A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
soul, which Pythagoras called metempsychosis and which the
Buddhists and Hindus of Asia call rebirth, is as old as the oldest pre-
historic people which ever existed.
Hardly an Asiatic—unless he happens to be a Muhammedan—
but accepts this doctrine as a fact in Nature, such is the power of
inherited belief! Hardly a Westerner but imagines that his single
earth-life is the be-all and end-all of his physical existence; such
again is the power of inherited belief!
In the realm of spiritual and psychic mysteries the Oriental
people have an immense fund of knowledge which has been handed
down by tradition, a fund still superior to that which exists in
Europe and America, partly for the simple reason that the latter
continents have raced ahead in material and intellectual develop-
ment and have had to disdain the less tangible things in consequence,
and partly because the Eastern races are so much older in point of
time. It is true that the Oriental traditions have now become
inextricably intertwined with the parasitic creepers of superstition
and fable, but the original tree is still there. Not that this knowledge
was broadcast to the masses, for it was kept in the hands of the few.
Even in India, despite her degeneration and abasement, spiritu-
ality still exists among more than a few.
So long as a mere sense of colour snobbery debars us from enter-
taining the thought of accepting instruction from a teacher belong-
ing to the brown race, so long we Western folk shall be unable to
find the highest teaching. For, as in ancient times, from the days of
Buddha to those of Jesus, the best wisdom has enfleshed itself in a few
At first glance the notion that he has lived on earth before strikes
the average Western man as ridiculous, although the Oriental ha's
never dreamt of disputing the correctness of his forefather's know-
ledge on this point.
The learned Buddhist monk who instructed me in Buddhism
told me once of a psychological method which had been originally
tau ght by the Buddha himself and which had been practised in his
own monastery with definite results. By this method it was possible
to discover one's former embodiments. Part of the daily practice
consisted in turning memory backwards from day to day, from week
to week, from month to month, until the events of a whole year were
thus recovered. Later, the preceding years were similarly brought
back to memory, little by little. Finally, a marvellous power of both
memorizing and visualizing was thus developed and flung back to
the years of infancy. Incredible though it seem, everything leading
right back to the birth-date could then be remembered.
Psychologists, hypnotists and psycho-analysts have almost made