The "souls" of the departed pass through many other stages of existence after leaving this Earth-body, just as they were in many others anterior to their birth as men and women here. The exact truth about this mystery is known only to the highest adepts; but it may be said even by the lowest of the neophytes that each of us controls his future rebirths, making each next succeeding one better or worse according to his present efforts and desserts. -- H.P.B. in The Theosophist, February 1881, p. 103
Continuance by repetitive existences of the reimbodying monad, in various vehicles or rupas, is the essence of the doctrine of rebirth.
Before the time of actual physical reincarnation on this earth-globe, the psycho-spiritual energies which had attracted the ego to the bosom of the spiritual monad during its postmortem peregrinations reach a point when they become relatively exhausted; coincidently new attractions to the lower spheres begin to come into operation, impelling the ego back to earth. As the reimbodying ego works its ray 'downwards,' irresistibly drawn by the reawakening of memories of a previous incarnation, it is gradually pulled psychomagnetically to the planes wherein it had lived before, and finally enters the most physical part of the planetary chain of earth -- actually the atomic world of globe D, including its inter-atomic and intra-atomic 'ethers.' With its gradual descent from the spiritual realms, the lower portions of its auric egg begin to stir. Simultaneously, the consciousness of the ego begins to sink from dreaming into unconsciousness, and the gestation period preceding rebirth begins. This is the time when the auric egg, acting automatically and instinctively under the driving urge of the awakening karma, gradually forms within itself the vague outlines of the astral form, which latter slowly drifts to the family or the woman to which the karmic psychomagnetic attraction is strongest.
In this connection, the following passage from the E.S. Instructions (III) issued by H.P.B. will be of value:
Now the Linga Sarira remains with the Physical Body, and fades out along with it. An astral entity then has to be created, a new Linga Sarira provided, to become the bearer of all the past Tanhas and future Karma. How is this accomplished? The mediumistic Spook, the "departed angel," fades out and vanishes also in its turn* as an entity or full image of the Personality that was, and leaves in the Kamalokic world of effects only the record of its misdeeds and sinful thoughts and acts, known in the phraseology of Occultists as Tanhic or human Elementals. Entering into the composition of the Astral Form of the new body, into which the Ego, upon its quitting the Devachanic state, is to enter according to Karmic decree, the Elementals form that new astral entity which is born within the Auric Envelope, and of which it is often said "bad Karma waits at the threshold of Devachan, with its army of Skandhas." For no sooner is the Devachanic state of reward ended, than the Ego is indissolubly united with (or rather follows in the track of) the new Astral Form. Both are Karmically propelled towards the family or woman from whom is to be born the animal child chosen by Karma to become the vehicle of the Ego which has just awakened from the Devachanic state. Then the new Astral Form, composed partly of the pure Akasic Essence of the Auric Egg, and partly of the terrestrial elements of the punishable sins and misdeeds of the last Personality, is drawn into the woman. Once there, Nature models the foetus of flesh around the Astral, out of the growing materials of the male seed in the female soil. Thus grows out of the essence of a decayed seed the fruit or eidolon of the dead seed, the physical fruit producing in its turn within itself another and other seeds for future plants.
*This is accomplished in more or less time, according to the degree in which the Personality (whose dregs it now is) was spiritual or material. If spirituality prevailed, then the Larva, or spook, will fade out very soon; but if the Personality was very materialistic, the Kama Rupa may last centuries and -- in some, though very exceptional cases -- even survive with the help of some of its scattered Skandhas, which are all transformed in time into Elementals. See the Key to Theosophy, pp. 141 et seq., in which work it was impossible to go into details, but where the Skandhas are spoken of as the germs of Karmic effects. -- H.P.B.
The tanhic elementals may be otherwise described as the emotional and mental thought-deposits, as Patanjali did; and these remain after the second death -- and before the ego's entering the devachan -- stamped upon the various kinds of life-atoms which had functioned on all the lower planes of man's constitution. Some of these tanhic elementals or life-atoms peregrinate, and finally are psychomagnetically attracted back to the reincarnating ego during its process of bringing forth a new astral form preceding rebirth. Others belong to the monadic substances of the auric egg, and consequently remain therein in a latent condition, to awaken only when the devachani leaves the devachan. Then these dormant tanhic elementals, in combination with the other life-atoms which had been peregrinating, combine in building up the new astral form that H.P.B. speaks of; and it is largely these two classes of tanhic life-atoms or elementals which compose the skandhas (a Sanskrit word meaning bundles or aggregates) of the man in his coming incarnation. And these skandhas are the various groups of mental, emotional, psychovital and physical characteristics which, when all collected together, make the new personality through which the higher man or egoic individuality works. They slowly begin to recombine and fall into their appropriate functions and places during the gestation period, continuing such 'fixation' in the womb, and finally after birth maturing as the entity grows to adulthood.*
[*In exoteric Buddhism, skandhas (literally 'bundles' or 'aggregates') are five in number: form (rupa), sensation or sense-perception (vedana), self-conscious intellection (sanjna), mental propensities (samskara), and consciousness (vijnana). The first skandha represents the material world or the materiality of things, while the remaining four belong to the astral monad and the mind. The second one appertains to the perception of objects of sense; the third to that which is elaborated by the mind; the fourth refers to what might be termed the formative principle of the mind, creating mental molds vitalized by its own energies; and the fifth represents egoic mentation. Buddhist philosophical analysis has thrown these various characteristics and attributes into the five categories enumerated above.
Thus the skandhas are the various groups of personal attributes or characteristics which make one human personality different from another; and it is through these groups of psychological and psycho-emotional-astral attributes or characteristics that the higher man or ego, i.e. the egoic individuality, works.]
Now the formation of the astral man takes place within the auric egg of the ex-devachani. From the moment when the ego leaves the devachanic condition, the astral form becomes steadily more complete or definite as the gestating entity approaches the entrance into the womb. The ray from the reincarnating ego enters first the aura and later the womb of the mother-to-be by means of the growing astral form, which takes its rise in and from the most appropriate life-center or life-atom latent in the auric egg of the incoming entity.
The term astral form is descriptive not so much of an actual body (as we think of it in our physical world), as it is of an ethereal agglomerate of life-atoms in the auric egg which is at first but vaguely shadowed, yet gradually assumes more or less a definite human outline, and usually one of extremely small size. However, we should not concentrate our attention so much upon size and shape as upon forces and energies in the auric egg more or less aggregated into a focus of activity.
The entity thus preceding rebirth is attracted to the family to which its karma draws or impels it; and if the appropriate physiological activities take place at the right moment, then conception occurs and the growth of the embryo proceeds.
As the radiance or ray of the reincarnating ego reaches this plane, it gradually entangles itself in physical substance, and establishes thereby its link with the human reproductive cell. That link is made because of electromagnetic, or rather psychomagnetic, affinity between the reimbodying ray and the living germ cell. Every germ cell is a compact of inner forces and substances ranging from the divine to the physical, and therefore is the 'precipitation' onto our plane of a psycho-ethereal radiation. In other words, it is an imbodiment of a ray-point that, originating in the invisible worlds and contacting physical matter by affinity, thus arouses a molecular aggregate of living substance into becoming a reproductive cell.
This molecular aggregate is the first or preliminary deposit or appearance on the physical plane of the action of the ray-point. We see that the germinal or reproductive cells are not 'created' by the parent's body, but appear in and work through it from the imbodying egoic force or entity 'outside' -- the parent being the host or transmitter. The vital germ cell, whether of man or of woman, is originally an integral part of the model-body, which is an electromagnetic body of astral substance belonging to the plane just above the physical; and around this astral form the physical body is built cell for cell, bone for bone, and feature for feature.
When the life-atom as the chosen ray-point is invigorated by the descending energies of the reincarnating ray, it enters by psychomagnetic attraction into the father's astral body, and is in due course deposited into his appropriate physical organ as an astral precipitate. It thus becomes physicalized as a germ cell. In the mother this process of astral precipitation is the same in general outline, the precipitation being from the identic ray in both cases: in fact, each parent contains in his or her appropriate organ life-atoms belonging to and used by the reincarnating ego in past lives.
The female parent is the vehicle of what may be called the vegetative or passive side of the ray-point, and the male parent the vehicle for the positive or active side. The ray-point seems to split into two, later to reunite by the coalescence of the positive and negative sides after the fertilizing of the germinal cell. We are here dealing with subtle astral forces which obey their own laws and which are not hindered in their action by the heavy physical world in which our bodies live.
To restate the above in somewhat different language: the more material part of the new astral form is drawn first into the woman's aura and then into the womb wherein it produces the living ovum and finds its suitable milieu; coincidently the inner and more manasic portion of the astral form, which is the more ethereal part of the tip of the ray from the reincarnating ego, flashes to the male parent and produces in its appropriate physiological seat the positive life-germ. The father sows the seed, the mother receives it, fosters it, and brings it forth.
The human egos awaiting incarnation are exceedingly numerous, so that there may be scores of entities which could become children of any one couple, yet there is always one whose attraction is strongest to the mother-to-be at any specific physiological moment, and it is this astral form which becomes the child. Many are the cases where the astral form, thus 'raved' in two directions, so to speak, finds its progress into physical birth stopped because the man and the woman are either celibate or prefer no children, or for some other reason. (I might point out that once conception has taken place and the embryo begins its growth, any attempt whatsoever to stop its development or to destroy it is plain murder. In the teaching of the esoteric philosophy, it is considered as being almost a little less bad than the murder of an adult human -- little less only because such destruction or abortion takes place before the self-consciousness of the victim has had a chance to come into flower.) In such cases, the astral form under karmic urge and natural law tries again. Should the first environment prove a failure, the reincarnating ego may find itself drawn to another couple because of karmic relationships in other lives.
The reincarnating ego has in a sense very little choice in the matter, if by this we mean a deliberate selecting of one's future family. Such a choice as we understand it is almost non-existent, because the reincarnating ego has but just left the devachan and is sunken into the relative unconsciousness of the gestation period preceding rebirth, and thus is in no condition to choose with self-conscious intent. It is karma, which throughout controls these things; and karma in the abstract is infallible in its action.
Every human being is surrounded by his own emotional and passional as well as psychovital atmosphere, which is really a portion of the lower layers of his auric egg. Now this atmosphere is alive and, vibrating with varying intensities, has its own psycho-auric individuality or vibrational frequency. It becomes obvious therefore that the ray-point, which likewise possesses its own frequency, is drawn more or less on the line of magnetic attraction to the atmosphere of the parent or parents whose vibrational frequency is most sympathetic to its own and with whom its karmic affinities are strongest. To round out the picture, I might add that both hate and intense psychic dislike -- each of which is a kind of inverted love -- sometimes produce strong psycho-auric attractions, thus explaining the pathetic situation of parent and child who repel each other.
When the astral form has definite union with the human ovum, it begins to grow as the foetus. The lower or grosser portions of the astral form become the linga-sarira of the child, in combination with the two general classes of tanhic elementals; whereas its higher portions, the vehicles of the 'ray' from the reincarnating ego (as the embryo and later as the child grows), become the intermediate parts of the constitution of the man.
We must always keep in mind the important part played by the auric egg of the reincarnating ego in all the various steps preceding rebirth. The astral form begins its first growth within the reimbodying auric egg, gestates within it and continues to be 'fed' by its essences throughout the prenatal processes, and in time brings about the stages of birth, infancy, childhood and adulthood; for, in fact, the auric egg is really the true manifested man considered as being the vital auric pranas flowing forth from the various foci of the reincarnating monad.
When the ray-point of the reimbodying ego, itself a ray from the spiritual monad, reaches its own intermediate sphere, it descends no farther into matter. But its psychomagnetic ray, having stronger affinities for the material worlds, descends still farther, awakening into activity the life-atoms in each one of the planes between that of the reimbodying ego and the astral-physical matter of our earth.
Just here we see that the 'life' or characteristic of each part of the composite human constitution remains on its own plane, but extrudes its excess of life from itself into the next lower one, until finally the physical plane is reached, wherein the tip of the ray, collecting unto itself life-atoms of this plane, builds or forms the physical germinal cell. It would be quite wrong to suppose that the reimbodying ego itself is in the germinal cell or on a plane only slightly less physical than ours. The process is an exact analogy of what occurs in the building of the globes of a planetary chain, where the passage of the excess of life takes place along and around the ranges of substance from cosmic plane to cosmic plane.