THEOSOPHY, Vol. 49, No. 8, June, 1961
(Pages 350-352; Size: 10K)

QUESTION--AND COMMENT

[Article number (9) in this Department]

LOOKOUT during recent years has often called attention to increasing interest in reincarnation on the part of writers and scholars. In addition, it has been made apparent that speculation on the possibility of reincarnation is not foreign to a number of churchmen. Also, journals devoted to the results of ESP investigations occasionally carry references to the plausibility of the reincarnation hypothesis. If we put all these "trends" together, it is conceivable that reincarnation might come to be considered, or believed in, by the majority before another quarter of a century has passed. Should this actually happen at any future time, it might be well to speculate: What particular points would Theosophists feel it necessary to emphasize, since at present most theosophic promulgation centers on explanation of the logic and necessity of reincarnation? [Note: The first word above refers to the "On the Lookout" department in THEOSOPHY magazine.--Compiler]

This question is certainly quite provocative, since the present "trends" mentioned do not reflect such distortions of reincarnation as were pointed out by H. P. Blavatsky in discussing the "transmigration" corruptions of various Eastern doctrines. While the disciples of such men as Emmet Fox and the followers of the Unity sect do manage to somehow combine the conception of a personal God with belief in reincarnation, the general advance spoken of focuses more upon a scientific, non-religious approach. This latter development has been amply illustrated in recent months by psychiatrist Ian Stevenson and by philosopher C. J. Ducasse. Dr. Stevenson, in contributing the prize-winning essay of a contest in honor of William James for the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, characterizes the nature of his own appeal by calling for "a much more extensive and more sympathetic study of this hypothesis than it has hitherto received in the West." (Comment on this article may be found in Lookout for April.) Dr. Ducasse's most recent work, The Belief in a Life after Death (Charles C. Thomas, 1961), devotes a full hundred pages to such a "sympathetic study." Both Stevenson and Ducasse, however, while inclining to reincarnation as a philosophical hypothesis, favor further experiments in hypno-regression as the means of eliciting the interest of other scholars and researchers who tend to require a presentation of experimental data.

One might say that H.P.B. defines the Theosophist as one who senses and studies the interrelation of three basic realities -- the identity of all beings in spiritual essence, the universality of the law of periodic opportunity, and the movement of all grades of being in a progressive pilgrimage toward a higher life. In her statement of the Third Proposition, Madame Blavatsky identifies the "pivotal doctrine of the esoteric philosophy" as the acquirement of individuality. And, indeed, in contrast to both the transmigration errors of some traditional Eastern thought and the experimental approach of contemporary Westerners, it is the exploration of the Theosophical concept of acquiring individuality through evolution which emerges as the most important. Eastern religions were essentially pantheistic, and at the same time emphasized karma and reincarnation. But the "pivotal doctrine" of continual growth through endless experience was missing -- an illustration of the First and Second Propositions of H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine tragically left without the synthesizing implications of the Third Proposition. The result was clearly a tendency to consider reincarnation as a contemporary necessity, rather than as a means for the fulfillment of life -- a succession of "trials" preceding an ultimate emancipation from rebirth.

Here we note, incidentally, a clash between Eastern and Western "temperaments," for the Westerner tends to think in terms of continual growth under whatever conditions are available, and has not been interested in reincarnation conceived as but a prelude to a final Nirvana or absorption in the Absolute. It is the Third Proposition of The Secret Doctrine, then -- however phrased or formulated -- which alone can afford a synthesis of these two points of view. Meanwhile, the concept of the permanent Ego -- Plato's "self-moving unit" -- will emerge with greater clarity as the concept of a personal deity recedes farther and farther into the Christian past.

The Theosophical philosophy, then, ideally and also historically, acts as the great synthesizer. Any partial approach to reincarnation, whether it be that which envisions a final end of the necessity for rebirth, or an approach limited to "factual evidence" for rebirth, will need a rounding out in terms of a broader perspective. If most thinking persons become "believers" in reincarnation, amplification of reincarnation-philosophy will still be needed. In calling attention to the synthesis afforded by H.P.B.'s Three Propositions, however, the Theosophical student will find that any appearance of doctrinaire assertiveness will only becloud each issue. In this case, as in all other cases, suggestion is both more provocative and more persuasive. There will be need in plenty, one may well think, for Theosophical writers and speakers who can distinguish between these two, and know why the distinction needs always to be made.

Finally, too, there are those, H.P.B. said, who need to refresh their own intuitive feeling that there must somewhere be true knowledge concerning the nature and destiny of man. Philosophical agnosticism is playing a significant role in leading in the direction of reincarnation, but encouragement toward belief in the existence of a gnosis is also part of the work of the Theosophical Movement. When the two points of view are blended, we have, indeed, theo-sophia. The hidden or occult side of a general progress towards consideration of reincarnation is indicated by the following passages from H. P. Blavatsky's writings:

Many may be the men and women in the very midst of our society who have begun this uphill work toward illumination several incarnations ago, and who yet, owing to the personal illusions of the present life, are either ignorant of the fact, or on the road to losing every chance in this existence of progressing any further. They feel an irresistible attraction toward occultism and the Higher Life, and yet are too personal and self-opinionated, too much in love with the deceptive allurements of mundane life and the world's ephemeral pleasures, to give them up; and so lose their chance in their present birth. Yet the Monad of every living being, unless his moral turpitude breaks the connection and runs loose and "astray into the lunar path" -- to use the Occult expression -- is a kind of spiritual individuality of its own....

If, somewhere, in the line of ascent from vegetable or ascidian to the noblest man a soul was evolved, gifted with intellectual qualities, it cannot be unreasonable to infer and believe that a faculty of perception is also growing in man, enabling him to descry facts and truths even beyond our ordinary ken. (Fundamentals of Theosophy, p. 21.)


COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:

All ethics -- whether descriptive or normative -- is nonsensical if combined with a belief in the ultimate destruction of all individual identities. 


HANS CHRISTIAN SANDBECK

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