The following very interesting talk by the Mother to Satprem (from Mother's Agenda vol. 7, November 3, 1966) illustrates the difference between the Afterlife and simplifified reincarnation on the one hand, and the Divine Soul and Multiple States of Consciousness on the other. Most people approach the subject from a very ssimplistic, linear perspective. In fact there are many dimensions of existence, and multiple reincarnating streams of consciounsess.
November 3, 1966
Satprem: Would you like to win 200,000 dollars?
Mirra: What does one have to do for that?
Satprem: One has to prove the existence of the soul after death.
Oh, yes, yes, I know - that article....
Satprem: "A $ 200,000 reward has been offered to anyone on this earth who can give some scientific proof of a soul of a human body which leaves at death. This was found in the will of James Kidd, an Arizona miner who died in 1951. Lawyers executing the will claim that if no real scientific proof is submitted the money will go to any research institute aimed at proving the existence of the human soul." ["The Hindu," October 26, 1966] [MAK: For more details and follow up see the Time article - Theology: Searching for the Soul (June 23, 1967)]
Mirra: Some people already have their argument ready, I've heard.
A proof ... what they want is a scientifically demonstrated proof. But in the first place, are they really referring to the soul? You understand, they are all in a terrible confusion: for them, the soul is just anything. Do they want to prove the existence of the soul, which is eternal, immortal, or the existence of an afterlife? The two things are different. Afterlife has been scientifically proved by cases: there have been quite a few cases of people who in their present life carried on with their previous life [MAK note: see e.g. Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation by Ian Stevenson]. There was the story of that father who died, and the child of a neighboring family gave extraordinary details, things that the dead father alone knew. He alone knew them, and as soon as the child was able to move independently, that is, at the age of five or six, he started trying to lead his former life again; he would say, "My children are waiting for me in that house, I must go and look after them"! He was a child, yet he said, "My children are waiting for me over there." And that house was where he had died. There were quite precise details that the dead father alone knew: he would say, "But I put that here, why did it go?" All kinds of things like that. This is a fairly recent case. There have been at least four or five recorded cases, therefore there is an afterlife. But what is it that lives after? Of course, in the case of that child, it's not the soul, it has nothing to do with the soul: it's beings of the Vital [Satprem note: Mother does not mean "beings" in the sense of entities, but levels of being. ] (the mentalized vital) that remained intact and, because of some special circumstance, reincarnated immediately. So their previous life was still "quite fresh." The case of that child seems to me scientifically indisputable because they can't say, "He is mad," or "It's a hallucination" - he is a child and he speaks of "his children." There have been other cases as convincing as this one (I don't remember them). But is this what they want to know? Or do they want to know whether there is a soul and whether it is immortal and ... In reality, they don't know anything. It's a question put by ignorant people. They should be told in the first place, "Excuse me! Before asking questions, you should study the problem."
There was the story of Ford, who had sent word to Sri Aurobindo and me that he was coming here to ask us the question that tormented him: "What happens after death?" And he said he was ready to give his fortune to whoever could answer him. Someone had told him, "Yes, Sri Aurobindo can answer you." So Ford had sent word that he was preparing to come and ask us his question. And then he died!
No, those are questions asked by ignorant people. They should first learn the matter and know what they're talking about.
There is the soul. There is the soul, which is quite simply an emanation of ... we can call it the supreme Consciousness, supreme Reality, supreme Truth, anything, whatever they like, it's all the same to me - any words they like. But anyway, the soul is an emanation of That, a direct emanation. In the body, That becomes clothed in the psychic being. The psychic being is a being which is progressively formed throughout all the existences. So are you talking about the soul, are you talking about the psychic being (which is first an embryo and eventually becomes a conscious, perfectly independent being), or are you simply talking of the life of an individual consciousness after death? Because that's yet another thing. There are proofs of that; but in that case, it's a quite vital consciousness of an inferior order, and it may happen to immediately come back into another body through some combination of circumstances (it was into the same family that the father had come back), and to come back with the memory. Otherwise, according to the experiences of those who have studied the question, it's only the psychic being in the process of being formed that retains the memory of its former existences. But it retains the memory of the material, purely physical existence ONLY FOR THOSE MOMENTS WHEN IT PARTICIPATED. So, instead of all those stories that are told (and are made up), you only have memories like that (Mother draws a series of "points" in space with her fingertips), which may be more or less detailed, more or less complete, but which are only fragmentary memories of the MOMENT when the psychic physically manifested. Lots of people do have this sort of memory, but they don't know what it is. Most of the time they regard it as "dreams" or "imaginings." Those who know (that is to say, who are conscious of what goes on in their physical consciousness) can see that it's memories.
The number of memories of this kind I've had is almost incalculable. But it doesn't have the same character as the memories of the higher consciousness (then it's not a "memory": it's a sort of vision the higher beings [Satprem note: Mother does not refer to a category of so-called higher "beings," but to higher levels of being or states of being. ] have of life; but that's something else). The memories I speak of are memories of the psychic being, they have a different character: a rather personal character, I mean there is the sense of a PERSON remembering something. While the others, the visions from above, are memories of an "acting consciousness." But the memories of the psychic being aren't mentalized, that is, if for instance at the time of the recollection you weren't paying attention to the way you were dressed or the surroundings, you don't remember them. You only remember what took place and especially what took place from the point of view of the consciousness and the feelings and the inner movements.
It's generally fragments - fragments of life - that were individualized, and when in the present life you follow a normal development with the [various beings] gathering around the central consciousness, all those elements come back to gather together. They come back, each with its own memories. For instance, I had a memory like that (I tell you, I've had hundreds of them) when I was very young (I must have been twenty or so). It wasn't at night, but I was lying down, resting: suddenly I felt myself riding a horse, with tremendous warlike power and the sense ... a will for victory and the POWER of victory. And I felt as if I was riding a horse: I saw a white horse, I saw my legs, with riding breeches, you understand, and a red velvet costume. And there I was, at a gallop. I couldn't tell what the head was like or anything, naturally! And also, the crowd, the armies, and the rising sun. It was so strong, the sense that ... it was the sense of the will for victory and the POWER of victory. It came just like that. Then, sometime later, I read somewhere the story of Murat (I forget ... I think his victory was Magenta [Satprem note: If it is the battle of Magenta, it is not Murat but MacMahon. It seems more likely to be Murat and another battle. ] ... I no longer remember all that), and I immediately understood that my vision was at the moment of launching the battle: he had an inner call to a Power, so there was an identification [with Mother's power], and that's what I remembered and what came back. If I said (as the Theosophists tell you), "I was Murat," it would be stupid. But it was a consciousness coming back. It was so strong! The impression lasted long enough, with the sense of the battle but above all the sense of that POWER making you invincible. It was interesting, because at the time (it was just in the beginning, I was beginning to take interest in these things and I had just come across the "Cosmic" teaching), I was convinced that a woman's psychic being was always reincarnated in a woman and a man's psychic being was always reincarnated in a man (many schools teach that; Théon too believed so, he insisted on it). So it came as a surprise, because it wasn't in conformity with what I thought (!). Afterwards (long afterwards), I realized that naturally all those dogmas were nonsense, but ...
It fits with what I told you last time: the STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS are what reincarnate, evolving, developing, growing more perfect. That's rather how it was, that's how that memory came. It's like that with many memories. And I know that to say "states of consciousness are what reincarnate," to adopt that as the "sole" explanation would be incorrect - it's absolutely incorrect - but it's one way of looking at the question beyond the sense of the little personality. It broadens the consciousness: one has in oneself things far more universal and far less limited than personal experiences. Just as in life some people have an exceptional life, in the same way they also have exceptional moments in their life, when they no longer are one single little person: they are a force in action. That's how it is.