If we believe in reincarnation – and it is difficult not to, once we gain a clear understanding of the logic and philosophy of it, and become aware of the ever-increasing multitude of proofs – we may perhaps have sometimes wondered to ourselves how reincarnation actually takes place, as in the methods and process and stages involved.
In several related articles here on this site, such as A Right Understanding of Reincarnation, Death and the Afterlife, and When We Die, we have explored much about the general topic of reincarnation itself and the processes involved in the ending of one incarnation and the stages the soul finds itself in between the death of the physical body and its rebirth into a new one. But how does that rebirth actually occur?
We know it occurs in exact accordance with the Law of Karma but that’s not what this particular article is about. Our aim here is to gain at least some small insight into how the soul or Ego actually passes out of its state of Devachan and back into life here on the physical plane.
Theosophy offers some interesting insights into this and also some important information regarding other mysteries connected with the birth process. Of course none of this is a “mystery” to the Masters of the Wisdom, nor to their “Direct Agent” and “Brother” H.P. Blavatsky, nor to the one she called her “friend, brother, and son” William Quan Judge, who was a co-founder with her of the Theosophical Movement.
But there are many things, many truths, many details, that are not yet permitted to be given out to the world by that Great Brotherhood of Adepts and so in certain areas and on certain topics all they can do at present, under the strict and very real restrictions of Cyclic and Karmic law, is to provide hints, passing glimpses, and brief indications. Such is the case with the matter of the actual process of reincarnation.
Our immediate and pressing task as Theosophists is to intimately acquaint ourselves with a deep, accurate, and meaningful understanding of the whole mass of teaching and knowledge that has already been left to us by HPB and WQJ. If we are too lazy to even bother to study that, what right do we have to expect to know any more than that?
Nevertheless, we may take this opportunity of gaining a few glimpses…
In “The Secret Doctrine Dialogues” HPB says, in response to a question from a student: “The germinal cell contains the seed or astral form only. The father plants the seed in the soil of matter. … The Monad overshadows the fetus only in the seventh month, and enters fully the child after he reaches consciousness. The Devachanic entity envelops, so to speak, the new entity, lights it up, but begins its process of assimilation only after the first ray of consciousness, say at seven or eight months. Thus it does not enter it. It begins to overshadow it, it is there, it is led by Karmic law to it, but it cannot enter immediately.” (p. 559)
Based on that statement and also what has been said in various other places by HPB and the Masters, we can gather the following facts…
* The seed of the father, which begins to grow and take form in the mother, contains the seed of only the Linga Sharira or astral body.
* We know that the astral body both precedes and outlives the physical body and is the unseen, subtle, blueprint, mould, and framework, which the physical body is built around.
* Conception results in the beginning of the formation of the new astral body, which soon becomes clothed with the outer shell of the physical.
* Although this form is not yet actually “ensouled,” it is connected in a certain and definite way with the incoming Ego, right from the moment of conception.
* The Ego is still in the Devachanic state at this time, hence it being described in this connection as “the Devachanic entity.”
* Its time in Devachan is obviously very nearly completed and now it begins to “envelop,” “light up,” and “overshadow” the tiny form which in just a matter of months will become its new physical vehicle.
* This is one of numerous reasons why Theosophy is not in favour of abortion and why HPB did not hesitate to describe abortion as “murder,” “the willful and sinful destruction of life,” “interference with the operations of nature, hence – with KARMA – that of the mother and the would-be future human being,” and “a crime against nature.”
* Around the time of the seventh month of the pregnancy, the actual and proper “process of assimilation” is begun, with the lower and personal part of the Ego connecting itself in with the new body. Even after birth, the higher part of the soul (the Higher Manas) does not usually connect itself firmly and completely with the new personality until seven years of age. It is because of matters relating to this that children who die before the age of seven tend to reincarnate immediately or almost immediately.
* The Devachani’s growing connection with its new physical vehicle relates to the latter part of what is described here by the Master K.H.: “As in actual earth-life, so there is for the Ego in devachan – the first flutter of psychic life, the attainment of prime, the gradual exhaustion of force passing into semi-unconsciousness, gradual oblivion and lethargy, total oblivion and – not death but birth: birth into another personality, and the resumption of action which daily begets new congeries of causes, that must be worked out in another term of Devachan, and still another physical rebirth as a new personality. What the lives in devachan and upon Earth shall be respectively in each instance is determined by Karma.”
To quote the words of the same Mahatma in regard to the development of the foetus:
“…the foetus who in his mother’s womb passes through all the forms of life – as a mineral, a vegetable, an animal to become finally Man. … Take the human foetus. From the moment of its first planting until it completes its seventh month of gestation it repeats in miniature the mineral, vegetable, and animal cycles it passed through in its previous encasements, and only during the last two [months], develops its future human entity. It is completed but towards the child’s seventh year. Yet it existed without any increase or decrease aeons on aeons before it worked its way onward, through and in the womb of mother nature as it works now in its earthly mother’s bosom. Truly said a learned philosopher who trusts more to his intuitions than the dicta of modern science. “The stages of man’s intra-uterine existence embody a condensed record of some of the missing pages in Earth’s history.” Thus you must look back at the animal, vegetable and mineral entities. You must take each entity at its starting point in the manvantaric course as the primordial cosmic atom already differentiated by the first flutter of the manvantaric life breath. For the potentiality which develops finally in a perfected planetary spirit lurks in, is in fact that primordial cosmic atom.”
An intriguing explanation for the otherwise unaccountable phenomenon of “doppelgangers” or extreme physical similarity or identicality between unrelated people is also offered by this same Trans-Himalayan Adept:
“A child may be born bearing the greatest resemblance and features to another person, thousands of miles off, no connexion to the mother, never seen by her, but whose floating image was impressed upon her soul-memory, during sleep or even waking hours, and reproduced upon the sensitized plate of living flesh she carries in her.”
Taken in context in the letter in which this is found, the “floating images” referred to are the images and pictures in the Astral Light. The Astral Light is the psychic atmosphere surrounding and even interpenetrating the physical plane and every thought, word, and action that occurs here is recorded and indelibly imprinted upon the Astral Light. Hence there is “an immense body of images in the astral light” as Mr Judge once expressed it and we tend to come in contact with these more often than we realise.
Now, back to the question of how the process of reincarnation actually occurs.
We saw that when conception occurs, the potent seed of the man contains the seed of the incoming Ego’s astral body. The question may arise as to how it gets there and how the seed or semen of the future father ends up being endowed with such specific qualities and capabilities for this auspicious occasion; an occasion which certainly occurs under the great Law of Karma, regardless of the fact that neither parent is likely to realise it, nor to give credence to such a notion.
In the chapter titled “Of Reincarnation” in his book “The Ocean of Theosophy,” William Judge makes mention of “the explanation of the actual physical processes which have to be undergone by the Ego in passing from the unembodied to the embodied state” and “the roads, ways, or means of descent from the invisible to the visible plane.”
He continues: “This has not yet been plainly explained in Theosophical books, because on the one hand it is a delicate matter, and on the other the details would not as yet be received even by Theosophists with credence, although one day they will be. And as these details are not of the greatest importance they are not now expounded. But as we know that no human body is formed without the union of the sexes, and that the germs for such production are locked up in the sexes and must come from food which is taken into the body, it is obvious that foods have something to do with the reincarnating of the Ego.”
The suggestion is then carefully made that it may be the case that “the road to reincarnation leads through certain food and none other” but without any further elucidation on this, for reasons already given.
A profound and striking account of the preliminary stages of the process of re-embodiment is found elsewhere in the writings of Mr Judge. Towards the end of his life he developed the idea of writing a book based on the experiences of some of his previous lifetimes. He wished, however, for the book to be written by one of his colleagues rather than by himself and also that the book should not bear his name or give any indication that it was related to him personally. His motive in producing the book was that it might provide valuable and important spiritual lessons and insights for the careful and intuitive reader. It was never his wish to draw any attention to himself, hence his insistence that the book should not give away the true identity of its protagonist.
It so happened that he passed away before the book was even properly begun and thus it was never written. But some of his notes, written for the benefit of Julia Keightley (also known in the Theosophical world under her pen name of Jasper Niemand) who had agreed to write it, were later published as a sort of appendix to the book “Letters That Have Helped Me.” There, amidst many other interesting things, we find the following on p. 253-254…
“They reach Southern India and there he sees the old man of the tower, whom he addresses, and again asks the burning question about the parchment. The old man says again the same as before and adds that he had better come again into the world in that place.
“The darkness and silence. The clear, hot day. The absence of rain. After listening to the old man he consents inwardly to assume life there and soon a heavy storm arises, the rain beats, he feels himself carried to the earth and in deep darkness. A resounding noise about him. It is the noise of the growing plants. This is a rice field with some sesamum in it. The moisture descends and causes the expanding; sees around, all is motion and life. Inclosed in the sphere of some rice, he bemoans his fate. He is born in a Brahmin’s house.
“Note. – Shall the question of reincarnation – through cloud and rain and seed, and thus from the seed of the man – be gone into?”
We should add that if the experiences described here are the case, it is not necessarily the case that all reincarnating souls are conscious of them. The vast majority are probably not. In this particular instance, the Ego was already quite spiritually developed and evolved, his preceding lifetime had ended prematurely with him being murdered, and thus as a result of these two things he was living consciously in Kama Loka – not Devachan – and wandering about “seeking a birth.”
Thus when an initiate functioning on the inner planes directed him to Southern India and advised him to “come again into the world” then and there, he was able to give his conscious agreement and then began the process “of reincarnation through cloud and rain and seed, and thus from the seed of the man,” with him being fully conscious of the various stages of the process.
When the Sages, Gurus, and Rishis of ancient India gave their teachings which became immortalised 3,500 to 5,000 years ago in the words of the sacred Upanishads, they may perhaps have had this very thing in mind when emphasising that “From rain comes food, from food the sexual seed” (Mundaka Upanishad), “From food comes seed, and from seed all creatures” (Prashna Upanishad), “From food are made all bodies,” “Respect food: the body is made of food” (Taittiriya Upanishad).
In the Advaita Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism, the physical body is not only known as Sthula Sharira – as it also is in Theosophical terminology – but as the Annamayakosha, literally meaning “food sheath” in the sense of “the sheath that is made from food.” This may be relevant and connected to the above or it may not. That is for the reader to decide.
Knowing no more, we can say no more. It’s possible that the information and details presented in this article may have resulted in more questions than answers in the mind of the reader. But it is hoped that what has been said has been of some interest and benefit and that at least some light has been shed on what would otherwise likely remain a dark and obscure mystery.
As well as the three other articles referred to right at the start, we also recommend Being Sensible about Past Lives, A Right Understanding of Karma, There is No Injustice, The Skandhas, What happens to people who commit Suicide?, 12 Things Theosophy Teaches, The Sevenfold Nature of Man, and Mysteries of the Astral Body, as all of these will help to explain and elaborate some of the foundational concepts discussed in this article.
The articles Who was William Quan Judge? and The Welcome Influence of William Q. Judge provide further information about this great soul who has been deliberately and vindictively kept out of the sight of many of today’s Theosophists, as a result of certain prominent individuals wishing to promote themselves and their own ideas rather than the Message and the Cause of genuine Theosophy.
In closing, we may wish to reflect and meditate on the teaching of the Aitareya Upanishad which refers to the moment of conception as “the first birth,” the moment of being born out of the mother and into the physical world as “the second birth,” and the moment of being born out of our physical body at the time of so-called death as “the third birth.” There is only life and you are LIFE Itself.