There is little consideration given at this time of the world's evolution to what may be called inherited qualities. It is partly because individual progress is lacking and partly because of materialism growing every day more and more. If there is a question of buying a dog, of purchasing a horse, one gives a thought to its ancestors, because one attaches value to the dog or horse according to its origin, but in man one is apt to forget it. As the days pass less and less consideration is given to this. No doubt, this has its advantages; nevertheless there remains the fact that the qualities of the ancestors on both sides are manifested in the child.
Therefore, upon what the child inherits from his parents and from his forefathers the building of his life and of his life's career is placed; that is the foundation of his life. If upon a weak foundation a large building is erected, that foundation proves in the end to be not strong enough to hold the building, and if upon a good foundation a building is erected you can always be sure that it is secure.
How does it come in a child? If the child is like one of his parents or his relations on his mother's side or on his father's side, one sees the reason of it. But in the mind of the child one is apt to forget, one is apt to neglect the question how a mental quality can come in a child. But it must be understood that the body is the expression of the soul, and if the body represents the parents and the ancestors, the mind also represents them, for the body is the outcome of the essence of mind. Besides, the image that a child shows of his parents or of ancestors is not physical, it is mental. If the mental image is outwardly manifested in the visage of the child, certainly the qualities of the parents and of ancestors are also reflected in the mind of the child.
What about the qualities a child shows which are quite different from the qualities possessed by his parents or ancestors? In the first place, one knows so little about one's genealogy as far as one can trace it back. Very few people know more than four or five generations of their family. A child may inherit qualities of his ancestors six or seven generations back which are not known to his family, and those may manifest in quite a concrete form.
Is there no other way of a soul's inheriting qualities which do not belong to his parents and ancestors. Yes, that way is the reflection that a soul has brought with it before it has come to this physical plane, and those qualities may be even more clear in the life of a soul than the qualities if has inherited from its parents or ancestors. It is for this reason that one sometimes finds a hero, a king, a poet, a general, a great politician born into a most ordinary family where there is no trace of such knowledge to be found among his ancestors or in his parents. Nevertheless, he may be a representative of Shakespeare or of Alexander the Great from the higher spheres. But still he has some property in his body, and his mind has inherited from his parents and ancestors, which also remains as a reflection fallen upon his soul.
One might ask which quality is seen greater in a soul, the quality if the ancestors and the parents or the quality that the soul has brought with it from the higher spheres. The answer is that in the depth of that soul there is the quality that it has brought with it; on the surface is that quality which the ancestors have given. If that innate quality is greater, then it may also manifest on the surface, covering the qualities which the parents and ancestors have given. But if that quality is not profound enough, then the outer qualities which manifest on the surface will be the principal qualities shining as the characteristics of a person.
Question : How are the words of the Old Testamet to be understood that the sins of the parents will be punished in their children ?
Answer : This supports my argument. Both sins and virtues, the qualities of the mind, manifest for generations, as well as the elements of the body. It is natural from a scientific point of view, and it is as natural from a metaphysical point of view. Only, according to science you will say that a person has perhaps inherited a bodily illness or a deficiency of his parents. But at the same time it must be understood that the mind is the principal thing. Does he child not get a part of his parents' mind? Certainly, he receives it. The child inherits the spirit of his parents and, even for seven or ten generations, the qualities they have held. It is not always sin, but the virtues and merits they have held, that are to be found in the child.
Question : Does the soul consciously choose its parents?
Answer : Yes, according to its consciousness at that time. One might ask, "Does a child consciously grasp a burning fire?" Yes, it consciously does so, but it is not conscious of its result yet. That consciousness comes afterwards.
Question : Are children responsible for the sins of their parents?
Answer : Not at all. But suppose a child is entitled to inherit the wealth of his father. If that is so, he is entitled also to pay back the debts that the father has incurred.
Question : Are children who live apart from their parents and are brought up by spiritual guardians free from the influence of a parent whose nature is not a good one?
Answer : Spiritual influence is unlimited. It can bring any desired results, it can turn a thorn into a flower. For all these influences of parents or ancestors or inner influences which a soul has brought with it are reflections, shadows just the same. The real is in the depth of every soul. However high or low, if a real soul meets with these children or if they are brought in contact with a real soul, that real soul will sooner or later penetrate through all reflections which cover the real that exists in every soul.
That is the meaning of Christ's constantly pointing out to humanity the Fatherhood of God; to see in God the Father and so to inherit the qualities of God which are great and superior and kingly and noble, and which are divine, and which no one in he world possesses - parents or ancestors or those whom one has met on the way. The Sufis call these qualities Akhlak Allah, which means the manner of God or divine manner. A seeker after truth, a worshipper of God need only believe in one Father, and that is God. Not only believe, but know and be conscious of One, and inherit from that perfect source, perfecting one's life with it. And it is that heritage which is called divine.