Luther Burbank  - REINCARNATION


   In the long procession of distinguished scientists and scholars from all parts of the world who traveled the well-worn path to the door of Luther Burbank's cottage were many Hindu leaders and disciples of the Vedanta philosophy of India. So close was the bond between their philosophy of life and that of Burbank that a hospitable welcome always awaited them. His nature quickly responded to their spiritual beliefs, mystical conceptions and the independence that marked their patient methods of research. He felt at home with men in whom serenity of spirit and poise of character were dominant traits. More than one prominent Swami of Vedanta enjoyed the confidence of his friendship, and frequent were the discussions in which the doctrines of reincarnation and transmigration were treated from every angle. It may safely be affirmed that the inspiring motive of his desire to master the Vedantic theory of reincarnation had no connection with a yearning after personal immortality. His interest in this phase of religion, as in the case of all other religious beliefs, was pursued in a spirit in which the element of self was entirely eliminated. His chief concern was to obtain, if possible, a reasonable answer to two questions which were thrust in the foreground of his inquiry. He was deeply interested in the claim that reincarnation was based on evolution, and in the sequel to that claim that reincarnation was founded on the law of cause and effect.

   Once I called Burbank's attention to the fact that his name had recently been linked with that of Henry Ford in a published statement in which their beliefs in the doctrine of reincarnation had been compared. There were such radical differences between the beliefs expressed in the reported interview with him and the opinions so often advanced by him in my presence that I was convinced he had been altogether misinterpreted. He told me that the story of that alleged interview with him, like so many others, had been evolved from the riotous imagination of a young reporter. If the statement of Mr. Ford's belief in the doctrine of reincarnation was as inaccurate as that imputed to him a comparison is impossible. But why compare? Henry Ford had long been his personal friend, and he held in great esteem the stability and sincerity of his character. For his genius, as one of the world's greatest organizers, he had the most profound respect. If it happened that he had been correctly reported, no man can find fault with him because he expressed his personal belief in the doctrine of reincarnation. It is at once his right and his privilege. His own hesitation in affirming a belief in the preexistence of the soul or in personal immortality was the logical outcome of a life trained to slow methods in the field of science. If his life-work had placed restraint upon his judgment in things mortal, how much more in things immortal! We must never lose sight of the distinction between opinion and conviction, between the yearning and the belief of the soul.

   Nor does one of the greatest of our scientists hesitate to express a favorable opinion on the tenableness of the theory of reincarnation, for it was Darwin himself who said: "None but hasty thinkers will reject it on the ground of inherent absurdity. Like the doctrine of evolution itself, that of transmigration has its roots in the world of reality." If he were called upon to choose between the theory of a miraculous resurrection, as contained in the gospel story, and the doctrine of reincarnation, which has its roots in the ages long before the founding of Christianity, as a scientist his choice would rest in a doc- trine that included the pre-existence of the soul. He denied the proposition subscribed to by some theologians "that the spiritual nature has been superadded to the animal nature by some extracosmic spiritual agency." His own position would be based on the conclusion of that eminent English scientist, J. Arthur Thomson, even though he might find that it put him at variance with the evolutionists: "The world is one, not twofold, the spiritual influx is the primal reality, and there is nothing in the end which was not also in the beginning." But his choice rested not between the theory of a miraculous resurrection and the doctrine of reincarnation. His belief in immortality had no place for the continued life of the individual, for personality in his view is absorbed in the UNIVERSAL LIFE.

   He believed that the soul is a part of God and that, consciously or unconsciously, it will endure as long as God lasts.
In closing his "Challenge to Thought" he gave expression to his faith in the noble language of Olive Schreiner:” “For the little soul that cries aloud for continued personal existence for itself and its beloved, there is no help. For the soul which knows itself no more as a unit, but as a part of the Universal Unity of which the beloved also is a part, which feels within itself the throb of the Universal Life for that soul there is no death.”