BN-Basic Course Syllabus
The Ancient Wisdom Tradition
IV Karma & Reincarnation -The Reciprocal Laws Of Development
- Reincarnation - The Field Of Progress
(HPB, Theosophical Glossary, p. 277)
The putting on of flesh periodically by the Soul or the Ego, was a universal belief; nor can anything be more consonant with justice and Karmic law. (See "Pre-existence")
(HPB, Theosophical Glossary, p. 261-62)
Pre-existence: The term used to denote that we have lived before. The same as reincarnation in the past. . . It is the oldest and the most universally accepted belief from an immemorial antiquity. . . The Bible hints at it more than once, St. John the Baptist being regarded as the reincarnation of Elijah, and the Disciples asking whether the blind man was born blind because of his sins, which is equal to saying that he had lived and sinned before being born blind. It was the work of spiritual progression and soul discipline. A turn of the wheel gave a chance for the development of neglected or abused intelligence and feeling, hence the popularity of reincarnation in all climes and times. . . Verily "an evil act follows a man, passing through one hundred thousand transmigrations" (Panchatantra). Herodotus tells his readers, that the Egyptians "are the earliest who have spoken of this doctrine, according to which the soul of man is immortal, and after the destruction of the body, enters into a newly born being" . . . The funeral books of the Egyptians say plainly "that resurrection was in reality, but a renovation, leading to a new infancy, and a new youth".
(HPB, Secret Doctrine, Vol. II, p. 306)
Intimately, or rather indissolubly, connected with Karma, then, is the law of re-birth, or of the re-incarnation of the same spiritual individuality in a long, almost interminable, series of personalities. The latter are like the various costumes and characters played by the same actor, with each of which that actor identifies himself and is identified by the public, for the space of a few hours. The inner, or real man, who personates those characters, knows the whole time that he is Hamlet for the brief space of a few acts, which represent, however, on the plane of human illusion the whole life of Hamlet. And he knows that he was, the night before, King Lear, the transformation in his turn of the Othello of a still earlier preceding night; but the outer, visible character is supposed to be ignorant of the fact.
(HPB, Key To Theosophy, p. 154-55)
. . . 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 for each incarnating Ego, or divine soul, in an evolution 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 Saviour in each world and incarnation.
(HPB, Secret Doctrine, Vol. II, p. 424)
That which is part of our souls is eternal. . . Those lives are countless, but the soul or spirit that animates us throughout these myriads of existences is the same; and though "the book and volume" of the physical brain may forget events within the scope of one terrestrial life, the bulk of collective recollections can never desert the divine soul within us. Its whispers may be too soft, the sound of its words too far off the plane perceived by our physical senses; yet the shadow of events that were, just as much as the shadow of the events that are to come, is within its perceptive powers, and is ever present before its mind's eye.
(HPB, Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, p. 16-17)
Second and Third Fundamental Propositions of the Secret Doctrine
The One REALITY; its dual aspects in the conditioned Universe.
Further, the Secret Doctrine affirms:-
(b.) The Eternity of the Universe in toto as a boundless plane; periodically "the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing," called "the manifesting stars," and the "sparks of Eternity." "The Eternity of the Pilgrim"† is like a wink of the Eye of Self-Existence (Book of Dzyan.) "The appearance and disappearance of Worlds is like a regular tidal ebb of flux and reflux." (See Part II., "Days and Nights of Brahmâ.")
This second assertion of the Secret Doctrine is the absolute universality of that law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow, which physical science has observed and recorded in all departments of nature. An alternation such as that of Day and Night, Life and Death, Sleeping and Waking, is a fact so common, so perfectly universal and without exception, that it is easy to comprehend that in it we see one of the absolutely fundamental laws of the universe.
Moreover, the Secret Doctrine teaches: -
(c) The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul, the latter being itself an aspect of the Unknown Root; and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul-a spark of the former-through the Cycle of Incarnation (or "Necessity") in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic law, during the whole term. In other words, no purely spiritual Buddhi (divine Soul) can have an independent (conscious) existence before the spark which issued from the pure Essence of the Universal Sixth principle,-or the OVER-SOUL,-has (a) passed through every elemental form of the phenomenal world of that Manvantara, and (b) acquired individuality, first by natural impulse, and then by self-induced and self-devised efforts (checked by its Karma), thus ascending through all the degrees of intelligence, from the lowest to the highest Manas, from mineral and plant, up to the holiest archangel (Dhyani-Buddha). The pivotal doctrine of the Esoteric philosophy admits no privileges or special gifts in man, save those won by his own Ego through personal effort and merit throughout a long series of metempsychoses and reincarnations.
† "Pilgrim" is the appellation given to our Monad (the two in one) during its cycle of incarnations. It is the only immortal and eternal principle in us, being an indivisible part of the integral whole-the Universal spirit, from which it emanates, and into which it is absorbed at the end of the cycle. When it is said to emanate from the one spirit. an awkward and incorrect expression has to be used, for lack of appropriate words in English. The Vedantins call it Sutratma (Thread-Soul), but their explanation, too, differs somewhat from that of the occultists; to explain which difference, however, is left to the Vedantins themselves.
(Wm. Q. Judge, Echoes From The Orient, p. 7)
Man is spiritual being -- a soul , in other words -- and that this soul takes on different bodies from life to life on earth to order at last to arrive at such perfect knowledge, through repeated experience, as to enable one to assume a body fit to be the dwelling-place of a Mahatma or perfected soul. Then, they say, that particular soul becomes a spiritual helper to mankind.
(Wm. Q. Judge, Echoes From The Orient, p. 16)
The Ego of each man is immortal; "always was existent, always will be, and never can be non-existent"; appearing now and again, and reappearing, clothed in bodies on each occasion different, it only appears to be mortal; it always remains the substratum and support for the personality acting upon the stage of life.
(Wm. Q. Judge, Ocean Of Theosophy, p. 81)
The mere selfish desire of a person to escape the trials and discipline of life is not enough to set nature's laws aside, so the soul must be reborn until it has ceased to set in motion the cause of rebirth, after having developed character up to its possible limit as indicated by all the varieties of human nature, when every experience has been passed through, and not until all of truth that can be known has been acquired. The vast disparity among men in respect to capacity compels us, if we wish to ascribe justice to Nature or to God, to admit reincarnation and to trace the origin of the disparity back to the past lives of the Ego.
(Wm. Q. Judge, Ocean Of Theosophy, p. 83)
It is not reasonable to suppose that either God or nature projects us into a body simply to fill us with bitterness because we can have no other opportunity here, but rather we must conclude that a series of incarnations has led to the present condition, and that the process of coming here again and again must go on for the purpose of affording us the opportunity needed.
References for further reading
HPB, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, pgs. 634-647, "Cyclic Evolution & Karma"
HPB, The Key To Theosophy, Section VIII, "On Re-incarnation or Rebirth"
HPB, The Key To Theosophy, Section XI, "Mysteries Of Re-incarnation"
HPB Articles: "Our Cycle & the Next"
Wm. Q. Judge, The Ocean Of Theosophy, Ch's VIII, IX & X
Wm. Q. Judge Articles: "Argument For Reincarnation"
Wm. Q. Judge Articles: "Reincarnation In The Bible"
Wm. Q. Judge Articles: "Reincarnation Of Animals"