We are using up the past. There is, if you believe, only so much human spirit to go around, human spirit being that which, added to organic chemistry, makes beings. And when a being is ready to be born, it draws on the bank of those who have died, and when one dies it goes back into the bank.
Which would seem to summarize the general understanding.
Finite, that’s the word. There is only so much of it.
Consider: If the spirit is immortal, then it cannot be created. If it will last forever, then it has already lasted forever. As much as there is, is as much as there will be. As many as there are, are as many as there will be. Like all great conceptions, simple.
Such things do not change, but perceptions vary, sensitivities fluctuate with historical period. Reincarnation is now too chic to be taken seriously by the serious; too many books, too many movies. But currency is not itself criticism. Whatever animates or humanizes must come from somewhere and go somewhere because everything else does. Currency and immutability live in different universes.
Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, “Immutator Mundi,” as they called him, the first scientific observer although a Sicilian and an Emperor, once nailed a slave shut in a barrel and set another slave to watching for what emerged from the bunghole when the one inside starved to death. The observing slave saw nothing emerge, which led Frederick to conclude that there was no such thing as a soul, which in turn led to Frederick’s being excommunicated oftener than anybody else in history.
Frederick’s experiment is a better example of scientific curiosity than it is of science. It could be as easy, and as insufficient, to conclude that the spirit is something invisible when passing through bungholes. Or that it frightens slaves into lying. Or that Frederick was reincarnated as Frank De Felitta. Is De Felitta a Sicilian name? Is Hohenstaufen? The grape does not fall far from the vine.
Today’s rampant attention to individuals who remember exactly—dumbfounding assembled academics and shattering the skepticism they came with—the details of one or more previous lives, preferably famous, does not promote the discussion. Such cases do not prove reincarnation. They prove, if anything, that reincarnation can occasionally be sloppy. If some now alive are reincarnations, then all must be. It would make no sense for some departed spirits to lodge in new bodies while most did not, or some presently live bodies to house previous spirits while most utilized anonymous spirits previously unused. No. These authenticated cases of previous spirits expressing themselves through contemporary bodies are necessarily of spirits with imperfectly laundered memories, poorly done work.
To continue the discussion, clear distinction is necessary between reincarnation, of which there are beginnings of understanding, and transmigration, which is illogical junk, based on romantic anthropomorphism and imperfectly digested race memories of ancient animistic beliefs. Logic will go no further than the possibility of reincarnation within species, and as for extra-species reincarnation, that is an inquiry not worth pursuing, except for animals’ rights leagues, and the like.
Giving transmigration the best of it, it can only be a game to be played by the idle, a speculation without practical purpose. The incipient crisis is real, urgent, and frightening, and no solution is possible without facing reincarnation as a simple fact growing out of simple logic.
More and more are born. More are born than used to be born. A thousand years ago the land was sparsely occupied by men and women. Cities, such as there were, had populations of forty thousand or so, or were even smaller. Forty thousand people. Forty thousand souls, we say.
Two thousand years ago there were more people than there were one thousand years ago. At least, it was so in Europe. So that one thousand years ago, a being born in Cologne could draw a spirit from the time of either Vespasian or Hammurabi, there were so many to draw from.
Technology changed all that, technology and exploration and the propagandizing of hand-washing. Increasingly more were born than died. These facts are well known, but technology has conditioned minds to attend to the wrong problem, the problem of not enough space as exponential increase crowds the dry surface with beings. That can never happen.
What is happening is that the spirit bank is being used up faster than it is being replenished.
This is worse than the worst movie.
It leads to all the paradoxes of demographics, all the parlor games of cultural history. At dinner, someone on your left will say that half the scientists of all history are now alive and scientizing, or more artists are now arting than in all the past together. It is usually assumed that such statements are about science or about art. They are not.
They are about the depletion of the spirit bank.
In past times the being about to be born could win a spirit which had not seen service for a thousand or two thousand years. Now the best, to be hoped for is a half-century. And the gap keeps narrowing. The spirits are used too early, unrested and unmatured, uneasy. This explains a great, deal about humanity today and why there are no longer heroes, leaders, stars, men.
It is simple arithmetic, furthermore, that a zero point will soon be reached.