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Jan 05, 2006 05:19 AM
by W.Dallas TenBroeck



Mozart composed minuets before he was four years old. Beethoven gave
successful concerts before he was eight, and published com positions when he
was ten. Chopin played in public before he was nine. Mendelssohn was already
famous at twelve, while Brahms ex cited attention from babyhood. Richard
Strauss was a successful composer at six, while Samuel Wesley was an
organist at three and composed an oratorio at eight.

*          *         
*          *

Ruth Slenczynski—a child of eight years— was acclaimed in New York Cityin
1933 for her piano recital of Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Chopin. She
came simple and smiling upon the stage, but when she sat down to play, her
appearance was that of a mature woman in a child’s body. One was forced to
realize that only the Soul present could so command the nature and body.

*          *         
*          *

“Blind Tom” was a negro born in slavery on a Georgia plantation in 1849. Not
only was he born blind but he was so nearly a congenital idiot that it was
almost impossible to teach him to talk or to perform the simplest tasks.

By the time he was ten years old he had been drilled into “tending door”
—his sole accomplishment. In those days the kitchen was in a separate cabin
immediately back of the mansion-house dining room. Slaves would run back and
forth between kitchen and dining room at meal time and it was Blind Tom’s
task to open the swinging door for them. One day a young lady guest played
some highly technical numbers just before lunch. After lunch eon the company
scattered for various amusements. It happened that the young lady re turned
to the deserted dining room for some forgotten article and was astonished to
hear the piano resounding with the music she had played an hour or two
before. Peeping into the music room she beheld Blind Tom, oblivious to all
but the magic sounds his flying fingers were conjuring from the instrument.
Within a year Mr. Bethune, Tom’s “owner,” was exhibiting him to large
audiences in New York City — to his own profit and to the world’s
incredulous admiration.

* * * *

Christian Heinrich Heinecken was born in Denmark in 1721. At ten months of
age he could converse as freely and intelligently as an adult. By the time
he was a year old he knew the Pentateuch practically by heart—knew it not
only in a memorial sense, but understood it as well as his elders who read
and told the Old Testament stories to him. By the end of his second year he
was as well versed in sacred history as those who taught him, had decided
opinions on the many moot theological questions of the time, and could hold
his own in discussion with the numerous learned divinity men who sought him
out for the sake of what they could learn from him. At three years of age he
was as much of a marvel in geography and in world history as the greatest
travelers and university professors. He was by this time proficient in
German as well as Danish, and could talk well in French and Latin. His
parents’ home became a kind of place of pilgrimage to which men and womenof
standing and repute from many distant places came with reverence and respect
to meet and consult with this phenomenal babe. The child died at a little
over four years of age.

* * * *

Horace Greeley, the famous American newspaper editor, was the third child of
parents who wrestled for a meager existence on a stony hillside Vermont
farm. Horace was weak, sickly, and from the first uninterested in the things
that attract and amuse babies. That he learned to read before he could talk
in other than “baby language” is told by more than one biographer. His own
mother related that she observed before he was two years old how he seemed
fascinated to see his father reading from a paper. Overburdened with family
duties, it occurred to her to give him an old newspaper to play with while
she was absent from the room. Coming into the house one day she started
toward the door of the room in which she had left Horace. Astonished to hear
a voice speaking as an adult might, and thinking some visitor must have
entered during her absence, she paused by the door and looked in. Horace was
reading aloud from the sheet before him! No one had ever taught him even his
A B C’s.

* * *

William Henry West Betty was born in England in 1791. He appeared on the
stage at the age of eleven in adult parts, and at twelve he was playing
Shakesperian roles in London to overcrowded houses. It is of record that the
English Parliament actually adjourned on one occasion so that its members
might attend a performance in which this precocious youngster played the
role of Hamlet.

* * *

Elmer J. Schoneberger, Jr., born at Los Angeles in 1929, at six months of
age could con verse plainly; at a year old he had learned the alphabet; at
three, he was able to talk with ease and understanding on such subjects as
“electricity, engineering, economics, history, aviation and sports.”

* * *

A GREEK LESSON [Prologue to "Gorgo"].

I stopped short; I flung down the book. “It is a lie,” I cried bitterly, “a
cruel, hateful lie,”

I almost shouted, — and the whole class stared at me in amazement.

A strange outburst was that for the dingy, drowsy Greek-room of the
little New England college. I was as much surprised as any; I stood confused
at myself. For then it was that I remembered.

The passage which I was translating seemed innocent enough—to all the
rest. We were reading at sight — the professor’s particular hobby; and he
was exploiting upon us the Twelfth Oration of Lysias.

But I had been paying scant attention to what they were reading. Greek
was easy to me always, and the halting drone with which they turned the
sweet Attic into their class-room jargon wearied my ears. And my thoughts
had drifted far away into I know not what regions of day-dreams, under a
bright sky buttressed on purple hills, when I heard the incisive voice of
the professor:

“Leonard, you may read now, beginning with the seventy-eighth section.”
It cut through the mists of cloud land like the flash of a searchlight.

I started to my feet, found the place and began:

“‘And although he has been the author of all these and still other
disasters and disgraces, both old and new, both small and great, some dare
to profess themselves his friends; al though it was not for the people that
Theramenes died, but because of his own villainy—’Then I choked and stopped.
Tears swam in my eyes, and a hot flash scalded my cheeks. For in that
instant first I understood; and in that instant it seemed to me that they
all understood.

But the professor, rather mortified at my unwonted hesitation, began to

“Go on, Leonard, — go on, it is not so hard— ‘and no less justlywould he
have died under the democracy, which he twice enslaved’ — why, Leonard!”.

“It is a lie,” I burst forth. “A cruel, hateful lie.” Those words which
he uttered so calmly had stung me like the lashes of a scourge, — so
malignant, so artful, so utterly unjust. And the whole world had read
them—this had been believed for centuries, with none to contradict!

“To say it when a man was dead !“ I went on. “And Lysias! for Lysias to
say it!” I had quite forgotten the class; I saw only the foppish, waspish
little orator, declaiming before the people with studied passion and hot
indignation well memorized. But the people had never accepted it They knew
me better. . .

“They would not listen to such as Lysias; they would make an uproar and
rise from the benches. How dared that alien accuse the best blood of
Athens!” Yet I could scarcely have told you why I said it.

My classmates were too much astonished to laugh. The professor laid down
his book; mine I flung on the floor. My blood was boiling; my soul a tumult.

“What does this mean, Leonard?” I heard the voice; I could not clearly see
the speaker.

“I will not read it—I will not read another line,” I cried. .

For the past had opened like a darkness lightning-cleft; all in one moment I
felt the injustices of ages; the shame of an aeon of scorn—and they askedme
to read against my self the lying record. I would die again sooner than read
it. I could not realize that they did not comprehend.

It was not often that Professor Lalor was at a loss for words, but there was
a long pause before he spoke.

“Young man,” he said slowly, “I always like my student s to manifest a
living interest in what they read, and this trait I have especially
commended in you heretofore. But there is measure, Leonard, in all things,
as the Greeks themselves have taught us; and this exceeds— this certainly
exceeds. One would fancy you contemporary authority.” . .

Again I had choked, but anger gave me back my speech.

“Lysias an authority!” I exclaimed. “Lysias ! “

My sight had cleared. The class sat quiet, startled out of their laughter;
the professor looked pained and puzzled.

“There is a degree of truth in what you seem to imply,” he said. “It may
be conceded that Lysias was somewhat lacking in the judicial quality. And as
to Theramenes, Aristotle has expressed a very different estimate of him. Yet

“He was no better than a sycophant,” I broke in.

“Go to your room, Leonard. You forget yourself.” But the truth was, I had
remembered myself.
After that they nicknamed me Theramenes: I was nicknamed after myself,
and none suspected.


My sister was born and married abroad. On arrival in England she and her
husband set off to visit at an old manor house in Wiltshire.

On entering the lodge gates, my sister turned to her husband and said,
“Why, this is my old home,” and to his surprise, she pointed out landmarks
on the way.

The experience was related at dinner, and the host, somewhat incredulous,
playfully said, “Perhaps you will discover the Priest’s Hole !” It was
mentioned in the history of the place that one existed in Tudor times, but
it had never been discovered.

After dinner the guests adjourned to the gallery to see some old
pictures, and it was noticed my sister was missing. They found her in a room
nearby, counting the panels on the wall, and looking somewhat dreamy.
Suddenly she exclaimed, “This is the one,” and asked her husband to press a
leaf in the carving very hard as she could not manage it.

He did so, the panel moved stiffly, and a tiny room was revealed, dusty
with age, and empty save for a broken piece of pottery and a pallet, which
had evidently been used for a bed.

* * * *

The first year of little Jackie’s life we called him our little Chinaman,
because his features—particularly his eyes—were Chinese. After his first
year, he began to lose that Oriental look. But he was always different from
the other children—silent, he preferred to play alone, and would play for
hours with one object.

As he grew older, it was noticed that Jackie was the one who did things.
If he started a thing, he always finished it. Often we would hear the others
say, “Jackie can fix it!” And always Jackie fixed it.

It was when he was five years old that I made the boys each a pair of
navy blue pants. Immediately, Jim tried his on. When I asked Jackie if he
wanted to put his on, he said, No— he would put them in his drawer until I
got his shirt made. “But Jackie,” I said, “I just made you some shirts.”

“I know,” he answered, “but they are not the right kind.”

“What is the right kind?”

“The right kind is long, like this,” he said, and he measured with his
little hand down to his knees.
“But boys don’t wear shirts like that!”

“I know. But they don’t wear the right kind of shirts. I want you to make
mine black with lots of pretty colors on it.”

“Daddy,” said I, “doesn’t wear that kind of shirt.”

“No, Daddy doesn’t wear the right kind of shirt, nor Ned Lane, either.”
(Ned Lane is a friend of his father.)

I asked Jackie if he would wear this long black shirt with the pretty
colors to school, and he said yes, he would; because it was the right kind
of shirt!

And then we say, we don’t “remember.”

* * *

When children come to visit me, they love to dress up in my clothes, and
“play lady.” One day, Betty May had spent an unusually long time in my room,
and finally came out in a long dress, with a scarf wound round her head.

She said, “Look, Grannie! This is the way we dressed when we were

“Oh, were you an Indian?” I queried innocently.

She looked at me with surprise in her eyes, and said, “Of course. And you
too, Grannie. Don’t you remember? What is the name of that country where we
lived when we were Indians?”

I asked if it were India, maybe, but she said, no, that wasn’t the right

Then I asked, “Were the babies Indians, too?”

Quickly she answered, “Oh, no. Not Jackie. Jackie was another kind of man.
Jackie looked like this” — and she drew herself up very straight and folded
her arms across her chest.

“How about Jim and Sue? Were they Indians ?“

She looked very serious for a minute, and then said, “I don’t remember,

Then someone came in, and we were never able to pick up the thread again,
until several weeks later when she told me, 

“Mother doesn’t know all the things we know, Grannie.”

“Why doesn’t she, dear?” I said.

“Because, she hasn’t been to our country.”

“But how do you know, Betty May?” I asked.

The only answer I could get was, “You know, Grannie.”

And then we say, we don’t “remember.”

* * *

When Baby Carla was six weeks old, she saw her Uncle Hal for the first
time. A twinkle came in her eyes, she smiled, and put out her tongue at him!
Ever after, that was her sign of welcome to him, though sometimes she ex
tended the greeting to others especially favored. 

Between her and Uncle Hal there seemed to be always some inner secret bond
of delight and companionship, so that just as soon as she began to say
“Mama” and “Papa,” she also began to use a name for Uncle Hal. “Pak-kar,”
she called him. 

Her parents were mystified. What strange freak made that word, like nothing
anyone had ever heard before? 

There was no variation in it at any time. It was always clear and
distinct—unmistakable. Before the little one had reached the age of two,
however, Uncle Hal died suddenly. Carla appeared to know nothing about it,
except that several times in the next few weeks, and very contrary to her
usual sunny awakening from sleep, she woke crying, as if her heart were
broken. When her mother soothed her and asked her why she cried, she said,
“Pak-kar’s gone !“ She never again greeted anyone with little tonguethrust

Two years after this, while Carla’s mother was reading one of Breasted’s
histories, she came to a chapter in which was discussed the similar roots of
words in old languages. Across the page sprang into her view this line,
giving the ancient forms of our word, father: Greek Latin Teutonic Sanscrit
Tibetan pater pater vater pitar pakkar.

It was four years later when Carla’s father brought home from the library
a book of travel on Tibet, in which was illustrated the Tibetan greeting,
first used by Carla at the age of six weeks!

* * * *

Little Robert was the sunniest, happiest, most lovable little four-year-old
boy anyone ever knew! Not only was he cherished by all those in his family,
including aunts and uncles and cousins, but friends — even strangers — found
him “different” from other little ones, and with a strange power to lighten
their hearts. But, one day a terrible disease struck him swiftly, and he

Little Robert’s parents knew about reincarnation, and their sorrow was
more bearable because they had also heard that when a child dies under the
age of seven years, the same Ego might reincarnate again in the same family.
Two years later, a little brother was born to them, so closely resembling
little Robert that they could not help giving the babe the same name. As he
grew, old familiar ways were recognized, and the two babes seemed blended in
this one. They began to speak of the first little Robert as “the other one.”

Meantime, some of the families of cousins had moved far away, and had
never seen the second Robert. One day, when he was three years old, one of
these girl cousins came to the house on a surprise-visit. She entered the
room where the little fellow was playing on the floor with his blocks, and
stood quietly for a moment. Robert looked up at her, smiled radiantly, flung
out his arms and called, “Ong !”

This was the name the first Robert had given her—a name which had never been
used by anyone, save him!


The following undoubtedly true story was written by a commercial
photographer of Minneapolis. She is the elder sister of little Anne, and up
to the time of the incident, neither she nor any of the family believed in,
or knew anything of, the doctrine of re-birth. The article appeared in the
American Magazine of July, 1915.

“Anne, my little half-sister, younger by fifteen years, was a queer little
mite from the beginning. She did not even look like any member of the family
we ever heard of, for she was dark almost to swarthiness, while the rest of
us were all fair, showing our Scotch Irish ancestry unmistakably.

“As soon as she could talk in connected sentences, she would tell herself
fairy stories, and just for the fun of the thing I would take down her
murmurings with my pencil in my old diary. She was my especial charge — my
mother being a very busy woman—and I was
very proud of her. These weavings of fancy were never of the usual type that
children’s fairy tales take; for, in addition to the childish imagination,
there were bits of knowledge in them that a baby could not possibly have
absorbed in any sort of way.

“Another remarkable thing about her was that everything she did she
seemed to do through habit, and, in fact, such was her insistence, although
she was never able to ex plain what she meant by it. If you could have seen
the roystering air with which she would life her mug of milk when she was
only three and gulp it down at one quaffing, you would have shaken with
laughter. This particularly embarrassed my mother and she reproved Anne
repeatedly. The baby was a good little soul, and would seem to try to obey,
and then in an absent-minded moment would bring on another occasion for
mortification. ‘I can’t help it, mother,’ she would say over and overagain,
tears in her baby voice, ‘I’ve always done it that way!’

“So many were the small incidents of her ‘habits’ of speech and thought
and her tricks of manner and memory that finally we ceased to think anything
about them, and she herself was quite unconscious that she was in any way
different from other children.

“One day when she was four years old she became very indignant with Father
about some matter and, as she sat curled up on the floor in front of us,
announced her intention of going away forever.

“‘Back to heaven where you came from?’ inquired Father with mock
seriousness. She shook her head.

“‘I didn’t come from heaven to you,’ she asserted with that calm
conviction to which we were quite accustomed now. ‘I went to the moon first,
but—you know about the moon, don’t you? It used to have people on it, but it
got so hard that we had to go.’

“This promised to be a fairy tale, so I got my pencil and diary.

“‘So,’ my father led her on, ‘you came from the moon to us, did you?’

“‘Oh, no,’ she told him in casual fashion. ‘I have been here lots of
times—sometimes I was a man and sometimes I was a woman!’

“She was so serene in her announcement that my father laughed heartily,
which enraged the child, for she particularly disliked being ridiculed in
any way.

“‘I was! I was!’ she maintained indignantly. ‘Once I went to Canada when
I was a man! I ‘member my name, even.’

“‘Oh, pooh-pooh,’ he scoffed, ‘little United States girls can’t be men
in Canada! What was your name that you ‘member so well?’

“She considered a minute. ‘It was Lishus Faber,’ she ventured, then
repeated it with greater assurance, ‘that was it—Lishus Faber.’ She ran the
sounds together so that this was all I could make of it—and the name so
stands in my diary today; ‘Lishus Faber.’

“‘And what did you do for a living, Lishus Faber, in those early days?’ My
father then treated her with the mock solemnity befitting her assurance and
quieting her nervous little body.

‘I was a soldier’—she granted the information triumphantly—’and Itook the

“That was all that is recorded there. Over and over again, I remember,we
tried to get her to explain what she meant by the odd phrase, but she only
repeated her words and grew indignant with us for not understanding. Her
imagination stopped at explanations. We were living in a cultured community,
but al though I repeated the story to inquire about the phrase—as one does
tell stories of beloved children, you know—no one could do more than
conjecture its meaning.

“Some one encouraged my really going further with the matter, and for a year
I studied all the histories of Canada I could lay my hands on for a battle
in which somebody ‘took the gates.’ All to no purpose. Finally I was
directed by a librarian to a ‘documentary’ history, I suppose it is—afunny
old volume with the ‘s’ like f’ s, you know. This was over a year afterward,
when I had quite lost hope of running my phrase to earth. It was a quaint
old book, interestingly picturesque in many of its tales, but I found one
bit that put all others out of my mind. It was a brief account of the taking
of a little walled city by a small company of soldiers, a distinguished feat
of some sort, yet of no general importance. A young lieutenant with his
small band—the phrase leaped to my eyes—’took the gates.’ And the name of
the young lieutenant was ‘Aloysius Le Fêbre.’”


It is told of one American gentleman, on his first visit to London, that
while waiting in a lawyer’s office to keep an appointment, he began to have
a sense of familiarity of the room steal over him. The feeling grew very
strong, till finally he said to himself: “Well, if I ever have been here
before, there is a certain knot-hole in the panel of that door over
there—and if so, it is under that calendar hanging there!” He walked over
to the door and lifted the calendar. The knot-hole was there, as he knew it
would be.



He was the son of a ruler in Rajpootana. His father governed a district,
including several villages as well as his own small town, with justice and
wisdom, so that all were prosperous and happy. The ruler was called a Rajah;
he lived in a building made of stone, built on a hill that commanded the
town. The son was born after the Rajah had been for many years childless,
and was the only child to whom the father’s honors and power could descend.
He was named Rama after the great Avatar. From the time he was born and
until he could speak, a strange look was always to be seen in his baby eyes;
a look that gazed at you without flinching, as if he had some design on you;
and yet at times it seemed to show that he was laughing at himself, sorry,
too; melancholy at times.

Rama grew up and delighted his father with his goodness and strength of
mind. The strange glance of his eye as a baby remained with him, so that
while every one loved him, they all felt also a singular respect that was
sometimes awe. His studies were completed, and he began to take part in the
administration of the affairs of the old and now feeble rajah.

Rama felt a great need of being alone. Every day he retired to his room,
unattended, and on the fourteenth of each month spent the entire day alone.
He felt a weight upon his heart which did not come from this life. He had
had no sorrow, had lost no bright possession; his ambitions were all
fulfilled. He longed to know what was before him yet to learn. This was why
he spent his time in self- searching and meditation. So, he came to find
that his higher self spoke one language, and the personal self another. He
came to see that the personal self weighted him down with the chains of
ignorance, and that his must be a search, not for possessions, but for
knowledge, no matter where the search should take him. Then, one day, a
vision passed before him of the poverty and the riches that might be his, of
huts and buildings of stone, as he went on his way to enlightenment. But
after this, he was no longer troubled, no longer sorrowful; his mind was at

His old father died, and he carried on the government for many years,
scattering blessings in every direction, until a rival rajah came and
demanded all his possessions, showing a claim to them through a forgotten
branch of the family. Instead of rejecting the claim, which was just,
instead of slaying the rival as he could have done, Rama resigned all,
retired to the forest, and died, after a few years of austerity.

                                *     *     *      *

The wheel of time rolled on and Rama was reborn in a town governed by the
Rajah who had once in a former life demanded Rama’s possessions. But now
Rama was poor, un known, an outcaste, a chandalah who swept up garbage and
hoped that Karma might help him. He knew not that he was Rama; he only swept
the garbage near the Rajah’s palace.

A solemn audience was held by the Rajah with all the priests and the
soothsayers present. Troubled by a dream of the night before, the
superstitious ruler called them in to interpret, to state causes learnedly,
to prescribe scriptural palliative measures. He had dreamed that while
walking in his garden, hearing from his treasurer an account of his
increasing wealth, a huge stone building seemed suddenly to grow up before
him. As he stopped amazed, it toppled over and seemed to bury him and his
wealth. Three times repeated, this filled him with fear.

The astrologers retired and consulted their books. The remedy was plain, one
suggested. “Let the King give up a vast sum of money to morrow to the first
person he sees after waking up.” This decision was accepted, and the pro
poser of it intended to be on hand early so as
to claim the money. The Rajah agreed to the direction of the stars, and
retired for the night, full of his resolution to give immense gifts next
day. No horrid dreams disturbed his sleep. The winking stars moved over the
vault of heaven, and of all the hosts the moon seemed to smile upon the city
as if she heard and knew all. 

The cold early morning, dark with promise of dawn, saw the chandalah, — once
Rama— sweeping up the garbage near the palace where inside the Rajah was
just awaking. The last star in heaven seemed to halt as if anxious that Rama
should come in his sweeping to the side of the palace from which the Rajah’s
window opened. Slowly the Rajah’s waking senses returned, and as they came a
hideous memory of his dream flashed on him. Starting up from the mat on
which he lay, he rose and seemed to think.

“What was I to do? Yes, give gifts. But it is not yet day. Still the oracle
said ‘immediately on awakening’.”

As he hesitated, the poor garbage sweeper outside came more nearly in front
of his window. The setting star almost seemed to throw a beam through the
wall that struck and pushed him to the window. Flinging open the shutter to
get breath, he looked down, and there before him was the poor chandalah with
waistcloth and no turban, sweating with exertion,-hastening on with the task
that when finished would leave the great Rajah’s grounds clean and ready for
their lord.

“Thank the gods,” said the Rajah, “it is fate; a just decision; to the poor
and the pious should gifts be given.”

At an early hour he gathered his ministers and priests together and said—“I
give gifts to the devas through the poor; I redeem my vow. Call the
chandalah who early this morning swept the ground.”

Rama was called and thought it was for prison or death. But the Rajah amazed
him with a gift of many thousands of rupees, and as the chandalah, now rich,
passed out, he thought he smelt a strange familiar odor and saw a dazzling
form flash by. “This,” thought he, “is a deva.”

The money made Rama rich. He established himself and invited Brahmins to
teach others; he distributed alms, and one day he caused a huge building of
stone to be built with broken stone chains on its sides to represent how
fate ruptured his chains. And later on a wise seer, a Brahmin of many
austerities, looking into his life, told him briefly,
“Next life thou art free. Thy name is Rama.”

                                      BRYAN KINNAVAN ( Adapted)


Best wishes,


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