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Thursday, January 15, 2009



OVER and over again the abstruse and mooted question of Rebirth or Reincarnation has crept out during the first ten years of the Theosophical Society's existence. It has been alleged on prima facie evidence, that a notable discrepancy was found between statements made in Isis Unveiled, Vol. I, 351-2, and later teachings from the same pen and under the inspiration of the same master.1

In Isis, it was held, reincarnation is denied. An occasional return, only of "depraved spirits" is allowed. "Exclusive of that rare and doubtful possibility, Isis allows only three cases--abortion, very early death, and idiocy--in which reincarnation on this earth occurs." ("C.C.M." in Light, 1882.)

The charge was answered then and there as every one who will turn to the Theosophist of August, 1882, can see for himself. Nevertheless, the answer either failed to satisfy some readers or passed unnoticed. Leaving aside the strangeness of the assertion that reincarnation--i.e., the serial and periodical rebirth of every individual monad from pralaya to pralaya2 is denied in the face of the fact that the doctrine is part and parcel and one of the fundamental features of Hinduism and Buddhism, the charge amounted virtually to this: the writer of the present, a professed admirer and student of Hindu philosophy, and as professed a follower of Buddhism years before Isis was written, by rejecting reincarnation must necessarily reject KARMA likewise! For the latter is the very cornerstone of Esoteric philosophy and Eastern religions; it is the grand and one pillar on which hangs the whole philosophy of rebirths, and once the latter is denied, the whole doctrine of Karma falls into meaningless verbiage.

Nevertheless, the opponents without stopping to think of the evident "discrepancy" between charge and fact, accused a Buddhist by profession of faith of denying reincarnation hence also by implication--Karma. Adverse to wrangling with one who was a friend, and undesirous at the time to enter upon a defence of details and internal evidence--a loss of time indeed--the writer answered merely with a few sentences. But it now becomes necessary to well define the doctrine. Other critics have taken the same line, and by misunderstanding the passages to that effect in Isis they have reached the same rather extraordinary conclusions.

To put an end to such useless controversies, it is proposed to explain the doctrine more clearly.

Although, in view of the later more minute renderings of the esoteric doctrines, it is quite immaterial what may have been written in Isis--an encyclopedia of occult subjects in which each of these is hardly sketched--let it be known at once, that the writer maintains the correctness of every word given out upon the subject in my earlier volumes. What was said in the Theosophist of August, 1882, may now be repeated here. The passage quoted from it may be, and is, most likely "incomplete, chaotic, vague, perhaps clumsy, as are many more passages in that work, the first literary production of a foreigner who even now can hardly boast of her knowledge of the English language." Nevertheless it is quite correct so far as that collateral feature of reincarnation is therein concerned.

I will now give extracts from Isis and proceed to explain every passage criticized, wherein it was said that "a few fragments of this mysterious doctrine of reincarnation as distinct from metempsychosis"--would be then presented. Sentences now explained are in italics.

Reincarnation i.e., the appearance of the same individual, or rather of his astral monad, twice on the same p1anet is not a rule in nature, it is an exception, like the teratological phenomenon of a two-headed infant. It is preceded by a violation of the laws of harmony of nature, and happens only when the latter seeking to restore its disturbed equilibrium, violently throws back into earth-life the astral monad which had been tossed out of the circle of necessity by crime or accident. Thus in cases of abortion, of infants dying before a certain age, and of congenital and incurable idiocy, nature's original design to produce a perfect human being, has been interrupted. Therefore, while the gross matter of each of these several entities is suffered to disperse itself at death, through the vast realm of being, the immortal spirit and astral monad of the individual--the latter having been set apart to animate a frame and the former to shed its divine light on the corporeal organization--must try a second time to carry out the purpose of the creative intelligence. (Isis I, 351.)

Here the "astral monad" or body of the deceased personality--say of John or Thomas--is meant. It is that which, in the teachings of the Esoteric philosophy of Hinduism, is known under its name of bhoot; in the Greek philosophy is called the simulacrum or umbra, and in all other philosophies worthy of the name is said, as taught in the former, to disappear after a certain period more or less prolonged in Kama-loka--the Limbus of the Roman Catholics, or Hades of the Greeks.3 It is "a violation of the laws of harmony of nature," though it be so decreed by those of Karma--every time that the astral monad, or the simulacrum of the personality--of John or Thomas--instead of running down to the end of its natural period of time in a body--finds itself (a) violently thrown out of it by whether early death or accident; or (b) is compelled in consequence of its unfinished task to re-appear (i.e., the same astral body wedded to the same immortal monad) on earth again, in order to complete the unfinished task. Thus "it must try a second time to carry out the purpose of creative intelligence" or law.

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