THE TEACHINGS of the MASTERS
REINCARNATION – QUESTIONS and ANSWERS
In H.P. Blavatsky’s mammoth work The Secret Doctrine, it is made abundantly clear one of the major pillars of the Ageless, Ancient Wisdom as presented by the Masters of the Himalayan Brotherhood, is the law of periodicity. This is a universal law which governs everything in life, its manifestation being day and night, birth and death, rest and activity, sleeping and waking…. It is this law which also underscores the magnificent truth of the periodic rebirth of the human soul in various lives until one has reached a certain stage of spiritual unfoldment and learnt all the lessons to be gleaned, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually on planet earth.
So obscure is the concept of reincarnation in the Western world that those unfamiliar with eastern thought and the Ancient Wisdom teachings are apt to regard it as bizarre and fanciful. However, as these teachings are being revived through greater encounters with eastern religions and thought and the inspiring efforts of the modern theosophical movement, the concept is now becoming increasingly contemplated in the west. Blavatsky wrote in The Key to Theosophy with regard to the truth of reincarnation and humanity as follows:
“For logic, consistency, profound philosophy, divine mercy and equity, this doctrine of Reincarnation has not its equal on earth. It is a belief in a perpetual progress from the outward into the inward, from the material to the Spiritual, arriving at the end of each stage at absolute unity with the divine Principle. From strength to strength, from the beauty and perfection of one plane to the greater beauty and perfection of another, with accessions of new glory, of fresh knowledge and power in each cycle, such is the destiny of every Ego, which thus becomes its own savior in each world and incarnation.” So now let us attempt to answer some of the most frequently asked questions with regard to Reincarnation.
1.What is it in the human being that actually does the reincarnating?
This is a good place to begin because tremendous confusion and misconceptions reign over this mystery. The Masters make it clear that without a comprehensive grasp of the various aspects that constitute a human being, the aspirant cannot begin to fathom the law of rebirth and many other truths that are currently being revived. For these purposes, we can basically think of the human being as having a dual nature – a higher nature with 3 aspects that is immortal: spirit (or spiritual will), buddhi (love-wisdom, the faculty of intuition, also the ability to contemplate and express compassion) and enlightened mind (the creative mind capable of abstract thought). But man also has a lesser, mortal nature involving 4 distinct aspects: the everyday mind, the emotions, the vitality body or etheric body, as well as a physical body. These together constitute the personality.
It is the higher ideal nature which ultimately survives the death process and which eventually sooner or later, unless having experienced freedom from the necessity to reincarnate, incarnates and enters a new body and life. This enduring part of our being which also includes a higher mind component is also called by the Masters the Reincarnating Ego. Without this centre of permanent consciousness, the fruits of experience would be dissipated at death and no progressive spiritual evolvement would be possible.
Although in all cases certain tendencies or skandhas, as they are termed by the Masters, are brought over from previous lives, and eventually manifested in the new life, the persona cannot be described as being exactly the same as in the previous incarnation. However, having said that, according to the Masters Koot Hoomi and Morya, there are some exceptions when almost the exact persona is replicated. This is in the cases of lives which have been cut off prematurely by some tragic accident or other cause resulting from a so-called “failure of nature.”
2. Why do we not remember our previous lives?
This question constitutes one of the main objections and stumbling blocks to the teaching of reincarnation in the west. In answering this question we need to first distinguish between memory and recollection. H.P.B. states in The Key to Theosophy (which was largely inspired by the master Koot Hoomi) that we have remembrance, recollection,and also reminiscience. (The Key to Theosophy, pp.96 – 97)
Memory is the innate power to reproduce past impressions and is a faculty depending on the normal functioning of the physical brain. Remembrance and recollection are the attributes and handmaidens of that memory. Whereas, reminiscence is something in between these two and is a conscious recalling of past occurrences without full and varied reference to particular things. To express it another way: “memory is the stored-up record of experiences and recollections the ability to bring back memories into our present consciousness.”
According to the Wisdom teachings, the memory of our past lives is stored up in a specific part of our higher nature known as the causal body which exists in the higher vibrational levels of the mental part of our being. So the memories of all our previous lives do in fact exist in tact in a component of our Higher Self, but the incapacity to recall them consciously is due to the fact that the individual now has a different body and brain. However, at a certain stage of spiritual unfoldment, and at the right time, memories stored in the higher nature become more and more accessible, but not before we are ready spiritually to access them. Plato was a firm advocate of the concept of reincarnation and believed it was “recollection” rather than memory that was involved in the recovery of knowledge of previous lives.
There have been plenty of documented cases of advanced souls having full recall. Helena Roerich, the amanuensis of the Agni Yoga books, and wife of the great Russian artist, Nicholas Roerich recorded in her diaries vivid memories from a variety of previous lives. We also have the example of the remarkable Christian sage and healer on Cyprus in the past century who was known as the Magus of Strovolus. He also maintained he had a very vivid recall of numerous lives including one as the early Christian father, Origen, in the 4th century A.D. (Kyriacos C. Markides, The Magus of Strovolus)
It is suggested that the amnesia we suffer in failing to recall our past lives before we are spiritually mature, is, in fact, a form of protection and blessing. Even recall of unpleasant memories in the present life can act as a detriment and hindrance to spiritual growth; how much more adverse it could be if we were able to recall unlimited the memories of painful events of other lives before reaching a certian spiritual maturity.
Djwhal Khul, who was a chela of the Master Koot Hoomi at the time when the correspondence now called The Mahatma Letters were being written, mentions that as we progress spiritually, glimpses of past lives rise to the surface uninvited; they usually begin to manifest first of all in our dream life. And very often the first memories that appear are details of how we died in a previous life.
3. What is the truth of transmigration and how does it differ from reincarnation?
Transmigration refers generally to the grossly mistaken concept that reincarnation can mean the rebirth and regression of an individual’s soul into that of an animal form in the next incarnation.Some Eastern religions teach that such an incarnation is a form of retribution for the committing of sins in another birth. However, the Masters are adamant that this is a total distortion of another ancient teaching.
In the Ageless Wisdom, it is taught that once one has entered the human kingdom, one does not usually return to an earlier kingdom of nature. There are some exceptionally rare cases when a life is so depraved and bestial the Soul and Divine part of one’s being cuts itself loose from the lesser aspects. The Divine Self or Monad, can never be obliterated, for it is the enduring part of our being. However, when the latter occurs, that essential Self has to begin all over again working its way through the various kingdoms of nature. In other cases, which are not quite so severe as the one cited, the previous Reincarnation becomes in effect a lost life, a page torn from the book of lives, leaving no trace. The Masters say it is a credit to humankind that this has occurred so very rarely over the course of the history of man. ( ML 16, p.104)
The misconception with regard to the possibility of rebirth of man into an animal form is also a misapplication of an ancient concept of the Wisdom Teachings which was later presented in modern Theosophy as “Transmigration of Life Atoms.” Life atoms have been described by theosophist, G. de Purucker, as “undeveloped god sparks, some belonging to the physical, others to the emotional and mental natures.” They compose a man’s lower principles and are the basis of the cells of one’s body. At death, these migrate or transmigrate into other bodies in which these are psycho-magnetically attracted. If the man has led a dissipated, over-indulgent existence, the life-atoms through attraction will pass into bodies or substances of like energy, which may well include animals.
4. How much choice do we have with regard to parents, race, and nation when we reincarnate?
It could be suggested that we are choosing our next life now in everything we are involved in: attitudes toward life, words, thoughts, and deeds. Of course if we had total freedom of choice we would undoubtedly choose loving parents and siblings, and the best possible situation and environment. However, the currents of Karma are not just our own; those of the family to which we are attracted play a major part in bringing about the most suitable circumstances for our spiritual evolution and development of skills and talents. Obviously if one’s life work is to be along political lines then it is highly likely, although not always so, that one will be drawn to a family involved in some way with political affairs.
Choice of race and nation may also be a matter of Karma. If you have shown racist tendencies in a particular life, as was the case with many white plantation owners in the deep South of the USA in the 18th and 19th centuries, it is probable that in a future life you will reincarnate in the race you ostracized to experience the other side of the picture. The same could be cited for the unfair treatment of the native Indians of Canada and the USA by the invading white settlers. In future incarnations the former could very well incarnate as indigenous peoples. So, the oppressors of the past may well become the oppressed in a future incarnation in order to balance the Karma.
In The Mahatma Letters, the Masters state we have to experience all the Root Races, their sub-races, and their off-shoots known as branchlets and families – and we have to experience them both in male and female bodies. Strangely and interestingly, the Masters quote a figure of 777 ( ML 14, pp.82 -83) which is supposed to account for reincarnations in all the races and subdivisions , including branchlets and families. One suspects that this figure is to some extent symbolic and not to be taken too literally, for karma may well require one to spend more than two incarnations in each race.
Of course, untold numbers of lives may be required to settle various karmic ties and obligations, or to compensate for lives cut short prematurely through accidents, suicides, and disease Surely, understanding the idea we have all probably experienced a great variety of races and sub-races and are likely to do so in the future, underscores the total inappropriateness and ignorance of racist attitudes.
5. Is immediate reincarnation entirely possible?
According to the Masters K.H. and Morya, this is not usually the norm. However, they do mention that there can be “mistakes” and “failures” of nature complicating the situation – as is the case with premature babies dying in the first few days, as with cot-death syndrome, which still remains a mystery, as with severely physically challenged and mentally-challenged children dying at a young age. In these cases the Soul/Reincarnating Ego re-enters a new body immediately following death; and because of the immediacy of the rebirth they can be called “the reincarnation of the same personality.” (ML 25B, p. 172)
6. Are the same tendencies carried over from one incarnation into the next?
The Masters state definitely that even though we are not exactly the same personality as in the previous incarnation – barring the exceptions mentioned above – we do bring into the new birth characteristics and tendencies developed in past incarnations. This is apparently unavoidable. These tendencies – also called skandhas in the East – can relate to the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects and are preserved and “recorded” in some form of memory devices which in later spiritual literature are referred to as “permanent atoms.”
The Soul or Reincarnating Ego is drawn back into incarnation and ready to descend again as a result of desire for earthly experience or Trishna, as it is called in Buddhism. It “flashes forth” so to speak and as it does so, it passes through the astral dimensions on its way into physical existence and attracts these personal life atoms and permanent atoms with their bundles of skandhas. These, rather like “germs” or seeds, await the right time to spring into activity and manifest in the new personality.
7. Is there scientific proof that Reincarnation does indeed exist?
There has been numerous research on Near Death Experiences but with regard to Reincarnation, the most convincing research conducted on the subject is probably the work in the 1970s and 80s of Dr. Ian Stevenson, professor of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia. Stevenson interviewed hundreds of people of varying ages and from different cultures purported to have had genuine recall of recent lives. These cases included for instance children in India, indigenous peoples in Alaska and Canada, and others in South America, the U.K. and U.S.A.
His first book focused on 20 cases he considered to be the most convincing and entitled it Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. Being primarily a scientist and psychiatrist, he was very mindful of establishing his research on as scientific a basis as possible. Hence the use of the word “suggestive” in his title. Be that as it may, these cases and later ones in his future works are certainly most convincing.
Ian Stevenson also researched the strange phenomenon of people speaking in foreign languages in sleep, unknown to them in waking life, and based a book on his findings. He coined a special word for this phenomena which was ….
8. Do the Masters have the ability to perceive the previous lives of their chelas?
The Master Koot Hoomi intimates in the letters he does have the ability to look into the previous incarnations of his disciples and others but does not really like to exercise this particular siddhi. (ML 24B, p. 188) It is suggested there is nothing untoward/improper in our curiosity to learn about our previous incarnations. However, he makes the comment it would be more advisable for each of us to study and understand our present persona before attempting to learn anything of its “creator, predecessors and fashioner.” He encourages us to follow the Delphic oracle’s advice: “Man Know Thyself.” (ML 23A, p. 145)
Even so, despite the above, the Master Koot Hoomi does offer some clues about A.P. Sinnett’s previous life as a Roman senator, Nonius Asprenas, who lived at the time of the Emperor Domitian; he also mentions he had a close liaison with one Clemens Arretinus who was a friend of the high priest in the Temple dedicated to Jupiter in Rome. It is also indicated that Sinnett’s love for mysticism originated from that life-time and his connection with the Temple of Jupiter.
9. What can be said with regard to the historical belief in Reincarnation?
The doctrine of Reincarnation is generally associated with eastern thought, Hinduism and Buddhism in particular. In the West, we are not used to associating it historically with the ancient Jews, Greeks, and Romans. Yet, surprisingly enough, at the time of Jesus, it was universally taught in most parts of the world. Indeed, there are various references to Reincarnation in the Bible despite the fact many references were removed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Justinian. And there is evidence that some of the Church Fathers fully accepted it. For instance, we have the outstanding example of the Alexandrian Christian father and ascetic, Origen, who wrote a lengthy treatise on the subject of Metempsychosis – the current term of that day for the doctrine of Rebirth.
In the middle of the 6th century a special Church council was convened which was supposed to involve priests both from the western and eastern churches on a number of topics, including the attempt to ostracize the teachings of the Church father, Origen on Metempsychosis/Reincarnation by declaring them “anathema.” It was following this significant church council meeting that the teachings with regard to Reincarnation began to disappear from the intellectual and religious life of Europe. This coincided with and heralded the beginning of the so-called “Dark Ages” and the consequent dimming of the light of Spirituality and enlightenment in the western world. Ironically, the Eastern Orthodox church representatives, who had been invited, boycotted the meetings due to serious differences of opinion between them and the western church members. As a result the vote against Origen’s stand on Reinarnation was never ratified and so from a legal standpoint, one can be a member of the Roman Catholic Church and still maintain a belief in reincarnation. Words to this effect are in fact stated in the modern Catholic Encyclopedia.
Down through the centuries, there had been the occasional profound thinkers, mystics, and poets in the west, such as Jacob Bohme, Marcillo Ficino, Francis Bacon, William Wordsworth, Lord Arthur Tennyson and many more, who have fully embraced the idea of reincarnation. However, it was not until the end of the 19th century, when the modern theosophical movement was established with its emphasis on the revival of the teachings of the Ancient and Ageless Wisdom, that this great doctrine was re-introduced into western thought. Since then, it has been regaining its position as a world-wide belief.