The Esoteric Tradition by G. de Purucker

Copyright © 2011 by Theosophical University Press


Chapter 18

Birth and Before Birth

An attempt will now be made to enter into a more particularized description of the manner in which the reimbodying ego assumes bodies on this earth.

The reimbodying monad — except during the intervals of the long cosmic rest or pralayas, when it rests in the bosom of the cosmic hierarch — passes its entire series of cyclical manifestations in repetitive reimbodiments throughout a cosmic manifestation or manvantara.

Each descent into bodies in the different worlds of matter is a veil or garment, in part evolved of forces and substances by the monad from its own inner essence, and in part built of multitudes of life-atoms drawn from the common reservoir of the world or plane in which it happens to be during the imbodiment. Now these life-atoms are in no sense foreign to the individual reimbodying monad or ego, for the reimbodying monad in the previous period of cosmic manifestation had previously thrown them forth from its own essence, and they on the return of the reimbodying ego had rejoined it through psychomagnetic attraction. Thus these life-atoms, which the reimbodying ego had freed itself from at the end of the cosmic manvantara, hang in space, each in its own state of individual nirvana, during the entire period of the pralaya; but when the new cosmic manvantara opens, these same life-atoms reawaken to their own spheres and conditions of activity, and when the reimbodying monad "descends" from its cosmic parent for its new peregrinations, these life-atoms are irresistibly attracted back to their parent, and, attaching themselves to the reimbodying ego, help to build its various sheaths.

We see here the same process of the reincorporating of life-atoms which is repeated by the reimbodying ego when it awakens from devachan and descends into incarnation on earth. The only difference is that the life-atoms do not rest between the earth-lives of the reimbodying ego which gave birth to them. The life-atoms, except during the pralayas, are incessantly peregrinating and evolving, not only as individuals but as aggregates, during which they are in continual flux into and out of the bodies of more advanced monads, whose respective vehicles on the different cosmic planes they thus help to build.

A human parent, for example, throws forth from his body the human life-germ which is to become a human being. Let us say that this parent has several children. In due time the parent dies. The parent's reimbodying ego has its devachanic interlude of many centuries and finally returns to physical incarnation. During all this time the children, and their children, and their children's children, and so on through the generations, carry on the particular life-atomic stream of psychomagnetic and physical vital flow which the parent had brought into physical existence. Now when this parent comes into physical existence again, the reimbodying ego is attracted to the milieu or family to which it is most strongly drawn.

The reimbodying ego of this "parent" takes a body born of his own descendants — if not in direct and uninterrupted genealogical line of succession, which happens far more frequently than is commonly supposed, then in the most closely-related collateral branch, which is as much a continuation of the same life-stream as the many intervening generations of descendants make possible. It is a very rare thing indeed for a family to become so utterly extinct that there remains absolutely no blood-related branches whatsoever. This illustration, imperfect as it may be, exemplifies the repetitive returns of the reimbodying monad or ego to its own formerly imbodied life-atoms. It may be said in passing that this is one phase of the so-called ancestor-worship.

Due to the social intercourse of families, tribes, nations, and races, miscegenation is of constant occurrence. To take the case of a single race, it is probable that today every single individual, whether high or low, prince or peasant, is of greatly mixed ancestral strains; and one may say with probable truth that a single blood flows throughout this race, with differences due solely to varying magnitudes of admixture. Indeed, if racial miscegenation proceeds as rapidly in the future as it has been doing during the last two or three hundred years or more, the time will come when all the peoples of the earth of whatsoever race will be countable as blood-relatives in the same manner as the typical race just previously mentioned.

In our study of repetitive reimbodiments, it is important not to fix the attention too strongly upon the body side, but to attempt to trace the comings and goings of the reimbodying ego, considered as a focus or center of consciousness. We, as consciousness, enter earth-life by the portal of physical birth, and play on this stage our different parts as actors in the drama; then we leave the stage of earth-life by the other portal which we call death. Life on earth thus is but one act in a drama which has no beginning and no ending, stretching backwards into the eternities of the past and forwards into the eternities of the future.

Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me,
Afar down I see the huge first Nothing, I know I was even there,
        .     .     .
Immense have been the preparations for me,
Faithful and friendly the arms that have help'd me.

Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like cheerful boatmen,
For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings,
They sent influences to look after what was to hold me.

Before I was born out of my mother generations guided me,
My embryo has never been torpid, nothing could overlay it.

For it the nebula cohered to an orb,
The long slow strata piled to rest it on,
        .     .     .
All forces have been steadily employ'd to complete and delight me,
Now on this spot I stand with my robust soul.
    — Walt Whitman: Leaves of Grass, "Song of Myself"

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One should not look upon the various times of reincarnation nor the beginnings and endings of the pilgrimages of the monad in too mechanical a way, for while the times for the various phases are definite enough, and the different planes and worlds through which it passes are "stations" both karmically determined and unavoidable, yet the truth is that the reincarnating ego cannot enter or rather "overshadow" a new human body on earth until the spiritual monad has reached that part of its interplanetary pilgrimage which brings it nearest again to earth. So wonderfully are these spiritual and psychical processes adjusted by nature's laws and so naturally do they all work together, that it almost invariably happens that when the reincarnating ego is ending its devachan, the spiritual monad at about the same time has reached that part of its peregrinations which brings it to the highest globe of the earth-chain. Consequently, whether an ego have a short or a long devachan, it has no difficulty in either case, because the spiritual monad is more or less strongly influenced by the spiritual quality of the reimbodying ego which it holds in its bosom, and thus it is that the pilgrimage of the spiritual monad is often to a large extent controlled as regards the time passed in the interplanetary pilgrimage.

The explanation as to why the "dreaming" reimbodying ego can so largely control the spiritual monad as to curtail or lengthen the time-period of the interplanetary pilgrimage, lies in the difference between outer rounds and inner rounds. The spiritual monad during the course of any outer round — which comprises time-periods to be reckoned by hundreds of millions of years — is karmically bound to play the same circulatory part in any one of the planetary chains that it does in any globe of that planetary chain. All the spiritual monads have been for ages past, and will be for ages in the future, passing through that phase of the outer round which binds us to the earth's planetary chain particularly. Hence, as long as our earth's planetary chain is in its present chain-manvantara, our spiritual monads are in especial bound to this planetary chain; and the reimbodying ego which is native to this planetary chain of earth is particularly strong for this reason in its influence on the spiritual monad.

When our planetary chain of earth shall have ended its manvantaric course, and our group of spiritual monads thereafter during the present grand outer round go to the next and succeeding planetary chain, the reimbodying ego native there will then become the most strong in its influence on the spiritual monad, and the reimbodying ego native to our present planetary plane will be in its manvantaric nirvana, and consequently its influence on the spiritual monad will be negative, rather than positively active; whereas the reimbodying ego native to the succeeding planetary chain will be positively active in its influence, just as our own reimbodying ego is positive in its influence on the spiritual monad at present. Thus the spiritual monad, whose range is over the solar system, emits a ray or reimbodying ego for each planetary chain with which the spiritual monad is karmically bound — in other words a different reimbodying ego for each one of the seven (or ten or twelve) sacred planets.

The spiritual monad lives in its own realms untrammeled by what happens to all its lower vehicles in realms more material than its own. Untrammeled, but not uninfluenced, because as long as a monad is connected in any wise with the lower realms it is influenced to some extent by them. Nevertheless, and despite such influence from below, the spiritual monad per se pursues its own evolution in its own planes and worlds. It is this bond of influence which to a certain extent affects but does not fully control the evolution of the spiritual monad. Also it is only from our standpoint that we speak of the peregrination of the monad with the reincarnating ego asleep in its bosom. As a matter of fact, the spiritual monad has many other links or ties which bring about its continuous pilgrimage; and only one of the phases of this continuous activity in peregrination is the radiation of and consequent experience by the reimbodying ego in our own earth-chain.

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As the reimbodying ego works its ray or radiance downwards, it finally enters the grossest part of the planetary chain of earth, globe D, on which it had lived before. This grossest part is actually the atomic world of globe D, including its inter-atomic and intra-atomic "ethers."

Life per se is everywhere. Even the electrons in the atomic structures, which collectively compose our globe and also of course our physical bodies, have their inhabitants — sub-infinitesimals dwelling on these infinitesimal spheres. The inter-atomic and intra-atomic worlds are as wondrous to them as is our world to us.

The ray from the reimbodying ego finally reaches the critical point in its "descent" where it is drawn to the specific human germ-cell whose growth, if not interrupted, will eventuate in a physical body. The psychomagnetic attractions and inner impulses of the reimbodying ego have karmically led it to that one cell, the father and the mother joining to give the magic link of united "life"; and when this happens, the psychomagnetic chain of communication of the binding psychic link between the ego's radiance and the waking and vital human germ-cell is completed, and a child in due time will be born.

This combination of circumstances in human life, which is in itself so beautiful and should be approached with a sense of religious awe, is the sacred mystery of birth. It may be added that the germ-cell furnished by the father is the carrier of the monadic ray-point, while the mother provides the human field of vital substance or seed, in which the equally vital ray-point finds lodgment and union, and thus the evolving ray-atom coming from the astral realms takes the last step into human incarnation.

From this instant the living protoplasm begins to grow, and little by little to manifest what is stored within itself. What indeed is living protoplasm? Chemically speaking it is mostly a combination of four of the most common elements known in chemistry: oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon. But one can put these chemical elements together and still have no protoplasm, no truly living substance. It needs the vital influence of the monadic ray to unify these chemical elements into the living cell, with the potentiality of growing from a microscopic human reproductive germ into a six-foot man, expressing not merely in his body but in his world-searching mind and spiritual intuitions some of the most marvelous factors of the universe.

Nor is this all. Protoplasm is in its origin a deposit from the astral body of the parent — a physicalization of the vital substance of the parent's body — providing thus the physical compound into which the monadic ray may enter.

Many scientists have aspired to construct artificially a living cell. Seeing that all stages of evolution on this earth from cell to man are the offspring of the evolving human host in far distant ages as it threw off inferior stocks; and because man has kriyasakti-powers (that is to say, powers of formative will and creative imagination) which originally produced at the different times these collateral branches of living entities — is it possible for a scientist artificially to construct a living cell? It would be possible if our scientists had the knowledge and the power enabling them to combine the psychovital fluid of the monadic ray with latent living matter as composed of the mere chemical elements. The scientists in the far distant aeons of the future, in the sixth and seventh root-races, will undoubtedly be able to do this; but it is doubtful if before that time any human mind will have the knowledge or the power to accomplish that alchemical feat of real "creative" magic. If it be ever done within our times, it will happen almost as a "stroke of luck," nor is it likely that the feat could be repeated.

Mrs. Shelley in her romance called Frankenstein tells how a Swiss medical student visited graveyards and haunted the dissecting-rooms, gathering together bits or portions of very recently deceased human tissues which he reassembled and joined into human semblance, and thus brought into vital activity a living human form which was a soulless monster, wreaking havoc and death on all around it, until it finally vanished in the northern seas.

Paracelsus, a medieval mystic, dreamed of creating homunculi by magic out of the chemical elements, plus the vitalizing power which he taught existed universally in nature. Such "creation" cannot ever be accomplished until the scientist is able to connect and cement the physical and chemical elements into vital union with the psychoastral fluid of the monadic ray. Then he could indeed produce a living cell whose development to maturity would take place according to the characteristic nature of the vital seed or power linked with the chemical elements employed to provide the needed physical vehicle.

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Returning now to the main theme: the reimbodying ego enters into earth-life where it is drawn magnetically and psychically to the family or to the particular human womb where vibrational conditions most similar to its own exist. Its more material force and substance connect psychomagnetically through its own astral-vital fluid with the laya-center of a human generative particle when the appropriate time comes; and from the instant of conception, "the appropriate time," the reincarnating entity overshadows that particle as it grows from conception through the intrauterine life, birth, childhood, into adulthood. But before birth and for a number of years thereafter, the child is only overshadowed by its higher principles, the lower principles being the most active during the earlier years of life.

At fourteen years of age, more or less, there occurs the first real entrance of the higher part of the child's inner constitution into conscious functioning on our physical plane; and from this hour the enveloping of the growing youth with the spiritual-vital aura of the reincarnating ego proceeds progressively through life into adulthood, and slackens only a short time before natural death. The main reason is that the reassuming of the life-atoms formerly composing the human being's constitution, both inner and outer, cannot take place all at once, but continues progressively through the years as the body grows into maturity and into old age. Furthermore, the reincarnating ego is not really fully incarnated until a short time before the physical body dies, which means that there is constant possibility for psychical, mental, and spiritual development almost to the time of death.

When the reincarnating ego through its ray takes birth again on earth, it rebecomes exactly the same man it was before in all essential respects, because all his former life-atoms have now rebuilt themselves again into the identic vehicles the ego had formerly cast off during the course of its previous postmortem journey. There is perfect justice in this procedure. Thus the "new man," although a new production, is really the "old man" of the past life and lives, because it is a re-collecting of the former ego with the reassembled life-atoms on all the planes of its constitution through which it had formerly lived and expressed its powers on earth.

If the "new man" is the "old man" reappearing anew, is there then no improvement? All nature is in evolution; every movement in growth is toward betterment, even though our lives are like a spiral, running up and sometimes running down. Yes, the man is improved with each new earth-life — or ought to be. In the devachan the substance of himself has been wrought into something higher in greater or less degree, but it is the same ego-consciousness working through vehicles formed of the same life-atoms which have now reincorporated in order to form the same general inner constitution that was.

It is somewhat like a tree which dies down in the autumn; and yet when the warm rains come in the spring, it burgeons and shoots forth a new garment of leaf-life. Shall we say that the new leaves are the same old leaves? Hardly, and yet they are all derived from the same life-stock, in fact are the same life-atoms that composed the former leaves; and just so is it with man. He is essentially the same man in the new that he was in the old life. Bearing another name? Of course. He may be born in another part of the earth a thousand or perhaps even ten thousand years from now, among a people whom he in this present life would call an alien race. But what matters that? He is the same inner man. Very likely he will meet again in the new earth-life other men and women who were his friends, or his foes, in his last incarnation. Only by the reassembling of egos together can mutual justice be wrought, for in the unerring balancing in the scales of cosmic justice, sooner or later we come together again on earth. And thus it is that as the "new man" we give and take what comes to us in the new earth-life.

As the reimbodying ego, the ray of the spiritual monad, passes down through the spheres toward earth, it should not be imagined that the monad itself passes down with it. That idea is as absurd as it would be to say that the sun itself follows each one of its solar rays into outer space. The spiritual monad is a high spiritual being, which never leaves its own plane for these nether realms. It had been through them all in its former evolutionary courses, and therefore has no need to return to these realms of matter as they can now teach it nothing more. Nature would have no purpose in a monad's descending again for the solar manvantara into the lowest realms of matter. No more than would a man who has been through school find it desirable to return to learning his A B C's. However, the reincarnating ego does incarnate its ray in a little child in order that this ray, which is the human ego, an unevolved monad, may learn new lessons in another life.

The statement that the monad makes no redescent into planes inferior to its own during the course of the solar manvantara applies to the solar manvantara after the cosmic structure has been unrolled anew into the sevenfold or twelvefold carpentry of the solar universe. It does not apply in its fullness to the very beginnings of the cosmic drama after the long solar pralaya has ended and the spiritual hierarchies and substances begin to unfold anew. The point is an extremely subtle one.

The fact is that at the very beginning of the new cosmic manvantara, when all beings and forces and substances are still in their spiritual condition, every monad, high or low on the evolutionary scale, must take a part in preparing this opening of the cosmic drama. Thus it is that even the highest and most evolved monads in the solar system takes each one its proper part in laying the foundations of the new cosmic manvantara, which include the laying of the substructure as well as the superstructure of the entire cosmic organization in both type and form. Once, however, that the architectural plan has been laid down, in which process all monads without exception take part, then as Pythagoras phrased it, each "monad retires into Silence and Darkness" — into its own realms of spirituality and light.

Now because nature works throughout in analogical courses so that the great mirrors itself in the small, the above may become somewhat clearer by remembering that in the reimbodiment of a planetary chain during its first round, the very highest dhyani-chohans are obligated by karmic law to cooperate with the lowest elementals and all stages of beings between, in laying down the structure or carpentry of what the said planetary chain is to become. In other words, what we may call the "architects," the highest dhyani-chohans, cooperate with the first kingdom of elementals, and finally with all the other intermediate grades of evolving monads belonging to the planetary chain in order that the proper types and forms of its seven (or twelve) globes may be karmically built. This takes place during the first round, when all the families or life-waves are obliged by karmic destiny to sweep around and through the seven or twelve laya-centers waiting in space, and thus around these laya-centers to build the various globes of the chain in their first "presentment" as manifested spheres.

After the first round is completed, and the architectural plan has thus been laid down, the evolutionary tracks set and laid, the method changes so that all following rounds beginning with the second follow a procedure differing from what took place in the first round; the reason being that because the first round has laid down the plan, the monads in all succeeding rounds simply follow this plan and in regular serial order of progression which belongs to them as families or life-waves of the full twelvefold chain-hierarchy.

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Now then, what takes place in the time immediately preceding a human birth? As the ray of the reincarnating ego reaches our earth-globe, how does this ray-entity, which is by inherent nature far above coarse physical matter, entangle itself in physical substance, so that its link with the human reproductive cell be made? The answer is easier in our days because of the enormous advances made by scientific knowledge into the mysteries of electricity, magnetism, and radioactivity. The link is made because of psychomagnetic affinity between the reimbodying ray and the living germ-cell.

Every germ-cell, human or other, is a compact of inner forces and substances ranging from the divine down to the astral and the physical, just as man himself is — the "precipitation" or "projection" on and into the physical plane or world of an inner psychoethereal radiation. A germ-cell, in other words, is thus an imbodiment in physical matter of a ray-point originating in the invisible worlds and contacting physical matter by psychoelectric or psychomagnetic affinity and thus arousing a molecular aggregate of living physical substance into becoming a reproductive cell.

This ray-point must not be mistaken for the reimbodying ego itself, but is the end or tip of the projected ray issuing from the reimbodying ego. When the reimbodying ego reaches its own sphere after leaving the bosom of its parent monad, it "descends" no farther into matter. But its psychomagnetic ray, having stronger affinities for the material worlds than itself, goes still deeper into matter, awakening into activity the life-atoms in each one of the various planes between the plane of the reimbodying ego and the grossest matter of our physical earth. This ray awakens to kinetic life some particular life-atom which formerly belonged to the "old man" who had lived on earth, and which life-atom is the one most responsive to this penetrating psychomagnetic ray because this particular life-atom is attracted to its own parent.

Indeed, this very life-atom is itself the tip of the imbodying ray "projected" into the realm of physical matter, which physical matter, as atoms, is thus attracted around this tip, building first the material imbodiment of that life-atom and by progressive accretion finally becoming the living germ-cell.

Obviously, the germ-cell may not immediately begin to grow into the human or other embryo; it may have to wait for some time before the influx along its own ray can awaken it into the processes of embryonic growth. "Accidents" frequently occur, so that the germ-cell is not fertilized and then such attempt of the psychomagnetic ray is aborted; that germ-cell dies, and the ray-point instantly begins to form a life-atom anew. It is to be noted that the transmigrations of the life-atoms belonging to any one plane are continuous through the ages, and their respective life-terms are extremely short when compared with human life.

When the particular life-atom feels the vital impact of the ray-point from the reincarnating ego, and thus leaps as it were into the germ-cell, this cell is psychomagnetically attracted to the human individual who is most akin physically speaking, to its own rate of vibrational energy. Or, to phrase it differently, this life-atom-cell is psychomagnetically attracted to such a man by the similarity of both quantity and psychic quality of atomic vibrational frequency. Thus the chosen life-atom is incorporated with the auric or psychovital magnetic atmosphere of the parent-to-be.

Every human being is surrounded by such a psycho-magneto-electric atmosphere streaming forth from within, an aura or psychovital cloud stamped with that human being's characteristics of individuality, and actually is an emanation of the force-substance of the man's astral body or linga-sarira. We cannot see this aura, except on the rarest of occasions and even then only indistinctly; but this is no argument against its existence, since we cannot see even the air which we breathe, the atmosphere surrounding the earth.

Life-atoms may be either latent and dormant or kinetic and active. No one life-atom is for long in either condition; because as everything in nature has periods of alternating activity and repose, the human reproductive germs as found in a man or a woman are likewise either active or dormant. Although the natural function of these reproductive cells is that of propagation, a subsidiary but extremely important role played by them is in building and strengthening the body.

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The peregrinations of the life-atoms were what the ancient Egyptians taught concerning the pilgrimage of entities, as recounted by Herodotus (Euterpe XI, 123). He says that the ancient Egyptians held that a portion of the human entity passed after death through the spheres of air, water, and earth during its peregrinations which occupied some three thousand years. Such peregrination being through all the kingdoms of nature, it is obvious why any life-atom is taken into a human body in food and drink, or by air into the lungs; or again by osmosis, as manifested particularly in the constant electric and magnetic circulations of the circumambient world which pass in and out of the human body. Thus, during the various processes of digestion and assimilation and other physiological activities, the atoms enter the body in one fashion or another and are assorted and marshaled to the different organs of the body to remain each in its lodgment for a greater or smaller period of time.

Another point: it is only when the infant first moves in the mother that occurs what may be called the actual entrance into the unborn child of the higher attributes and qualities of the reincarnating ego. Yet these higher qualities and attributes are not of course the highest parts of the constitution of the man-to-be. Hitherto the fetus has been the growing of the vegetative, the vital-astral part of the incarnating being. But from the first movement of the unborn child till birth, and indeed all through life, the life-atoms of the various classes on the different planes, which belonged to the same ego in its former lives, are swept by irresistible psychomagnetic attraction into the constitution anew, each life-atom or group of life-atoms seeking its own plane in the constitution of the inner man, physical and otherwise.

One may well ask: what is the vital germ-cell, whether of man or woman? It is originally an integral part of the astral substance of the astral man, and therefore belonging to the plane just above the physical. Around this astral model-body the physical body is built atom for atom — the exact mirroring of what the model-body is in all detail of particularities.

This vital germ-cell or life-atom is in due course deposited in the appropriate physical organ of the father as an astral precipitate, and thus becomes physicalized as a germ-cell; and equivalently with the mother. Paradoxical as it may sound, the precipitation is from the same ray in both cases; in fact, each parent contains in his or her appropriate organ a fairly large number of life-atoms belonging to the reincarnating ego of the individual who used those life-atoms in past earth-lives.

Nor is this the whole story. The truth of the matter is that every human being who has passed the age of puberty contains in the proper organ at all times a certain number of transitory germ-cells, which are actually the physicalized astral precipitates of different incarnating rays; the woman being the depositary of the negative portion of a waiting ray, and the man being the depositary of the positive aspect. These astral "precipitates" do not remain in any human body for any particular length of time; if not caught "on the wing," they are either expelled from the human body, or are employed for the building and strengthening of the body. Each parent is fully as important in this matter as is the other.


Chapter 19

Contents