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Reincarnation Debate

Debate on reincarnation between Hannen Swaffer and Silver Birch.

We were discussing reincarnation during a lull in one sitting.

Suddenly, in the middle of the discussion, Silver Birch’s medium was entranced, and we found ourselves talking, not to an anti-reincarnation sitter, but to a                  pro-reincarnation spirit guide.

“I do not agree with you,” said the spirit to Swaffer, who had been loud in his denial of the theory.

“Tell me this,” said Swaffer. “Why am I, so far as I can see things, the direct descendent of my ancestry”

“Show me one of your ancestors who could have done the work you do,” countered the guide.

“I belong to a different period,” said Swaffer. “My grandmother was as dominant a character as I am.”

“You talk of the things of the brain. I mean the things of the spirit.”

“Well, then, tell me about my previous incarnations,” said Swaffer.

“No, it does not matter,” the guide replied.

“But you have reincarnated, whether you agree with it or not. Which one of your ancestors, do you think, gave you the power to be inspired?”

“One of my relatives, who died before he was twenty-eight, was one of the greatest poets who ever lived,” remarked Swaffer, referring to John Keats.

“Yes, I know,” the spirit said, “and that is carried forward in the bloodstream. But which one has swayed meetings?”

“He swayed people by thousands,” said the sitter. “When he wrote, ‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever’, it went round the world.”

“Tell me which one of your ancestors was an orator?”

“That I cannot tell you,” admitted Swaffer.

“Tell me which one was born from among the low and the humble and walked with kings and princes.”

“That is largely because of my occupation,” said Swaffer. “They lived in the country and I live in London.”

“But they were born in the country and you were born in the country.”

“I have a young brother, twenty years younger than I am, who is one of the best journalists in Fleet Street,” went on Swaffer.

“Does he sway the thoughts of millions?” asked the guide.

“No, but he might.”

“But he does not.”

“No, but I did not when I was his age,” replied Swaffer.

“It is your physical body that comes from your physical parents,” said the guide.

“Your soul is of the Great Spirit. The qualities of the soul are those which you unfold for yourself. Your material body is determined by heredity, by environment, by the health of the parents. Those things affect the things of matter, but not the soul.”

“But, if there is reincarnation,” urged Swaffer, “why do not human beings improve at a greater rate? They
seem to me to improve as the conditions outside them improve.”

“Yes, but the conditions improve only as human beings improve,” said the guide.

“But they seem to improve at the same rate,” objected Swaffer.

“No, it is because the spirit improves that the conditions improve,” said the spirit.

“Yes, but the conditions react on the spirit.”

“You are putting it the wrong way round,” said the guide. “Improvement starts with the spirit and expresses itself in matter. It does not start with the expression in matter and then evolve the spirit.”

“That is an argument about spirit, not about reincarnation,” said Swaffer. “If we are constantly reborn,
why cannot we produce men greater than Homer, Shakespeare or Simpson? Why are not the types always improving? You only improve the types as you improve the conditions around the people.”

“What you call types refer to the things of matter. I refer to the quality of the spirit.”

“Is there today a man with a finer spirit than Socrates” asked Swaffer.

“Oh, yes.”

“Or Jesus of Nazareth?”


“Or Joan of Arc?”


“No, my logic rebels against reincarnation,” remarked Swaffer.

“I know,” said the guide, “and therefore you are right not to accept it.”

“I am taught to accept only those things which can be proved to me,” said Swaffer. “I accept you but I must not be expected to take from you things which rebel against my sense of logic.

“You have known me a long time,” said the guide. “Have I ever asked you or anyone to accept that which your reason rejects?”

“No,” admitted Swaffer. “Then I am told that when I evolve to a certain condition I shall be able to accept the theory of reincarnation naturally. Are the people who accept it more evolved than I am?”

“No,” replied the spirit. “Sometimes they do it because it gives them an opportunity for thinking that they are frustrated. There are some of the evolved souls who know about their past incarnations. But
you have reincarnated. So have I.”

“Why, when you passed on three thousand years ago, did you not reincarnate?” asked Swaffer.

“I had, before then,” said the guide. “I will tell you this so that you can understand. It is more important that your world should understand the laws of the spirit so that the things of the world of spirit can be brought to it. That is gradually happening. The next stage is that they will understand more about their past lives and their relationships to their present lives. It is not so important as the other but I tell you that it is so. If you say you do not agree with me, I love you just the same.”

“Red Cloud told me that I voluntarily reincarnated this time,” said Swaffer.

“Yes, that is so,” the guide replied.

“Why should I do it voluntarily, if it is a law?” asked Swaffer.

“There are many laws in operation,” said the spirit, and there are many people who do not know of the operation of the law until it is time for the law to operate through their lives.

“But why should I choose reincarnation if reincarnation is the law?” persisted Swaffer.

“You had the choice of going on in the world of spirit or doing as I did, forego some of my evolution in order to help your world,” said the guide. “You chose to return. It was connected with all the troubles that you have seen in the past few years.”

“How much of that job do you think I have done “asked Swaffer.

“A great deal,” was the reply. “Although you have not yet reached the end. That is why you were always told of the work you had to do.”

Then the guide left, and the medium, coming out of trance, denied all the things his guide had said. For although the guide teaches reincarnation, his medium rejects the theory! The argument went on for an hour afterwards, with the medium arguing fiercely against the case his guide had built up.



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