“Truth, it is frequently said, “is stranger than fiction.” About fifty years ago [Paramhansa Yogananda] declared that Abraham Lincoln had been an advanced yogi in a previous life, and that he reincarnated as Charles Lindbergh. Richard Salva saw in this statement a mystery as fascinating as any our best novelists would dream up. In this book he delves into all that’s known about these two celebrated men, and unearths a remarkable array of similarities between them.” –Swami Kriyananda
The following excerpts highlight some of these similarities.
Gazing at the document in his hands, Abe Lincoln smiled. He was a bona fide lawyer, by jing!
How his success would surprise his family. His early schooling had been piecemeal: attending “A.B.C. schools” whenever one was offered nearby. He reckoned that he’d accumulated less than a full year of classroom study by the time he reached adulthood. He’d grown up an ignorant backwoodsman.
But all that changed when he found his vocation. After he realized that he wanted to become a lawyer, he became an exemplary scholar. He devoured Blackstone’s Commentaries and other legal works until he could recite what he had learned by rote. And now he had passed his bar exam. All he needed was an incentive.
Looking at the grade list posted on the wall of his flying school, Charles Lindbergh smiled. First in his class. He’d worked hard, and hoped he would succeed. But it had taken a little faith.
From kindergarten through college, Lindbergh had floundered with barely passing grades. His lack of scholarship was no surprise. He had bounced around from one city and state to the next. With so many distractions, he had never developed a love of learning.
After he conceived his goal of becoming an airplane pilot, however, he turned into a scholar. Many a night Charles spent poring over his textbooks, anxious to make the grade. And he had succeeded. All he had needed was an incentive. The rest was easy.
* * * * *
Abraham Lincoln shook off his boots and lay on a White House sofa like a dead man. What a job! In spite of his willingness to serve, he felt a resistance welling up.
Like many presidents before and since, Lincoln saw the nation’s capital as little more than a gilded prison. Whatever glamour there had been at the outset had long since faded away. In this place he’d watched his son die. Here he’d sent friends to war and received news of their crippling injuries or deaths. Here he’d waged battles against political adversaries.
Lincoln sighed. He looked forward to the end of his term, when he could return to Springfield, his friends, and his home.
Charles Lindbergh walked down the street, moodily kicking a stone. He hated Washington. Being there felt like a form of incarceration. He didn’t like the schools or the weather, and he had no friends and no quiet places.
Every winter Charles’s father brought him to the nation’s capital while the House was in session. Other than being near his father, Charles found no joy there. For ten years he endured it, each year looking forward to going home to Little Falls.
* * * * *
Judge David Davis once conducted a mock trial of the wayward Abraham Lincoln, half-jokingly denouncing him.
“You are impoverishing this bar,” Davis moaned, “by your picayune charges. Your fellow lawyers have every reason to complain. And if you don’t make people pay more for your services, you will die as poor as Job’s turkey!”
Lincoln answered the judge soberly. “Your honor, the high fee you are criticizing me for not charging would have come out of the pocket of a poor demented girl; and I would rather starve than swindle her….”
Although he worked hard to earn a living commensurate with public office, greed was foreign to Lincoln’s nature. Not only did he not accept money to which he felt he had no right, but he also neglected to profit from financial opportunities presented to him. His tastes were very simple. “Wealth,” according to Lincoln, was “simply a superfluity of things we don’t need.”
During World War II, [Lindbergh] told a potential employer that he intended to accept only $10,000 a year as a research developer, even though he was offered ten times as much. For another job, he received no salary at all. He thought it wrong to profit personally while his country was at war….
After his Paris flight, Lindbergh earned and was given more than enough for his family to live on—why build up an unnecessary fortune?
* * * * *
Abraham Lincoln stood in front of a temperance group and gave a talk. As a well-known teetotaler, he had been asked to address them. Lincoln was pleased to do so, because he wanted to speak on how to relate to alcoholics.
In Lincoln’s view, no good could come from denouncing those under liquor’s sway. If they truly wished to help those unfortunate men and women, they should use encouragement and kind words. Honey, he said, catches more flies than vinegar.
Charles Lindbergh stood in the corner of a crowded room, nursing a ginger ale. The room was full of partygoers, drinking wine, telling crude jokes, and laughing raucously.
Lindbergh had been a teetotaler all his life. Yet he didn’t denounce those who liked to drink. He merely thought it sad that people demeaned themselves in search of fun. Many in the gathering were headed for hangovers in the morning, and he didn’t envy them for it.
* * * * *
March 1863, the White House. While composing a speech, President Lincoln found himself contemplating Providence. During his life, the Heavenly Father had not been a stranger to his thoughts; but the effects of war—with suffering and death on such a grand scale—had turned his mind more than ever in a spiritual direction.
Normally, he kept his religious impulses to himself. But now—when family members were sundered forever, when radical changes were occurring daily, when light and dark were so starkly contrasted that no one could guess what the future might bring—he mentioned God more and more often in his letters, conversations, and speeches.
It was decades after the end of the war and Lindbergh was reviewing the diaries he’d kept during those years. Of the later entries, many included the word God.
The grim reality of war had drawn from him a spiritual response. Normally, he kept his religious feelings quiet, barely hinting at them. But war had roughly pushed those boundaries aside and revealed his hidden inner life.
* * * * *
Lincoln sat in his presidential office, smiling as he read a letter. It reminded him of the occasion a few years earlier when a group of Quakers had visited him. They wished, they’d said, to pray with Lincoln that he be guided by his Heavenly Father in the tremendous task before him. That was the only time he had had the opportunity to sit with a group of silent worshipers.
He looked again at the letter, written by the Quaker woman who was their leader. Pulling out a sheet of paper, the president wrote his response:
“I have not forgotten—probably shall never forget—the very impressive occasion when you and your friends visited me on a Sabbath forenoon two years ago. Your purpose was to strengthen my reliance on God. I am much indebted to you.”
Lincoln also knew another kind of fellowship with the two people with whom he spent the most time before being elected president. His law partner, William Herndon, was deeply interested in Transcendentalism (the nineteenth-century philosophical movement, expounded by Ralph Waldo Emerson and others, and based partly on the mystical teachings of India).
Meanwhile, Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd, was a devout churchgoer who believed in life after death. Herndon’s Transcendentalism and Mary’s séances formed a natural complement to Lincoln’s innate mysticism.
Charles Lindbergh was a bit of a loner, but there were many people with whom he shared an atypical affinity.
First, there was Jim Newton, a deeply spiritual man who was also a good friend. Together, Charles and Jim had shared long periods of harmonious silence and had discussed the importance of dedicating one’s life to a spiritual end.
And Alexis Carrel…. Lindbergh had seldom felt happier than when he was with the doctor, listening to him propound one of his metaphysical theories. Lindbergh’s mind and spirit were stimulated by Carrel’s company….
While in England, Lindbergh had enjoyed the company of Sir Francis Younghusband, the noted metaphysician. It was he who introduced Lindbergh to the teachings of yoga and invited him to a religious conference in India….
* * * * *
Lincoln took his leave of the simple town folk with whom he had been speaking. Although it came as no surprise to him, he sometimes found wisdom in places where most of his friends did not guess it existed. Maybe it was his openness that drew these people to him. With “regular irregularity,” he encountered deep spirituality in quiet townspeople of all backgrounds, including the Negroes.
Over time, Lincoln came to appreciate the innate wisdom of those whom he dubbed “the children of Nature.”
As he studied the Tasaday natives squatting beside him, Charles Lindbergh relaxed in a way that he seldom did in modern society. For some reason, he identified with these Filipino cave dwellers.
The Tasadays’ primitive ways called to Lindbergh. A part of him wanted to answer that call and escape the world. Then he would live in a hut, alone in the silence that enveloped him whenever he immersed himself in nature.
A minister and longtime Ananda member, Richard Salva is affiliated with the Palo Alto Church and community, and lectures widely on reincarnation and yoga.