But, you may say, of what use are the experiences gained in former lives, if we do not remember them – they are lost to us. But they are not lost to you – they are built into your mental structure, and nothing can ever take them away from you – they are yours forever.
Your character is made up not only of your experiences in this particular life, but also of the result of your experiences in many other lives and stages of existence. You are what you are today by reason of these accumulated experiences – the experiences of the past lives and of the present one. You remember some of the things in the present life which have built up your character – but many others equally important, in the present life, you have forgotten – but the result stays with you, having been woven into your mental being. And though you may remember but little, or nothing, of your past lives, the experiences gained in them continue with you, now and forever.
It is these past experiences which give you “predispositions” in certain directions – which make it very difficult for you to do certain things, and easy to do others – which cause you to “instinctively” recognize certain things as unwise or wrong, and to cause you to turn your back upon them as follies. They give you your “tastes” and inclinations, and make some ways seem better than others to you. Nothing is lost in life, and all the experiences of the past contribute to your well-being in the present – all your troubles and pains of the present will bear fruit in the future.
We do not always learn a lesson at one trial, and we are sent back to our task over and over again, until we have accomplished it. But not the slightest effort is ever lost, and if we have failed at the task in the past, it is easier for us to accomplish it today.
An American writer, Mr. Berry Benson, in the Century Magazine, of May, 1894, gives us a beautiful illustration of one of the features of the workings of the law of Spiritual Evolution. We reprint it, herewith: “A little boy went to school. He was very little. All that he knew he had drawn in with his mother’s milk. His teacher (who was God) placed him in the lowest class, and gave him these lessons to learn: Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt do no hurt to any living thing. Thou shalt not steal. So the man did not kill; but he was cruel, and he stole. At the end of the day (when his beard was gray, when the night was come) his teacher (who was God) said: Thou hast learned not to kill, but the other lessons thou hast not learned. Come back tomorrow.
“On the morrow he came back a little boy. And his teacher (who was God) put him in a class a little higher, and gave him these lessons to learn: Thou shalt do no hurt to any living thing. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not cheat. So the man did no hurt to any living thing; but he stole and he cheated. And at the end of the day (when his beard was gray-when the night was come) his teacher (who was God) said: Thou hast learned to be merciful. But the other lessons thou hast not learned. Come back tomorrow.
“Again, on the morrow, he came back, a little boy. And his teacher (who was God) put him in a class yet a little higher, and gave him these lessons to learn: Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not cheat. Thou shalt not covet. So the man did not steal; but he cheated and he coveted. And at the end of the day (when his beard was gray-when the night was come) his teacher (who was God) said: Thou hast learned not to steal. But the other lessons thou hast not learned. Come back, my child, tomorrow.
“This is what I have read in the faces of men and women, in the book of the world, and in the scroll of the heavens, which is writ with stars.” The great lesson to be learned by every soul, is the truth of the Oneness of All. This knowledge carries with it all the rest. It causes one to follow the precept of the Son of Mary, who said: “And thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength;” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” When man grows into a consciousness of the truth that All is One – that when one loves God he is loving the Whole Thing – that his neighbor is indeed himself – then he has but a few more classes to pass through before he passes into the “High School” of Spiritual Knowledge.
This conviction of the Oneness of All, carries with it certain rules of action – of divine ethics – which transcend all written or spoken human laws. The Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man become a reality rather than a mere repetition of meaningless words. And this great lesson must be learned by all – and all are learning it by degrees. And this is the aim of the present stage of Spiritual Evolution – to know God as He is; to know your relationship with others – to know what we are. There are greater schools, colleges and universities of spiritual knowledge beyond us, but these truths are the lessons taught in the grades in which we are at present. And all this pain, and trouble and sorrow, and work, has been but to teach us these truths – but the truth once gained is seen to be well worth even the great price paid for it.
If you ask the Yogis what is one’s duty toward God (meaning God in the grandest conception of Him) they will answer “Love Him, and the rest will be made clear to you – and to know him is to Love him, therefore learn to Know Him.” And if you ask then what is one’s duty toward his fellowmen they will answer, simply: “Be Kind – and you will be all the rest.” These two precepts, if followed, will enable one to live the Perfect Life. They are simple, but they contain all that is worth knowing concerning one’s relations with the Infinite Power and with one’s fellow men. All the rest is froth and sediment – the worthless rubbish which has accumulated around the Divine Flame of the Truth. We mention them in this place, because they sum up the idea of the consciousness which all the race is striving hard to acquire. If you are able to make them a part of yourself, you will have made great progress on the Path – will have passed the Great Examination.