by right of ancient conquests it passed in the brief period of nine months. On every side the problem of life is full of poetry and wonder; it is the greatest mystery.
Not only can we thus study the age-long evolution of the physical man, but we have recently acquired sufficient scientific data to lay foundations for a study of the evolution of the psychical man. Thus, for example, instincts seem to be nothing more than habits which through unknown periods of time have become so ingrained in the constitution of man, and of all animals, that now they have become second nature and usually are exercised without the need of reasoning processes. The influence from innate sensuous experiences rises into consciousness as the life of every normal child and youth
unfolds itself; and these experiences in their full expansion, when the age of maturity has been reached, constitute in their unity what we call character, which, in one sense, may be defined as the sum total of instincts of every kind. From such a point of view, the psychical or invisible power in man is merely a bundle of acquired habits which make use of the bodily organism in order to express themselves--in the same way, as we have pointed out, that electrical forces manifest their presence through a conductor. If these habits be good, we call their possessor a good man; if evil, we call him an evil man.
The theory of Charles Darwin suggests that all evolutionary progress is directed to the acquirement of newer and ever higher instincts. And if this process be the true one, that is to say, if all instincts, which in their finer distinctions mark off species from species in all animal kingdoms, be as Darwin thought--and as is to-day more clearly evident--the result of a long and gradual evolution through experience in a sensuous realm of existence, then it would seem to follow that there must be some kind of a monad (probably a non-sensuous one) to which such acquired instincts can attach themselves. Such a monad, too, must have been a percipient and hence a recorder of such ever-accumulating experiences throughout an inconceivably long chain of lives, and it of itself must, while so perceiving and recording, not be subject to the transitoriness of the sensuous realm wherein it gathers together these instincts, which in their unified expression form its personality or human character.
In harmony with the vitalistic view of evolution, which implies a pre-existent psychical power continually striving to express itself completely through matter, yet normally able to exist independently of a physical means of expression, we should regard such high mental processes as judgement, reasoning, analysis and synthesis, and spatial perception, along with memory, as resultants of very great experience in a sensuous world, on which in our present psycho-physical constitution such processes appear to have direct bearing. In other words, for man to be able to exercise such high
mental processes there is need to postulate incalculable ages of specialization in the nervous apparatus, and in psychophysical adjustment, of a kind which has thus enabled the psychical power to express itself to such a supreme degree in the realm of mind and matter. The same vitalistic argument is applicable to the lower mental processes and to the instinctual powers in man, because we cannot at any time, in viewing the complete evolution of man as a twofold being composed of a physical and a psychical part, force aside Fechner's conviction that the problem is a psychophysical one. A study of sexual instincts in children seems to confirm this. 1
Such a psychical and vitalistic hypothesis is, as we have seen, strongly supported by embryology; and embryology proves conclusively the need of long ages of physical evolution for the development of each tissue and highly specialized organ in the human body. Certain French and German and other scientists of the vitalistic school have demonstrated physiologically the need of a pre-existent power as the unifying principle which attracts and compels material atoms to group themselves into the pattern of the human body 2--or, as we may add, of any organic body. Psychical researchers at the outset of their science seem apparently to have demonstrated psychologically the post-existence of the personal consciousness-unity; and it is very likely when further progress has been made in psychics that there will arise a logical need to postulate, in addition to the personal consciousness-unity, a hypothetical pre-existent soul-monad as the unifying principle which attracts and compels psychical atoms of experience (if such an expression may be
used) to group themselves into the personal consciousness-unity which appears to survive the death of the gross physical body--for a long or short time, as future research may show. 1 Such a soul-monad, to follow the view held by Celtic mystics, led by acquired instincts which were transmitted to it through the personality (held by the Celtic esoteric doctrine to be a temporary combination), apparently weaves out of matter the body-unit adapted to its further evolution, in a way analogous to that in which a silkworm is led by acquired instincts to weave a cocoon. This body-unit is twofold: (1) the visible body derived from the visible elements of matter; and (2) the invisible or ghost-body derived from the invisible or ethereal elements of matter.
Strictly speaking, for the Celtic mystic this soul-monad is something upon which the personal consciousness depends for its psychical unity in precisely the same way as the physical body depends upon the personal consciousness for its physical unity. The Celtic mystic holds that just as the body-unity falls back again into its primal elements of matter, so the personal consciousness-unity (apparently able to survive in the ghost-body for a long period after its separation from the grosser physical envelope or human body) also in due time is discarded by the soul-monad or individuality, and then falls back into its primal psychical constituents. In other words, the Celtic Esoteric Doctrine of Re-birth correctly interpreted does not conceive personal immortality,
but it conceives a greater kind of immortality--the immortality of the unknown principle which gives unity to each temporary personality it makes use of, and which we prefer to designate as the individuality, the impersonator. And this individuality is the bearer of all evolutionary gains made in each temporary personality through which it reflects itself: it is the permanent evolving principle.
Perhaps an analogy drawn from nature will make the Celtic position clearer: we may say that the personality occupies a position between the human body and the soul-monad, just as the moon occupies a position between the earth and the sun. Personal consciousness is to the human body what the moonlight is to the earth, merely a pale reflection from a third thing, the soul-monad or individuality, which is the ultimate source of both sets of unities, the material or body-unity in its twofold aspect and the psychical or personal consciousness-unity. Each personality is temporary, while the individuality, like the sun in relation to the earth and moon, is capable of at least a relative immortality: the sun's light, as science holds, existed before there was any moon to reflect it on to the earth, and may continue to exist when both the moon and earth are disintegrated. The essential nature of the sun's energy or life remains unknown to science; so does the essential nature of the energy or life manifesting itself as the individuality. Though all such analogies are more or less weak, this one adequately fits in with the theories concerning the Celtic Esoteric Doctrine of Re-birth which the most learned of contemporary Celts, chiefly mystics, have favoured us with; and it is our rare privilege to put these theories on record for whatever they may be worth. The best hypothesis is always the one which best explains all available data, and, to our mind, when very minutely examined, in a way which (chiefly for reasons of space) cannot be attempted here, this Celtic hypothesis concerning the nature and destiny of man is the best hitherto adduced. 1
Objectors to the Re-birth Doctrine as held by the Celts and other peoples anciently and now, naturally ask why, if
we have lived before here on earth in physical bodies, we do not remember it. But the shallowness and unscientific nature of this question is at once apparent to psychologists who know that there exists in man a subconscious mind which in the great mass of people is almost totally dormant. 'The subconscious self,' wrote William James, 'is nowadays a well-accredited psychological entity ... Apart from all religious considerations, there is actually and literally more life in our total soul than we are at any time aware of.' And he added:--'It thus is "scientific" to interpret all otherwise unaccountable invasive alternations of consciousness as results of the tension of subliminal memories reaching a bursting point.' 1 Intuition, which all men have experienced, would seem to be the result of a momentary contact by the physical brain with its psychical counterpart--the subconscious self, the individuality is distinguished from the personality.
Certain observed psychological processes in ordinary men and women, who never really know that they have a subconsciousness or Transcendental Self, prove that it exists even for them, and any part of man which exists and functions of itself can be developed so as to be consciously perceived. This is incontestable. Let us point out a few of these observed and recorded psychological processes. There may be an unsolved problem in the mind, or inability to recall a certain name or fact, and then a sudden, unexpected
intuitional solving of the problem and an instantaneous recollecting of the desired facts, at a time when the ordinary mind may be entirely absorbed in altogether foreign thoughts. Again, many persons through accident or disease have lost their memory to such an extent as to require complete re-education, and then in time, gradually or instantaneously, as the case may be, have completely recovered it. 1 And we noticed in our study of supernatural lapse of time (p. 469) that at the moment of accidental loss of consciousness, as in drowning for example, all forgotten details of life are instantaneously reproduced in a complete panorama. These psychological processes support what we have said above with respect to a psychical organ being behind the sense-consciousness, and seem thus to prove that the subconscious mind is the place for recording permanently all experiences. 2 Under hypnosis, a subject may be requested to perform a certain act, let us say 11,999 minutes after the moment of making the request. When the hypnotic condition is removed, the subject has no personal consciousness of the suggestion, but, as different experiments have proved conclusively, he invariably performs the act exactly at the expiration of the 11,999 minutes without knowing why he does so. This proves that there is a subconsciousness in man which can take full cognizance of such a suggestion, which can keep count of the passing of time and then cause the unconscious personality to act in response to its will. 3 Again, in extreme old age people who have come to have an imperfect memory or none at all in their normal consciousness, under abnormal conditions (which seemingly are due to a temporary influx of a latent psychical power into the physical body and brain, or else to an awakening of a dormant force within the physical body and brain themselves) often regain, for a time, complete and clear memory of their childhood. This proves that the memory is somewhere still
perfect, and that it does not reside in the consciousness of the age-exhausted physical brain and memory. Albert Moll, in his treatise on hypnotism, says that events in the normal life which have dropped out of memory can be remembered in hypnosis:--'An English officer in Africa was hypnotized by Hansen, and suddenly began to speak a strange language. This turned out to be Welsh, which he had learnt as a child, but had forgotten.' 1 And even memory of acts done in hypnotic somnambulism can be awakened in the normal state. 2 Furthermore, through psycho-analysis, as Professor Freud has shown, forgotten dreams and dreams which were never complete in the ordinary consciousness can be recovered in their entirety out of the subconsciousness. 3 How many of us can recall without some mental stimulus certain acts performed ten years ago? A good deal of our present life is no longer vivid, much of it is forgotten, and in old age many of the memories of youth and of mature life will be subconscious. If this brain, whose total existence is comprised between birth and death, cannot remember in a normal way all its own experiences, how could it be expected to know anything at all of hypothetical past lives where there were various physical brains long ago disintegrated--unless the hypothetically ever-existing transcendental individuality, whose consciousness is the subconsciousness, be made by some unusual psychical stimuli to transmit its memory of the past lives to each new brain it creates? In other words, to have memory of pre-existent conditions there must be continuity of association with present conditions. If such continuity exists, it exists in the subconsciousness. And if it exists therein, then in order to recall in the present personal or ordinary consciousness, which began at birth, memory of an anterior state of consciousness, it would be necessary to hold impressed upon the present physical brain and body a clear and unremittent consciousness of the
sub-consciousness. In relation to our personal consciousness, apparently our greatest powers lie in the subconsciousness which is sleeping and in embryo, awaiting to be born into the consciousness of this world through the slow process of evolutionary gestation. In the case of a Buddha, who on good historical authority is said to have been able to recall all past existences from the lowest to the highest, this evolutionary process seems to have reached completion. 1
Under ordinary conditions, individuals have been known to see a place which they have never seen before, or to do a thing which they have never done before in this life nor in any conscious dream-state, and yet feel that they have seen the place before and done the thing before. M. Th. Ribot, in his Diseases of Memory (chapter iv), has brought together many cases of this kind. Some are undoubtedly explicable as forgotten experiences of the present life. Others, to our mind, strongly support the theory of pre-existent experiences preserved in memory in the subconsciousness.
Under chloroform, or other anaesthetics, patients often recover for the time being forgotten facts of experience, and sometimes appear to make momentary contact with their subconsciousness and to exhibit therein another personality. In certain well-defined types of double personality, which are not the kind due to demon-possession nor to spirit-possession as in 'mediumship', there are two memories, 'each complete and absolutely independent of the other.' 2 And in similar cases, where the subject exhibits alternately numerous personalities, we see the individuality, that is to say the subconscious man, exhibiting, as a dramatist might, various characters or personalities of probable past existences
according as each is most active at the moment. Similarly, crystal-gazing sometimes seems not only to revive lost memories of this life, but also to call up subconscious memories of some unknown state of consciousness which may be from a previous life. 1
M. Ribot has made it clear from his careful study of numerous cases of amnesia (loss of memory) that 'recollections return in an inverse order to that in which they disappear'. For example, a celebrated Russian astronomer lost all memory save that of his childhood, and in recovering it there appeared first the recollections of youth, then those of middle age, then the experiences of later years, and, finally, the most recent events. Many even more marked examples of the law of regression in amnesia are given by M. Ribot. We conclude from them that all strange and apparently long-forgotten facts of experience arising in consciousness out of the subconsciousness, as in the different cases which have been cited above, would necessarily be those which have been the longest lost to memory; and hence if they cannot be attached to this present life then they can only be derived from a former life, because every primary detail of memory must always originate from an experience at some past period
of time. M. Ribot himself, in his conclusion to The Diseases of Memory, makes this significant observation with respect to the law of regression in amnesia:--'This law of regression provides us with an explanation for extraordinary revivification of certain recollections when the mind turns backward to conditions of existence that had apparently disappeared for ever.'
In dreams there is a great wealth of latent memory; sometimes memory of the present waking life, but often not capable, apparently, of being attached to it, nor explicable as due to the soul wandering from the body during sleep: the hypothesis of re-birth seems to be the only adequate one here. Certain dreams suggest that man possesses innate memories extending backwards to prehistoric times (cf. p. 5 above). This fits in with Professor Freud's theory in his Die Traumdeutung, that 'the dream is nothing else than the concealed fulfilment of a repressed wish.' Some dreams are 'in the form of frightful, cruel, horrible scenes, which seem frightful to us, but in a certain depth of the unconscious satisfy wishes which, in the "prehistoric" ages of our own mental development, were actually recognized as desires.' 1 This also supports our vitalistic view of the evolution of human instincts. Again, in somnambulism there is a much more exalted memory, and clear cases are on record of facts being then consciously present which cannot be accounted for save through the same hypothesis. 2
If we keep in mind the psychology of the dream state, we
shall probably get the clearest intellectual theory as to why, if pre-existence be true, we do not remember various previous states of existence. In our present state of consciousness we may enter a dream state, in that dream state by dreaming we enter a second dream state, and theoretically, though not by common experience, there may be no limit to superimposed dream states, each one in itself a state of consciousness distinct from the waking consciousness. Accordingly, if, as Wordsworth put it, 'our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting' of another state of consciousness, and death the abrupt ending of that sleep of dreams and a waking up, or if the direct opposite be true, and death is the entrance to a sleep and dream state of consciousness, it becomes very clear how difficult it would be for us here now either to recall what we may have dreamt or have actually done in another state of conscious existence corresponding to our present one. The subtle thinkers of modern India, who completely accept the doctrine of re-birth as a universal law, have summed up this abstruse aspect of the dream psychology as follows:--'The first or spiritual state was ecstasy; from ecstasy it (the Ego) forgot itself into deep sleep; from deep sleep it awoke out of unconsciousness, but still within itself, into the internal world of dreams; from dreaming it passed finally into the thoroughly waking state, and the outer world of sense.' 1 But our own psychologists are not yet far enough advanced to accept this; much more work in psychical research must first be done before it will be possible for them to announce to the West that pre-existence is a necessary condition for post-existence which they now hypothetically accept. If for the present our standpoint be that of our own psychologists, we may then think of the human consciousness as a spectrum whose central parts alone are visible to us. Beyond at either end lies an unseen and to us unknown region, awaiting its explorer from the West. 'Each one of us is in reality an abiding psychical entity far more extensive than he knows--an individuality which can never express itself completely through any corporeal manifestation. The
[paragraph continues] Self manifests through the organism; but there is always some part of the Self unmanifested; and always, as it seems, some power of organic expression in abeyance or reserve.' 1 William James stated the position thus:--'The B. region' (another name for the region of subconsciousness), 'then; is obviously the larger part of each of us, for it is the abode of everything that is latent, and the reservoir of everything that passes unrecorded and unobserved.' 2
Men of science see no way of accepting the doctrine of the resurrection of the physical body as at present interpreted by Christian theology; but the late Professor Th. Henri Martin, Dean of the Faculty of Letters of the University of Rennes, has suggested in his La Vie future that the doctrine may be the exoteric interpretation of a long-forgotten esoteric truth; namely, that the soul may be resurrected in a new physical body, and this is scientifically possible. 3
The ancient scientists called Life a Circle. In the upper half of this Circle, or here on the visible plane, we know that in the physiological history of man and of all living things there
is first the embryonic or prenatal state, then birth; and as life, like a sun, rises in its new-born power toward the zenith, there is childhood, youth, and maturity; and then, as it passes the zenith on its way to the horizon, there is decline, old age, and, finally, death; and as a scientific possibility we have in the lower half of the Circle, in Hades or the Otherworld of the Celts and of all peoples, corresponding processes between death and a hypothetical but logically necessary re-birth. 1
The logical corollary to the re-birth doctrine, and an integral part of the Celtic esoteric theory of evolution, is that there have been human races like the present human race who in past aeons of time have evolved completely out of the human plane of conscious existence into the divine plane of conscious existence. Hence the gods are beings which once were men, and the actual race of men will in time become gods. Man now stands related to the divine and invisible world in precisely the same manner that the brute stands related to the human race. To the gods, man is a being in a lower kingdom of evolution. According to the complete Celtic belief, the gods can and do enter the human world for the specific purposes of teaching men how to advance most rapidly toward the higher kingdom. In other words, all the Great Teachers, e. g. Jesus, Buddha, Zoroaster, and many others, in different ages and among various races, whose teachings are extant, are, according to a belief yet held by educated and mystical Celts, divine beings who in inconceivably past ages were men but who are now gods, able at will to incarnate into our world, in order to emphasize the need which exists in nature, by virtue of the working of evolutionary laws (to which they themselves are still subject), for man to look forward, and so strive to reach divinity rather than to look backward in evolution and thereby fall into mere animalism. The stating of this mystical corollary makes the exposition of the Fairy-Faith complete, at least in outline.
As shown by the Barddas MSS. in our chapter vii, the Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth is the scientific extension of Darwin's law as corrected, 1 that alone through traversing the Circle of Life man reaches that destined perfection which natural analogies, life's processes as exhibited by living things, and evolution, suggest, and from which at present man is so far removed. There seems to emerge this postulate: the world is the object of normal consciousness, the Ego or Soul-Monad the object of subconsciousness; and the subconsciousness cannot be realized in the world until through the normal consciousness of man the Ego is able to function completely, and so endow man with full self-consciousness in matter, which endowment seems to be the goal of all planetary evolution.
We conclude that the Otherworld of the Celts and their Doctrine of Re-birth accord thoroughly in their essentials with modern science; and, accordingly, with other essential elements in the complete Celtic Fairy-Faith which we have in the preceding chapter found to be equally scientific, establish our Psychological Theory of the Nature and Origin of that Fairy-Faith upon a logical and solid foundation; and we now submit this study to the judgement of our readers. With more complete evidence in the future, both from folklore and from science, there will be, we trust, a better vindication of the Theory, and perhaps finally there will come about its transformation into what it but seems to us to be now--a Fact.
Some beliefs which a century ago were regarded as absurdities are now regarded as fundamentally scientific. In the same way, what in this generation is heretical alike to the Christian theologian and to the man of science may in coming generations be accepted as orthodox.
495:1 Cf. Sigmund Freud, The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis, in Amer. Journ. Psych., xxi, No. 2 (April 1910).
496:1 The fact that all matter is capable of assuming a gaseous or invisible state furnishes good scientific reasons for postulating the actual existence of intelligent beings possessed of an invisible yet physical body. There may well be on and about our planet many distinct invisible organic life-forms undiscovered by zoologists. To deny such a possibility would be unscientific.
497:1 Cf. Communication adressée ou Dr J. Dupré, p. 382 of an essay on La Métempsycose basée sur les Principes de La Biologie et du Magnétisme physiologique, in Le Hasard (Paris, 1909), by P. C. Revel. Cases of regeneration among the aged are known, and these show how the subliminal life-forces try to renew the physical body when it is worn out (of. Revel, ib., p. 372).
499:1 Cf. Revel, op. cit., p. 295 ff.
499:2 If scientists discover, as they probably will in time, what they call the secret of life, they will not have discovered the secret of life at all. What they will have discovered will be the physical conditions under which life manifests itself. In other words, science will most likely soon be able to set up artificially in a laboratory such physical conditions as exist in nature naturally, and by means of which life is able to manifest itself through matter. Life will still be as great a mystery as it is to-day; though short-sighted materialists are certain to announce to an eager world that the final problem of the universe has been solved and that life is merely the resultant of a subtle chemical compound.
502:1 Professor Freud, after long and careful study, arrived at the following conclusion:--'The child has his sexual impulse and activities from the beginning, he brings them with him into the world, and from these the so-called normal sexuality of adults emerges by a significant development through manifold stages.' And Dr. Sanford Bell, in an earlier writing entitled A Preliminary Study of the Emotions of Love between the Sexes (see Amer. Journ. Psych., 1902), came to a similar conclusion (of. Freud, op. cit., pp. 207-8).
502:2 Cf. Hans Driesch, The Science and Philosophy of the Organism (London, 1908); and Henri Bergson, L'Évolution créatrice (Paris, 1908).
503:1 This Celtic view of non-personal immortality completely fits in with all the voluminous data of psychical research: after forty years of scientific research into psychics there are no proofs yet adduced that the human personality as a self-sufficient unit of consciousness survives indefinitely the death of its body. Granted that it does survive as a ghost for an undetermined period, generally to be counted in years, during which time it seems to be gradually fading out or disintegrating, there is no reliable evidence anywhere to show that a personality as such has manifested through a 'medium' or otherwise after an interval of one thousand years, or even of five hundred years. We have, in fact, no knowledge of the Survival of a human personality one hundred years after, and probably there are no good examples of such a survival twenty-five years after the death of the body. Such an eminent psychical researcher as William James recognized this drift of the data of psychics, and when he died he held the conviction that there is no personal immortality (see p. 505 n. following).
504:1 Though not inclined toward the vitalistic view of human evolution, M. Th. Ribot very closely approaches the Celtic view of the Ego (or p. 505 individuality) as being the principle which gives unity to different personalities, but he does not have in mind personalities in the sense implied by the Celtic Esoteric Doctrine of Re-birth:--'The Ego subjectively considered consists of a sum of conscious states' (comparable to personalities).
'In brief, the Ego may be considered in two ways: either in its actual form, and then it is the sum of existing conscious states; or, in its continuity with the past, and then it is formed by the memory according to the process outlined above. It would seem, according to this view, that the identity of the Ego depended entirely upon the memory. But such a conception is only partial. Beneath the unstable compound phenomenon in all its protean phases of growth, degeneration, and reproduction, there is a something that remains: and this something is the undefined consciousness, the product of all the vital processes, constituting bodily perception and what is expressed in one word--the cnæthesis.' (The Diseases of Memory, pp. 107-8).
William James, the greatest psychologist of our epoch, after a long and faithful life consecrated to the search after a true understanding of human consciousness, finally arrived at substantially the same conviction as Fechner did, that there is no personal immortality, but that the personality is but a temporary and partial separation and circumscription of a part of a larger whole, into which it is reabsorbed at death' (W. McDougall, In Memory of William James, in Proc. S. P. R., Part LXII, vol. xxv, p. 28). He thus virtually accepted the mystic's view that the personality after the death of the body is absorbed into a higher power, which, to our mind, is comparable with the Ego conceived as the unifying principle behind personalities. In one of his last writings, James explained his belief in such a manner as to make it coincide at certain points with the view held by modern Celtic mystics which has been presented above; the difference being that, unlike these mystics, James was not prepared to say (though he raised the question) whether or not behind the 'mother-sea' of consciousness there is, as Fechner believed, a hierarchy of consciousnesses (themselves subordinate to still higher consciousnesses, and comparable with so many Egos or Individualities) which send out emanations as temporary human personalities. The organic psychical forms (if we may use such an expression) of such temporary human personalities would have to be regarded from James's point of view as being built up out of the psychical elements constituting the 'mother-sea' of consciousness, just as the human body is built up out of the physical elements in the realm of matter:--
'Out of my experience, such as it is (and it is limited enough) one fixed conclusion dogmatically emerges, and that is this, that we with our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest. The maple and the pine may whisper to each other with their leaves, and Conanicut and Newport hear each other's foghorns. But the trees also commingle their roots in the darkness underground, and the islands also hang together through the ocean's bottom. Just so there is a continuum of cosmic consciousness, against which our individuality' (used as synonymous with personality and not in our distinct sense) 'builds but accidental fences, and into which p. 506 our several minds plunge as into a mother-sea or reservoir. Our "normal" consciousness' (the personality as we distinguish it from the Ego or individuality) 'is circumscribed for adaptation to our external earthly environment, but the fence is weak in spots, and fitful influences from beyond break in, showing the otherwise unverifiable common connexion. Not only psychic research, but metaphysical philosophy and speculative biology are led in their own ways to look with favour on some such "pan-psychic" view of the universe as this.' (W. James, The Confidences of a Psychical Researcher, in The American Magazine, October 1909). Again, James wrote:--'The drift of all the evidence we have seems to me to sweep us very strongly towards the belief in some form of superhuman life with which we may, unknown to ourselves, be co-conscious.' (A Pluralistic Universe, New York, 1909, p. 309.)
506:1 W. James, Varieties of Religious Experience (London, 1902), pp. 511, 236 n.
507:1 M. Th. Ribot, in Diseases of Memory (London, 1882), pp. 82-98 ff., gives numerous examples of such loss and recovery of memory.
507:2 Cf. Freud, op. cit., pp. 592, 204-5, &c.
507:3 Cf. A. Moll, Hypnotism (London, 1890), pp. 141 ff., 126.
508:1 Cf. A. Moll, Hypnotism (London, 1890), pp. 141 ff., 126.
508:2 Cf. Freud, op. cit., p. 192.
508:3 Freud, Die Traumdeutung, 2nd ed. (Vienna, 1906); cf. S. Ferenczi, The Psychological Analysis of Dreams, in Amer. Journ. Psych. (April 1910), xxi, No. 2, p. 326.
509:1 A similar state of high development is to be assumed for a great Celtic hero like Arthur. who were he to be re-born would (as is said to have been the case with King Mongan, the reincarnation of Finn) bring with him memory of his past: unlike the consciousness of the normal man, the consciousness of one of the Divine Ones is normally the subconsciousness, the consciousness of the individuality; and not the personal consciousness, which, like the personality, is non-permanent in itself. This further illustrates the Celtic theory of non-personal immortality.
509:2 Ribot, op. cit., p. 100 ff.
510:1 Cf. Lang, Cock Lane and Common Sense, pp. 257 ff. Blackwood's Magazine, cxxix (January 1881), contains a remarkable account of a child who remembered previous lives. Lord Lindsay, in his Letters (ed. of 1847, p. 351), refers to a feeling when he beheld the river Kadisha descending from Lebanon, of having in a previous life seen the same scene. Dickens in his Pictures from Italy testifies to a parallel experience. E. D. Walker, in his interesting work on Reincarnation (pp. 42-5) has brought together many other well-attested cases of people who likewise have thought they could remember fragments of a former state of conscious existence. In his diary, under date of February 17, 1828, Sir Walter Scott wrote as follows:--'I cannot, I am sure, tell if it is worth marking down, that yesterday, at dinner-time, I was strangely haunted by what I would call the sense of pre-existence, viz. a confused idea that nothing that passed was said for the first time.' Lockhart, Life of Scott (first ed.), vii. 114. Bulwer Lytton in Godolphin (chapter xv), and Edgar Allen Poe in Eureka, record similar experiences. Mr. H. Fielding Hall, in The Soul of a People (London, 1902), pp. 290-308, reports several very remarkable cases of responsible natives of Burma who stated that they could recall former lives passed by them as men and women. Mr. Hall has carefully investigated these cases, and gives us the impression that they are worthy of scientific consideration.
511:1 Cf. Ferenczi, op. cit., p. 316, &c. Professor Freud's theory of dreams supports entirely, but does not imply our hypothesis that some (and probably many) abnormal dreams of a rare kind, whether good or bad in tendency, may be due to the latent content of subconsciousness, out of which they undoubtedly arise, having been collected and carried over from a previous state of consciousness parallel to our present one. In respect to our present life Professor Freud holds, as a result of psycho-analysis of thousands of dream subjects, that the latent content of every dream in the adult is directly dependent upon mental processes which frequently reach back to the earliest childhood; and he gives detailed cases in illustration. In other words, there is always a latent dream-material behind the conscious dream-content, and probably a part of it was innate in the child at birth, and hence, according to our view, was pre-existent. (Cf. Ernest Jones, Freud's Theory of Dreams, in Amer. Journ. Psych., April 1910, xxi, No. 2, pp. 305 ff.)
511:2 Cf. Du Prel, Philosophy of Mysticism, ii. 25 ff., 34 ff.
512:1 The Dream of Ravan, in Dublin Univ. Mag., xliii. 468.
513:1 Myers, in Proc. S. P. R., vii. 305.
513:2 James, Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 483.
513:3 The esoteric teaching in many of the mystic schools of antiquity was that the atoms of each human body transmigrate through all lower forms of life during the long period supposed to intervene between death and re-birth of the individuality. This doctrine seems to be one of the main sources of the corruption which crept into the ancient re-birth doctrines and transformed many of them into doctrines of transmigration of the human soul into animal and plant bodies; and some unscrupulous priest-hoods openly taught such corrupted doctrines as a means of making the ignorant populace submissive to ecclesiastical rule, the theological theory expounded by such priesthoods being that the evil-doer, but not the keeper of the letter of the canonical law, is condemned to expiate his sins through birth in brute bodies. The pure form of the mystic doctrine was that alter the lapse of the long period of disembodiment the individuality reconstructs its human body anew by drawing to itself the identical atoms which constituted its previous human body--these atoms, and not the individuality, having transmigrated through all the lower kingdoms. Such an esoteric doctrine probably lies behind the exoteric Egyptian teaching that the human soul after the death of its body passes through all plant and animal bodies during a period of three thousand years, after which it returns to human embodiment. Sonic scholars have held that the exoteric interpretation of this theory and its consequent literal interpretation as a transmigration doctrine led the Egyptians to mummify the bodies of their dead. Cf. Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, Book III, ll. 843-61; and Herodotus, Book II, on Egypt.
514:1 Cf. Dr. L. S. Fugairon's La Survivance de l'âme, ou la Mort et la Renaissance chez les êtres vivants; études de physiologie et d'embryologie philosophiques (Paris, 1907); cf. Revel, Le Hasard, p. 457.
515:1 Darwin never considered or attempted to suggest what it is that of itself really evolves, for it cannot be the physical body which only grows from immaturity to maturity and then dissolves. Darwin thus overlooked the essential factor in his whole doctrine; while the Druids and other ancients, wiser than we have been willing to admit, seem not only to have anticipated Darwin by thousands of years, but also to have quite surpassed him in setting up their doctrine of re-birth, which explains both the physical and psychical evolution of man.