Q. The most difficult thing for you to do, will be to explain and give reasonable grounds for such a belief. No Theosophist has ever yet succeeded in bringing forward a single valid proof to shake my skepticism. First of all, you have against this theory of reincarnation, the fact that no single man has yet been found to remember that he has lived, least of all who he was, during his previous life.

A. Your argument, I see, tends to the same old objection; the loss of memory in each of us of our previous incarnation. You think it invalidates our doctrine? My answer is that it does not, and that at any rate such an objection cannot be final.

Q. I would like to hear your arguments.

A. They are short and few. Yet when you take into consideration (a) the utter inability of the best modern psychologists to explain to the world the nature of mind; and (b) their complete ignorance of its potentialities, and higher states, you have to admit that this objection is based on an a priori conclusion drawn from prima facie and circumstantial evidence more than anything else. Now what is "memory" in your conception, pray?

Q. That which is generally accepted: the faculty in our mind of remembering and of retaining the knowledge of previous thoughts, deeds, and events.

A. Please add to it that there is a great difference between the three accepted forms of memory. Besides memory in general you have Remembrance, Recollection, and Reminiscence, have you not? Have you ever thought over the difference? Memory, remember, is a generic name.

Q. Yet, all these are only synonyms.

A. Indeed, they are not-not in philosophy, at all events. Memory is simply an innate power in thinking beings, and even in animals, of reproducing past impressions by an association of ideas principally suggested by objective things or by some action on our external sensory organs. Memory is a faculty depending entirely on the more or less healthy and normal functioning of our physical brain; and remembrance and recollection are the attributes and handmaidens of that memory. But reminiscence is an entirely different thing. Reminiscence is defined by the modern psychologist as something intermediate between remembrance and recollection, or "a conscious process of recalling past occurrences, but without that full and varied reference to particular things which characterizes recollection." Locke, speaking of recollection and remembrance, says:

When an idea again recurs without the operation of the like object on the external sensory, it is remembrance; if it be sought after by the mind, and with pain and endeavor found and brought again into view, it is recollection.

But even Locke leaves reminiscence without any clear definition, because it is no faculty or attribute of our physical memory, but an intuitional perception apart from and outside our physical brain; a perception which, covering as it does (being called into action by the ever-present knowledge of our spiritual Ego) all those visions in man which are regarded as abnormal-from the pictures suggested by genius to the ravings of fever and even madness-are classed by science as having no existence outside of our fancy. Occultism and Theosophy, however, regard reminiscence in an entirely different light. For us, while memory is physical and evanescent and depends on the physiological conditions of the brain-a fundamental proposition with all teachers of mnemonics, who have the researches of modern scientific psychologists to back them-we call reminiscence the memory of the soul. And it is this memory which gives the assurance to almost every human being, whether he understands it or not, of his having lived before and having to live again. Indeed, as Wordsworth has it:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting,

The soul that rises with us, our life's star,

Hath elsewhere had its setting,

And cometh from afar.

Q. If it is on this kind of memory-poetry and abnormal fancies, on your own confession-that you base your doctrine, then you will convince very few, I am afraid.

A. I did not "confess" it was a fancy. I simply said that physiologists and scientists in general regard such reminiscences as hallucinations and fancy, to which learned conclusion they are welcome. We do not deny that such visions of the past and glimpses far back into the corridors of time, are not abnormal, as contrasted with our normal daily life experience and physical memory. But we do maintain with Professor W. Knight, that: The absence of memory of any action done in a previous state cannot be a conclusive argument against our having lived through it.

And every fair-minded opponent must agree with what is said in Butler's Lectures on Platonic Philosophy:

That the feeling of extravagance with which it (preexistence) affects us has its secret source in materialistic or semi-materialistic prejudices.

Besides which we maintain that memory, as Olympiodorus called it, is simply fantasy, and the most unreliable thing in us.

Say Olympiodorus, in Platonis Phaed.:

The fantasy is an impediment to our intellectual conceptions; and hence, when we are agitated by the inspiring influence of the Divinity, if the fantasy intervenes, the enthusiastic energy ceases: for enthusiasm and the ecstasy are contrary to each other. Should it be asked whether the soul is able to energize without the fantasy, we reply, that its perception of universals proves that it is able. It has perceptions, therefore, independent of the fantasy; at the same time, however, the fantasy attends in its energies, just as a storm pursues him who sails on the sea.

Ammonius Saccas asserted that the only faculty in man directly opposed to prognostication, or looking into futurity, is memory. Furthermore, remember that memory is one thing and mind or thought is another; one is a recording machine, a register which very easily gets out of order; the other (thoughts) are eternal and imperishable. Would you refuse to believe in the existence of certain things or men only because your physical eyes have not seen them? Would not the collective testimony of past generations who have seen him be a sufficient guarantee that Julius Caesar once lived? Why should not the same testimony of the psychic senses of the masses be taken into consideration ?

Q. But don't you think that these are too fine distinctions to be accepted by the majority of mortals?

A. Say rather by the majority of materialists. And to them we say, behold: even in the short span of ordinary existence, memory is too weak to register all the events of a lifetime. How frequently do even most important events lie dormant in our memory until awakened by some association of ideas, or aroused to function and activity by some other link. This is especially the case with people of advanced age, who are always found suffering from feebleness of recollection. When, therefore, we remember that which we know about the physical and the spiritual principles in man, it is not the fact that our memory has failed to record our precedent life and lives that ought to surprise us, but the contrary, were it to happen.