Excerpted from “Karma and Reincarnation” book, The Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda
Souls are made in the image of God. Even the greatest of all sinners cannot be damned forever. A finite cause cannot have an infinite effect. Due to the misuse of his free will, a person might imagine himself to be evil, but within he is a son of God. A king’s son might, under the influence of liquor or of a bad dream, think himself poor, but as soon as he recovers from his state of intoxication, or as soon as he awakens, he forgets that delusion. The perfect soul, ever sinless, eventually wakes up in God when it remembers its real, eternally good, nature.
Man, being made in the image of God, is deluded only temporarily. This temporary delusion leads him to think of himself as mortal. So long as he identifies with mortality he must suffer. A soul’s delusion of mortality may extend to many incarnations.
Through self-effort, however, always influenced by the law of God, the Prodigal Son develops discrimination, remembers his home in God, and attains wisdom. With illumination the prodigal soul remembers its eternal image of God, and is reunited with cosmic consciousness. His Father then serves him “the fatted calf” of eternal bliss and wisdom, liberating him forever.
Delusion is Temporary
Man may misuse his free will for a time, considering himself mortal, but that temporary delusion can never erase from within him the mark of immortality and God’s image of perfection. A baby’s premature death cannot possibly have permitted him the use of free will to be either virtuous or vicious. Nature must bring that soul back to earth to give it a chance to use its free will to work out also the past karma which caused it to die so young, and to perform the good actions that lead to liberation.
If an immortal soul has not worked out in one lifetime of school those delusions which bind him, he needs more lifetimes of schooling to bring him the understanding of his innate immortality. Only then can he return to the state of cosmic consciousness. Ordinary souls therefore reincarnate, compelled by their earth-bound desires. Great souls, on the other hand, come on earth only partly to work out their karma, but principally to act as noble sons of God to show lost children the way to their heavenly Father’s home.