Theosophy Northwest View

The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
October 2002 Vol. 5 Issue 8

The Problem of Heredity

The differing combinations of hereditary qualities in individuals are governed by psychomagnetic attractions inherent in the skandhas of the reincarnating entity. "Skandhas" refer to the attributes, tendencies, qualities, both high and low, which distinguish one personality from another. They are the seeds of acts, thoughts, and feelings, either of a material nature, which help to form the next body, or of mental or moral traits.

The nature and action of the skandhas can best be grasped if we understand first about life-atoms. These may be described as the souls of the atoms, through which the incarnating entity is enabled to imbody itself. They are the building blocks of which all things are fashioned. They exist on every plane in nature, spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, and in every degree of development or evolution within those planes. In human life, they form the human body with its cells and organs; our intermediate mental or emotional nature; and also our spiritual constitution.

These life-atoms are being every second impressed by our every thought and action, no matter what. If we are loving, pure, unselfish, joyous, we have given them that impress; and equally we can impress them with selfishness, passion and hate, fear or pessimism. As our bodies and inner natures are constantly changing through growth, development, and decline, these life-atoms do not stay with us, but flow out from us to combine temporarily with those other natures and substances which are akin to the impressions they have absorbed from us.

This happens all through life, but more completely after physical death. Then there is a separation of the principles which have made up the human being. The spiritual part, after withdrawing into itself all of the personal man that had become purified, rises to higher spheres; the passional, emotional nature rests on its own plane for a time before disintegrating; and the body, as we know, is dissolved quickly. Then the life-atoms on all these planes, charged with the tendencies and qualities given them in the last earth-life, find their natural habitats. But on reincarnation, under the influence of natural attraction, they flock back to the entity which sent them forth.

It is these life-atoms which carry the skandhas, the aroma of our past lives. They are the building materials of many different degrees of evolution which thus shape by their inherent characteristics the personality that is about to be born. Gertrude W. van Pelt, M.D


Birth and Before Birth

A human parent emanates or throws forth from his body the human life-germ. Let us say that this parent has several children, each born of a life-germ from the parent's body. In due time the parent dies. The parent's reimbodying ego has after death its devachanic interlude of many centuries and finally returns to physical incarnation. During all this time of many centuries' length, the children of the parent in question, and their children, and their children's children, and so on through the generations, carry on or continue in uninterrupted life-stream the particular life-atomic stream of psychomagnetic and physical vital flow which the parent had brought into physical existence.

Now when this parent of our picture comes into physical existence again, the reimbodying ego is attracted to the milieu or family to which it is most strongly drawn. This family, were human records old enough to enable us to do so, could be traced back in regular and uninterrupted genealogical steps, direct or collateral, to that 'original' procreative act of the 'parent' who is the subject of our picture. Actually, therefore, the reimbodying ego of this parent takes a body born of his own descendants if not in direct and uninterrupted genealogical line, 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. G. de Purucker


Monthly Discussion Group

"How Powerful Are Our Genes?" is our subject. We will be discussing such questions as: What do we know about genes and their functions? How far do they determine who we are and what we do? What is the source of our character, qualities, and self? Has it been scientifically proven that genes cause mental illness or other nonphysical conditions? Come and share your ideas!

Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.

Future Topics for Discussion Group

The topics for the monthly discussion group for the next few months are:

November 7: Exploring the Theosophic Tradition
December: Is Taking Life Ever Justified?
January 2003: Hierarchies: A Universal Pattern?
February: God, God's Will, and Karma
March: How Can We Find Peace?

Theosophical Views

Heredity and Reincarnation

By John P. Van Mater

Most of us on hearing the word heredity would think of parents bequeathing their looks and traits to their children. How true all this is is difficult to say. Certainly many children do look like their parents, but many do not. When it comes to genius and talent, that can spring up anywhere. So what is one to think?

The predominant scientific theory seems to be that each person is the expression of certain gene patterns: the DNA possibilities of the parents combine in particular ways to determine the entire physical, mental, and emotional endowment of the child. The whole process is "set" when the germ cell is fertilized, and it is this pattern in the original cell that makes him him or her her. When two people have a child, it is how their gene spirals or DNA potentials come together that determines the looks, character, and endowments of their child. The next child born to the same parents will be the result of quite different combinations, and thus may be an entirely different person in every way.

How does the idea of reincarnation of souls fit into the present scientific speculations about the linkage of DNA chains in the fertilized germ cell? Theosophists also place a great deal of importance upon the germ plasm. It is indeed the sole physical transmission from parent to child.

When human death occurs, there is a withdrawal of the consciousness. After the earthly elements are dropped, the higher portion of the soul rests in a dream world, absorbing and bringing to fruition the unfulfilled aspirations and thoughts of the previous life. All is incorporated into the nature, so that in the next life the soul will return amended and enlarged in proportion to the inner forces that governed the last life or incarnation. A still higher portion of his nature, call it the Father within, if you like, enters the circulations of the cosmos, which is the field of its larger life. That is why the ancient Romans said of one who dies, that he sleeps among the stars.

Eventually the reincarnating ego seeks rebirth again and the processes of incarnation begin to take place. A child is drawn to parents with whom it has old ties, old causes to work out, and is almost invariably born in its own family stream from out of the past. The soul about to be born is karmically attracted to a certain couple. It sends forth an over-shadowing influence or ray, which is dual in nature: one aspect enters the womb of the mother and the living ovum, the other enters the father, invigorating a particular germ cell. The father and mother-to-be join to provide a psycho-magnetic link between the incoming ego and the waking germ cell. Happenings of various sorts often occur to abort this process, in which event the ego has to overshadow another life-atom and start again the reimbodiment procedure.

Where does heredity fit in? The reincarnating ego, drawn to its prospective parents, selects from the gene pool provided by them that which will express itself. There is no chance involved. The child, therefore, inherits first of all himself. He did not inherit his Self from his parents. He brought that with him, it is he. But the parents provided the genetic possibilities for him to reimbody all his particular strengths and weaknesses, faculties, talents. These may be similar to or different from either or both parents; most important, the DNA pattern in the fertilized germ cell will reflect the unique potentials of the incoming soul. It could hardly be otherwise, since this pattern is shaped by and formed around the incarnating energies seeking to express as nearly as possible the multifaceted person coming to birth.

Although the whole process is governed by law, there is no absolute predictability from our vantage point, because the motivating force or consciousness of the reimbodying soul cannot be detected except in the material changes it effects.

It might be asked: "Why is it necessary to bring the idea of the soul into it?" The facts seem to warrant it for those who cannot accept that such an important event as ushering into this world a loving, laughing, sympathetic, aspiring, gifted human being can be the outcome of combinations which, if left to chance, might just as well have produced a maniac or a moron. Also, many cannot believe that we are merely aspects of matter that die with the body, that all there is to life is this short period of striving and achieving, after which nothing. Surely there is more to man and his soul-life than that.


Current Issue