In the article A Right Understanding of Reincarnation, the third of the ten points is headed “HUMANS ALWAYS REINCARNATE AS HUMANS” and says:
“There are distinct kingdoms or departments in Nature, which all represent definite and distinct stages of inner evolution. After evolving out of one of these kingdoms and into the one above it, the soul cannot then return to a cycle and stage of its evolution which it has already passed and completed. Although evolution is a very slow and gradual process, it nevertheless proceeds in a definite and orderly fashion.
“Having passed from the mineral kingdom into the vegetable kingdom, we cannot and do not revert to being a member of the mineral kingdom. Having passed from the vegetable kingdom into the animal kingdom, we cannot and do not re-enter the vegetable kingdom. Similarly, once we have passed that definite and major mark of entering upon a long series of lives as a self-conscious individuality into the human kingdom, we cannot and do not return to a lower level of evolution through which we have already fully passed and which can have no more effect, purpose, or usefulness for us.
“The human soul never reincarnates as an animal, tree, plant, stone, or anything other than another human being.”
Although Theosophy recognises that a human soul can sink down in consciousness to an increasingly low and animalistic nature, becoming more and more of an animal-like human through successive lifetimes, it insistently maintains that although in a far distant past we were once part of the animal kingdom, we do not and cannot return to it or any of the other lower kingdoms when we reincarnate.
Yet it is the case that many forms of Hinduism and Buddhism, alongside various other Eastern religions and Western philosophies, Plato included, believe in or teach the possibility of the reversion of the soul to an animal incarnation or even lower as a result of bad Karma. Are we to dismiss this solely as superstition or ignorance or is there possibly some degree of truth to this teaching after all?
In her article “Transmigration of the Life Atoms,” H. P. Blavatsky states that “It has a basis of truth; and, in fact, it is an axiomatic truth – but only in reference to human atoms and emanations, and that not only after a man’s death, but during the whole period of his life. The esoteric meaning of the Laws of Manu (Sec. XII, 3, and XII, 54 and 55), of the verses that state that “every act, either mental, verbal or corporeal, bears good or evil fruit (Karma), the various transmigrations of men (not souls) through the highest, middle, and lowest stages, are produced by his actions”; and again that “A Brahman-killer enters the body of a dog, bear, ass, camel, goat, sheep, bird, etc.,” bears no reference to the human Ego, but only to the atoms of his body, of his lower triad, and his fluidic emanations.”
Theosophy teaches that each of us, when in incarnation, is comprised of seven “principles” or components. Three of these – Atma, Buddhi, and Manas – are of a spiritual and enduring nature, whilst the lower four – Kama, Prana, Linga Sharira, and Sthula Sharira – are temporary, mortal, and last only for the duration of that particular lifetime. They are what constitute the lower self, the present personality. This is explained in more depth in The Sevenfold Nature of Man and further in Understanding Our Seven Principles, which describes what these Seven Principles actually are, in terms of their nature and function.
HPB goes on to say, “It is all very well for the Brahmins to distort in their own interest, the real meaning contained in these laws, but the words as quoted never meant what they were made to yield from the above verses later on. The Brahmins applied them selfishly to themselves, whereas by “Brahman,” man’s seventh principle, his immortal monad and the essence of the personal Ego were allegorically meant. He who kills or extinguishes in himself the light of Parabrahm, i.e., severs his personal Ego from the Atman and thus kills the future Devachanee, becomes a “Brahman-killer.” Instead of facilitating, through a virtuous life and spiritual aspirations the mutual union of the Buddhi and the Manas, he condemns by his own evil acts every atom of his lower principles to become attracted and drawn, in virtue of the magnetic affinity thus created by his passions, into the forming bodies of lower animals or brutes.”
“This is the real meaning of the doctrine of Metempsychosis,” she explains. “It is not that such amalgamation of human particles with animal or even vegetable atoms can carry in it any idea of personal punishment per se, for of course it does not. But it is a cause created, the effects of which may manifest themselves throughout the next rebirths – unless the personality is annihilated. Otherwise, from cause to effect, every effect becoming in its turn a cause, they will run along the cycle of rebirths, the once-given impulse expending itself only at the threshold of Pralaya. But of this anon.”
Once again we see just how extremely and severely responsible each one of us is, in terms of Karmic responsibility. When will we begin to actually take responsibility for our every thought, feeling, word, and deed, and finally grasp the great fact that there is no such thing as a cause without an effect, no such thing as an action without its eventual corresponding reaction? It is here and now that we must take responsibility and master ourselves and say, like Shantideva in the Bodhicharyavatara, “Henceforth I will be master of myself, the servant of the world.”
In William Q. Judge’s short story titled “The Persian Students’ Doctrine,” which deals with this subject, one of the characters remarks that “Those atoms fly from all of us at every instant. They seek their appropriate center; that which is similar to the character of him who evolves them. We absorb from our fellows whatever is like unto us. It is thus that man reincarnates in the lower kingdoms. He is the lord of nature, the key, the focus, the highest concentrator of nature’s laboratory. And the atoms he condemns to fall thus to beasts will return to him in some future life for his detriment or his sorrow. But he, as immortal man, cannot fall. That which falls is the lower, the personal, the atomic. He is the brother and teacher of all below him. See that you do not hinder and delay all nature by your failure in virtue.”
So “those atoms fly from all of us at every instant,” seeking their appropriate centre through magnetic affinity and attraction. According to HPB, “It requires no adept knowledge, but simply the natural gift of a good clairvoyant subject to see them passing to and fro, from man to objects and vice versa like a bluish lambent flame.” “Lambent” means glowing or flickering with a soft radiance; in the case of our life atoms a blue or bluish radiance.
In that article (“Transmigration of the Life Atoms”) H. P. Blavatsky further explains that what we are talking about here is “the mesmeric or magnetic fluid which emanates from man to man or even from man to what is termed an inanimate object” and that “the magnetic fluid projected by a living human body is life itself.”
“Indeed it is life atoms” that a man in a blind passion throws off, unconsciously, and though he does it quite as effectively as a mesmeriser who transfers them from himself to any object consciously and under the guidance of his will. Let any man give way to any intense feeling, such as anger, grief, etc., under or near a tree, or in direct contact with a stone; and many thousands of years after that any tolerable Psychometer [i.e. practitioner of psychometry] will see the man and sense his feelings from one single fragment of that tree or stone that he had touched. Hold any object in your hand, and it will become impregnated with your life atoms, indrawn and outdrawn, changed and transferred in us at every instant of our lives.”
It seems that life atoms are almost synonymous with elementals. If they cannot be said to be exactly the same thing, they are nonetheless inextricably connected with one another at a most fundamental level, for the “Gods, Monads, and Atoms” section in Vol. 1 of “The Secret Doctrine” explains that every atom that exists is ensouled by an elemental monad. In “Forum Answers” p. 42-43, William Judge states:
“If there is any point strongly made in occultism it is that we are a compound of lives . . . our lower nature is made of these lives. . . . They exist in [man], and as he lives and thinks so he impresses on them his thoughts and acts, and as they are leaving him every moment of time it follows that a stream of these lives of many grades and sorts is continually being projected from him into space and forming his own karma. . . . everyone is therefore responsible for the impressions he gives to the atoms that make him up, and if he does not live aright he will have to suffer the consequences sooner or later. For these very elementals are the means whereby karma operates.”
Sometimes when speaking of “life atoms,” HPB appears to be referring specifically to the atoms that compose our Prana principle – that component of our sevenfold nature which is sometimes also called the “life principle” itself – but, as we saw earlier, the term does not actually exclusively relate to the Pranic atoms, but rather to “the atoms of his body [i.e. Sthula Sharira], of his lower triad [i.e. Prana, Linga Sharira or astral body, and Kama or the desire/passional nature], and his fluidic [i.e. auric, relating to the aura] emanations.” In fact, she says, “occultists do not recognise that anything in nature can be inorganic and know of no “dead atoms,” . . . we regard and call in our occult phraseology those atoms that are moved by Kinetic energy as “life-atoms,” while those that are for the time being passive, containing but invisible potential energy, we call “sleeping atoms,” regarding at the same time those two forms of energy as produced by the one and same force, or life.”
We should remember that, as WQJ explained, “the atoms he condemns to fall thus to beasts will return to him in some future life for his detriment or his sorrow.” As HPB puts it in the article, “the monad or individual soul is ever the same as are also the atoms of the lower principles which regenerated and renewed in this ever flowing river of being are magnetically drawn together owing to their affinity, and are once more re-incarnated together.” The same point is made in “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 671-672, which concludes the point by saying “The collective aggregation of these atoms forms thus the Anima Mundi of our Solar system, the soul of our little universe, each atom of which is of course a soul, a monad, a little universe endowed with consciousness, hence with memory.” Everything really is, in the final analysis, energy . . . vibration . . . consciousness.
The article “Transmigration of the Life Atoms” seems to suggest that the well known ancient Egyptian practice of mummification was an attempt, albeit an ineffective one, to securely preserve and maintain the departed soul’s life atoms after death, preventing their transmigrating into other forms and kingdoms of Nature, so that they would remain “pure,” or at least comparatively so, for forming the new body and lower principles when the soul would next reincarnate on Earth. But mummifying the corpse cannot interfere with or prevent an essential and inevitable occult process which, as HPB taught, occurs “not only after a man’s death, but during the whole period of his life.”
For those who may be interested in exploring this vast subject of reincarnation and the Law of Karma in more depth, a list of related articles can be found on the Articles page of this site.
~ BlavatskyTheosophy.com ~
“Pranic currents are what are absorbed by the Astral Nadis and Chakras from the Ocean of Jiva. They circulate in the astral body as blood circulates in the gross body. As a result of circulation these currents absorb and assimilate our thoughts and feelings as blood does our bodily food. Then animal magnetism results. Prana absorbed from Jiva is healthful; in conjunction with the prevailing thought-feeling-moods, animal magnetism is generated. It is through the last named that our “lives” go out, with our personal stamp upon them.” (B. P. Wadia, “Extracts from Unpublished Letters”)
“Animal magnetism is a fluid, an emanation. Some people can emit it for curative purposes through their eyes and the tips of their fingers, while the rest of all creatures, mankind, animals and even every inanimate object, emanate it either as an aura, or a varying light, and that whether consciously or not. When acted upon by contact with a patient or by the will of a human operator, it is called “Mesmerism.” (H. P. Blavatsky, “The Theosophical Glossary” p. 199)