The Theosophical Forum – April 1941

REINCARNATION — Verna Brackett

The Law of Reimbodiment, or Reincarnation, teaches man that he is a very necessary part in the divine plan of things. What is needed first of all is to show that man is not a product of physical evolution only, but that he evolves mentally and spiritually as well. He is a being consisting of Spirit, Mind, and Matter. This trinity in essence is one, for they are aspects of the One Consciousness, One Life, One Spirit.

In the evolutionary plan of things, man is a deathless spiritual Ego, who uses mind and matter as a vehicle to gain experience and express himself in the external world. This spiritual Ego we can think of as the individual consciousness in man, as a ray of Universal Cosmic Consciousness, which is the First Cause back of all manifestation. Therefore the real inner man has always existed and cannot be destroyed any more than can the Boundless Universe of which he is an inseparable part. We can think of him as a center of consciousness in this Universal Consciousness.

The Universe itself is a product of evolution, and as it rises on the ladder of evolution, it carries with it all that it contains — atoms, plants, animals, worlds, suns, solar systems — to an ever higher state of being. This process is taking place because the Universe is the vehicle for the Universal Consciousness whose evolution is beyond human conception. It is a vast living organism, and in it there is no point in space which is not occupied by some form of matter, these forms being the vehicles for the multitudinous degrees of ideation. This includes atoms and collections of atoms from the tiniest molecule to the greatest solar system.

We can think of evolution as unfoldment, for all growth starts from within, as this growth is generated by the life force from within the ray itself. In the acorn are all the potentialities of the oak tree it is to become; also within the acorn is the essence of all its past evolutionary experience. It is just the same with man, for in the core of his individual consciousness are the latent potentialities of his future being, and stored within this consciousness also is the essence of his entire pre-existence.

Before man's evolution on this earth he was a self-conscious being who had acquired a degree of perfection from past evolutions on other planets and took on a body of flesh again on this earth in order to gain all experience there is to be had in this world. The plan of evolution is for man to raise everything in the kingdoms below him to the state of man, and then by his own efforts to unfold himself upward again into his own plane of perfection or spiritual being.

This experience is gained through the laws of periodicity, that is, through cycles of activity and rest. We see this happening around us on every side. In Nature we have Spring, Summer, Autumn, and then the rest period of Winter, followed by Spring again. In man there is birth, childhood, adulthood, old age, then death which is the rest period for the Spiritual Ego, and in time birth again for that Ego. We observe in the daily living of man that he has his day of activity and his night-time rest period for his physical body. Although man sleeps, his consciousness is ever active although the sleeping brain is not always aware of that fact. But we know this must be true, for upon awakening, the man picks up his thinking of the preceding day and continues with his business of living.

So we see that in the rest periods of the Universe, or Nature, or Man, consciousness never ceases, for it is a beginningless and endless stream of activity.

In the human race Reimbodiment is called Reincarnation, or the putting on again of the body of flesh. The purpose of this law is to give time and opportunity for the spiritual potency in the core of man's being to develop or unfold into a self-conscious individualized spiritual being. Theosophy teaches us that the personal man, Mr. A. or Mrs. B., that which we familiarly call the personality, is not immortal because it changes each life according to its environment and experience. For example the yearly foliage of the oak tree is not the real oak consciousness but merely its vehicle of expression which varies from year to year according to the elements of Nature.

Man is a composite being consisting of seven principles, but today we shall consider him as a threefold entity. First, there is the Spiritual Ego within whose deep reservoir of consciousness are all the fine aspirations and ideals of man's nature. Next we have the personality. Then, lowest of all, is the animal consciousness, including the body, which is the vehicle for the two higher aspects of man through which they express themselves. It is the higher Human Ego which reincarnates. The Theosophical name for it is Manas, which means, the Thinker. In it is the origin of our self-consciousness, that which wells up with us as "I am I." It is the seat of conscience, whose still small voice can tell us what not to do, for it is the voice of our vast pre-existent experience that is stored in the Spiritual Ego.

From our Higher Nature comes the inspiration for unselfishness, love, compassion, and our impulses to impersonal, charitable thought and action. So we have two selves existing within us: the Spiritual Ego or Thinker which persists throughout all reincarnation, and the personality which is mortal and breaks up at death. It is the constant duel between these two states of consciousness that makes up our lives and is such a mystery. The purpose of the spiritual consciousness is to change the personality's wrong thinking and its animal desires with its own pure understanding of selflessness, love, and compassion.

The question then arises as to the origin of all this duality. Theosophy describes how the animal vehicle of man was built up in the past ages of evolution on our globe by the lower forces of nature, and when it was ready the Spiritual Ego or Thinker overshadowed and guided it, until it had developed a personal consciousness of its own. Then this personal consciousness expanded through many ages of reincarnation, still under the shadow of the Higher Ego, until it became the human personality; and it is through this that the Higher Ego gains experience.

We see then the reason for the mixture of moods in our natures. We are all Arjunas struggling to overcome our lower personalities by appealing to our own inner god. This struggle between our higher and lower natures develops a bundle of personal energies throughout an existence. When at the time of death the Spiritual Ego returns to its own sphere in Devachan, it leaves behind it these energies which Theosophy calls skandhas, and these skandhas are like the seeds which a plant drops into the earth when it withers and dies. So it is with man when he dies, the experiences of his life are deposited into his spiritual, mental, and physical life-atoms. These are the skandhas or attributes of character which shape the new personality in the Ego's next incarnation.

When the Reincarnating Ego passes out of this earth-life to its own spiritual plane in Devachan, it pauses for a moment and looks back over its past life and sees to the minutest detail all the experiences it had gone through there, and in turn connects up these experiences with the ones of its preceding existence. Then having rid himself of his lower vehicle he takes with him into Devachan all that is fine and spiritual of his personality. In Devachan, or plane of perfect bliss, he experiences only the high vision and memory of all that was great and grand in the past life.

The devachanic state is the rest-period for the Human Spiritual Ego, just as the sleep period in our daily lives is the rest period for our physical bodies. However, consciousness is always active, whether we experience earthly or devachanic rest. It is a constant beginningless and endless stream of activity.

The yearning for earth experiences, together with Karma (which is the law of cause and effect), draws the Ego back again to incarnation from its devachanic state. As the Ego descends into the material plane once more, it picks up the life-atoms on the spiritual, mental, and physical planes which contain the skandhas or traits of character which go to form the new personalities, and just before it enters the world it looks ahead and sees its future life laid out before it. And with this comes understanding as to why it has to have this particular life experience, and the ego willingly accepts what it sees, and so enters into physical life again.

The Law of Reincarnation brings a new revelation into one's understanding of life, as it opens up an entirely new vista concerning our existence, and there dawns upon the mind the reality that there is only One Life, One Spirit, One Consciousness. This thought leads man on to see that all men are one, and that humanity is in essence one great brotherhood. The realization that within every man is an unfolding God should teach him to withhold judgment and condemnation of his fellow-men, for how can he truly judge from one life's experience? As we strive to unfold the spiritual Ego in our natures, we shall find that love and compassion will lift us from the personal to the impersonal, and by this process we shall be able to work for others in a truly unselfish way.

The Law of Reincarnation teaches us that everything reimbodies itself, and this thought applies to the Theosophical Movement as well. The power of love is the strongest power in the universe, and as we individuals strive to unfold this deep compassionate love from within our spiritual being, just so are we building the vehicle for the future Theosophic Movement. Let us hope that as this grand Movement grows and expands in its expression of love, more and more of humanity will be drawn to it. A united harmonious Theosophical Movement can bring about in some future time a Golden Age in which the Gods will walk among men, and misery and war will be unknown, for peace and harmony will reign in the world once more.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition