The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
April 2003 Vol. 6 Issue 2
Rebirth is the pathway of evolution. It is the method by which nature progressively draws into growth or unfoldment the limitless capacities latent in all creatures from atoms to gods. Everything that has life reimbodies itself -- universes, solar systems, suns, worlds, men, animals, and plants, cells, molecules, and atoms. Each of these forms is ensouled by a spiritual consciousness center which is evolving in its own degree, passing ever upward, and unfolding like a seed from within itself its latent potentialities.
In the human race we call this process of rebirth or reimbodiment by the word reincarnation, which means "refleshing," or taking on again a garment or body of flesh. There are various names for the different forms of reimbodiment which pertain to all beings from the highest to the lowest, but here we are concerned only with that form of reimbodiment which pertains to human beings and which is called reincarnation.
Briefly, the purpose of life is to raise the mortal into immortality. Or, to expand the idea somewhat, it is to give time and opportunity for the deathless spiritual potency at the core of our being to develop, grow, and unfold into perfection. For theosophy tells us that the personal self -- the everyday self -- is not immortal. John Smith or Mary Brown are not deathless beings. They are mere personalities, and as such do not reincarnate. It is the units of consciousness behind John Smith and Mary Brown, of which these perhaps quite ordinary persons are but the imperfect aspects -- this root of consciousness in each person, this ego it is which reincarnates.
It is through reincarnation alone that we can bring out, and use and perfect, the fullness of that hidden wealth of power and capacity of which we are all conscious in some measure. For through reincarnation the ego undergoes every kind of human experience which this earth affords. In each life some new facet of character is shaped by environment. New powers and capacities are unfolded from within. Weaknesses, selfishness, and the faults of passion are corrected by suffering, that wise teacher which enables us to recognize and overcome our egoism and limitations.
Every new life gives us another chance. So if we use well our opportunities, we shall grow steadily from life to life until in some future reincarnation on this earth our character will flower into divine genius and we shall live and work in the fullness of our true spiritual being. -- Leoline L. Wright
With every dawning spring, nature gives her message to all alike, setting forth in flower-symbols the lesson of rebirth, the awakening to new life and activity of the inner abiding soul. It is when we realize that sunlight and showers are shared by all, irrespective of the barriers that have arisen between man and man, that a deeper sense of the meaning of Easter, a fuller grasp of the truth it holds for the whole of humanity, can come to us and deepen our joy in the springtime.
The crucifixion, according to the wisdom-teaching of all time, is not the death agony of only one of humanity's helpers named Jesus the Christ. It is the struggle for conquest between spirit and matter in all mankind: the age-long striving by which the desires and appetites of the lower nature are gradually purified and directed toward the higher life, to what makes for spiritual mastery. The tomb symbolizes the bondage in which the soul imprisoned in bodily desires suffers. The resurrection is the rising of the soul triumphant over the longings of the flesh; it is the symbol of the inner god triumphant over the animal. The crucifixion then applies to every member of the human family, and not only to those who come as teachers at certain periods.
Hope, the promise of attainment, is the message of nature at Eastertide -- the assurance of rebirth. Rebirth of the soul in a succession of lives on earth until the work of crucifixion is complete; rebirth of spiritual impulses to persevere in the flowering of humanity -- a perennial rising from and a returning to the work on earth with the consciousness of a thread that runs through all unbroken, through sleep and waking, through what we call birth and death, on, on to the final triumph of the soul made divine. --W. Albertson
"Reincarnation" is our subject. As human beings are we mortal, immortal, or both? Do we return again to earth or exist elsewhere after death? Can humans reimbody as animals or other life forms? Does reincarnation harmonize with science and Western religions? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
The topics for the monthly discussion group for the next few months are:
May 8: Theosophy Ancient and Modern
June: Science and Mysticism
July: Who Am I?
August: Myths and Symbols: A Universal Language
September: What Is the Basis of Ethics?
October: Bringing Ourselves to Birth
November: What Is the Meaning of Life?
The age of the earth is estimated by modern science to be about 4.5 billion years old. But H. P. Blavatsky gives the earth's age as 2 billion years (The Secret Doctrine 2:68). The main reason for this discrepancy is that modern science uses radiometric dating methods to measure the age of the earth, and assumes that radioactive decay of elements began when the earth formed and has continued since then at a constant rate. Theosophy, on the other hand, teaches that the earth's radioactivity began only about 4.5 million years ago, when the earth reached the midpoint of its evolution. At that time, it stopped its general trend towards the condensation of matter and started its trend towards ethereality or spirituality. Radioactivity -- or the loss of subatomic particles from an atom of a heavy element such as uranium, resulting in a lighter element, such as lead -- is part of that process of etherealization, and will accelerate as the earth continues to evolve.
It is interesting to study Blavatsky's chart of the geologic ages in The Secret Doctrine (2:710). There she defines geologic ages shorter in duration than those given by modern science, though she generally agrees on their names, delineation, and relative order. For example, geologists define four main eras of earth history: Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic. The earliest of the four eras, the Precambrian, covers the time from when the earth was first formed to the time that the first multicellular organisms appeared. Most modern geologists agree that this era started about 4.6 billion years ago and ended 570 million years ago. Blavatsky says that this was much more recent, starting 2 billion years ago and ending 320 million years ago.
Theosophy teaches that many of the major upheavals that have occurred on our earth since its formation -- radical changes in sea level, the raising and leveling of mountain ranges, the eruption of huge lava flows covering hundreds of square miles -- are tied to the evolutionary cycles of mankind and the other beings inhabiting the earth. Extreme changes in the earth's surface occur during the transitions between the seven rounds, or surges of evolutionary life-waves, that characterize human evolution, as well as between the seven main divisions or root-races that appear during each round. These violent transitions serve to prepare the earth for the onset of a new round or race. This is necessary because in the natural course of evolution, each root-race has its own characteristics, and most of an old race must die out before the next race can predominate on the earth. Blavatsky says, "Our globe is subject to seven periodical entire changes which go with the races. . . . The face of the Globe was completely changed each time; the survival of the fittest nations and races was secured through timely help; and the unfit ones -- the failures -- were disposed of by being swept oft the Earth. Such sorting and shifting does not happen between sunset and sunrise, as one may think, but requires several thousands of years before the new house is set in order." (Ibid 2:329-330).
Major geological disturbances, such as earthquakes and volcanism, as well as meteorological disturbances are caused in part by the effects that human thoughts and actions have on the earth's various fields. Theosophy teaches that the earth's magnetism is the manifestation on this material plane of the prana or life force of our living earth, and that the earth is a supercharged dynamo or storehouse of cosmic and terrestrial vitality. All of the thoughts and vital energies released by man interact with this vitality, which in turn interacts magnetically with a shell of fine dust and metal particles and stones surrounding our earth. This shell or "meteoric veil," is derived from cosmic dust and meteors. The interaction between the earth's vitality and the meteoric veil can create a buildup of electromagnetic energy. The sudden release of this pent up energy can cause enormous disturbances in our atmosphere, leading to storms, aurorae borealis and australis, and changes in temperature on the earth, resulting in cooling phases causing glacial ages, and warming phases, resulting in a uniformly tropical climate.
Earthquakes are also the results of a violent release of these stored up vital electromagnetic forces. Earthquakes can be started when the actions of karma, as well as the astrological and gravitational effects of the Sun, Moon, Jupiter, Venus, and Mars, cause a localized breaking of the electromagnetic tension in the earth's crust. This can result in the slipping of the earth's strata and can even cause a change in the earth's composition, making the earth become fluid without melting. According to Blavatsky, if it were not for the release of the earth's electromagnetic tension, our planet would have been "rent to pieces long ago." (Ibid. 1:205)
We have seen that theosophy views geological processes not as mere lifeless physical phenomena, but as the processes of a living being, whose evolution is intricately entwined with that of the life forms that inhabit it. Blavatsky says: "It is absolutely false to assert (as men of science do) that all the great geological changes and terrible convulsions have been produced by ordinary and known physical forces. For these forces were but the tools and final means for the accomplishment of certain purposes, acting periodically, and apparently mechanically, through an inward impulse mixed up with, but beyond their material nature. There is a purpose in every important act of Nature, whose acts are all cyclic and periodical." -- Ibid. 1:640