So says no less a person -- well, spirit -- than Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. She has been gone from the Earth sphere since 1891, so she should know. Or not. She reports, you decide.
Blavatsky was a co-founder of the Theosophical Society, and undoubtedly one of its most effective advocates. The society has had the usual organizational upheavals and schisms, and never attracted a mass following, but its philosophical influence has been far out of proportion to its numbers.
Among its teachings was the doctrine of reincarnation. Before the Theosophical Society came onto the scene, the idea that people lead successive lives to gain experience and develop spiritually was virtually unknown in the modern Western world aside from a few scholars of Asian (called in those days "Oriental") religions. Since Blavatsky and her successors such as Annie Besant -- a multi-purpose reformer whose other interests included socialism and feminism -- delivered the message, reincarnation has entered mainstream thought, though not necessarily acceptance.
Surprise: from her new perch in the afterlife, Blavatsky has decided that reincarnation is tosh. How do we know? She's told us via mediumship.
Here is a partial transcript of Blavatsky's message, recorded in Dr. Wickland's book.
I studied Reincarnation, and I thought there was truth and justice in the theory that we come back and learn and have more experiences. I taught it and wanted to bring it out to the world and its peoples.
I felt that I remembered far back in my past. I felt I knew all about my past, but I was mistaken.
Memories of “past lives” are caused by spirits that bring such thoughts and represent the lives they lived. A spirit impresses you with the experiences of its life and these are implanted in your mind as your own. You then think you remember your past.
When you study, especially when you study Theosophy, you develop your mind and live in an atmosphere of mind. You remove yourself as much as possible from the physical. Naturally you become sensitive, and naturally you feel the spirits around you. They speak to you by impressions and their past will be like a panorama. You feel it, and you live over the past of spirits and you make the mistake of taking this for the memory of former incarnations.
I did not know this when I lived. I took it for granted that these memories were true, but when I came to the spirit side of life I learned differently.She later returned to the subject.
When you have once reached the spirit world, where all are congenial, where all is life, where all is bliss, where there is no jealousy, no envy, where all is one grand harmony, do you think for one moment that you would want to leave that beautiful condition to come back to earth and be a little baby, restricted in mind and knowing nothing - nothing whatever?My impression is that Blavatsky (why is she continually referred to as "Madame" Blavatsky in Theosophical circles?), while in our world, had a strong intuitive grasp of certain profound truths, but was also too ready to believe and proclaim a lot of cant and nonsense. Supposing her spirit was speaking at Dr. Wickland's circle, good on her for exercising a woman's prerogative to change her mind.
Furthermore, you might get into a sickly, crippled body and be worse than you were before.
No, reincarnation is not true. I believed it, I taught it, and I was sure that I should come back and be somebody else. But I will not. I can do far more good now.
Belief in reincarnation is now almost universal among people practicing the various forms of yoga and disciplines derived, even at a wide remove, from the Vedanta tradition. Most Buddhists seem to believe in it as well, although it's incompatible with Buddhism's core notion that there is no continuing self or soul. And finally there are those who come under the "New Age" heading.
I've spent a lot of time around such people, and I suppose it has influenced me to lean toward incorporating reincarnation in my outlook. Even so ... I'd never deny that it's possible; but I'm not convinced.
Survival of consciousness in a post-mortem state seems nearly certain if you are willing to look at the evidence, as a whole, without prejudice. For reincarnation, the picture is cloudier.
There are two basic methods of studying the possibility of reincarnation: "past-life memories" of young children and hypnotic regression.
I greatly admire the work of the late Ian Stevenson and his colleagues studying children's alleged past-life recall in situ, talking to the children and other people involved, using means as scientific as possible under the circumstances. Some of the cases he writes about are intriguing and a few almost seem to clinch the argument. But they never quite rule out alternative explanations -- for instance, Blavatsky's suggestion that they are not remembering their own past lives, but lives of attaching spirits.
Hypnotic regression also produces some fascinating material, but is even more open to doubt. Although hypnosis is widely practiced in psychotherapy, including past-life regression therapy, we still don't understand what hypnosis is. We know plenty about some things it can do, but not how or why. What is in no doubt is that hypnotized subjects are extremely suggestible and imaginative. Their visions of living in other times and places are surely real experiences to them. But dreams and hallucinations are phenomenologically real, too.
I can tell you this from extensive reading of the literature on reincarnation: no one's story or "memory" of a previous incarnation that it has been possible to investigate through historical records has been 100 percent factually correct. Some have been partly confirmed -- impressive in itself, granted -- but those same examples include statements that not only can't be substantiated, but are shown to be wrong. In hypnotic regressions, there is usually a curious inability to come up with specifics, such as the person's name in the earlier life, the year, who was the king or president at the time, what the town, city, or country was called, &c.
Personally I hope the spirit Blavatsky is right and we continue our growth toward Ultimate Reality without having to be wrapped in a physical body again and again. Maybe the best possibility is to be offered a choice, not a requirement -- if you want another go-around in Earth life, the train is leaving on track 9. If prefer your spirit arrangements, you can keep them.