The Wheel Goes On
What question has been asked a greater number of times, what idea has led men more to search the universe for an answer, what question is nearer and dearer to the human heart, what question is more inseparably connected with our existence, than this one, the immortality of the human soul? It has been the theme of poets and sages, of priests and prophets; kings on the throne have discussed it, beggars in the street have dreamt of it. The best of humanity have approached it, and the worst of men have hoped for it. The interest in the theme has not died yet, nor will it die so long as human nature exists. Various answers have been presented to the world by various minds. Thousands, again, in every period of history have given up the discussion, and yet the question remains as fresh as ever. Often in the turmoil and struggle of our lives we seem to forget it, but suddenly someone dies—one, perhaps, whom we loved, one near and dear to our hearts is snatched from us—and the struggle, the din and turmoil of the world around us, cease for a moment, and the soul asks the old questions: “What after this?” “What becomes of the soul?” . . .
Some of you, perhaps, have seen a man who can read the past life of others and foretell the future. How is it possible for any one to see what the future will be, unless there is a regulated future? Effects of the past will recur in the future, and we see that it is so. You have seen the big Ferris wheel in Chicago. The wheel revolves, and the little rooms in the wheel are regularly coming one after another; one set of persons gets into these, and after they have gone round the circle, they get out, and a fresh batch of people gets in. Each one of these batches is like one of these manifestations, from the lowest animals to the highest man. Nature is like the chain of the Ferris wheel, endless and infinite, and these little carriages are the bodies or forms in which fresh batches of souls are riding, going up higher and higher until they become perfect and come out of the wheel. But the wheel goes on. And so long as the bodies are in the wheel, it can be absolutely and mathematically foretold where they will go, but not so the souls.
Thus it is possible to read the past and the future of nature with precision. We see, then, that there is recurrence of the same material phenomena at certain periods, and that the same combinations have been taking place through eternity. But that is not the immortality of the soul. No force can die, no matter can be annihilated. What becomes of it? It goes on changing, backwards and forwards, until it returns to the source from which it came. There is no motion in a straighFrom Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekanandat line. Everything moves in a circle; a straight line, infinitely produced, becomes a circle. If that is the case, there cannot be eternal degradation for any soul. It cannot be. Everything must complete the circle and come back to its source. What are you and I and all these souls? In our discussion of evolution and involution, we have seen that you and I must be part of the cosmic consciousness, cosmic life, cosmic mind, which got involved and we must complete the circle and go back to this cosmic intelligence which is God. This cosmic intelligence is what people call Lord, or God, or From Jnana Yoga by Swami VivekanandaChrist, or Buddha, or Brahman, what the materialists perceive as force, and the agnostics as the infinite, inexpressible beyond; and we are all parts of that. . . .
We see, then, that the Self of man is not the body, neither is It thought. It cannot be a compound. Why not? Because everything that is a compound can be seen or imagined. That which we cannot imagine or perceive, which we cannot bind together, is not force or matter, cause or effect, and cannot be a compound. The domain of compounds is only so far as our mental universe, our thought universe extends. Beyond that it does not hold good; it is as far as law reigns, and if there is anything beyond law, it cannot be a compound atFrom Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda all. The Self of man being beyond the law of causation, is not a compound. It is ever free and is the Ruler of everything that is within the law. It will never die, because death means going back to component parts, and that which was never a compound cannot die. It is sheer nonsense to say It dies.
– Swami Vivekananda, Jnana Yoga