The concept of rebirth
by Aart Jurriaanse
For esoteric students the concept of rebirth is not an abstract belief based on theory and thus open to debate. For them it is a well-established concept which has been part of the Ancient Wisdom teaching for thousands of years, and has subsequently been verified over and over again in daily life. The principle is primarily based on the duality of man.
Once the student has accepted the premise of the immortality of the human soul, then logic, when unobstructed by dogma, will compel him to the conclusion that reincarnation is inevitable. If the composition of humanity is considered, with its races and nations, with their variety of colour and language, their physical, emotional and mental characteristics, and if in addition it is considered that there are as many characters as individuals, then some idea of its complexity can be formed.
The point to be emphasized is the disparity between individuals. Among the billions on earth there are those who die of starvation, and those who die of excess; there are those who possess nothing and do not have the wherewithal ‘to hold the body and soul together’, and those who require large organizations to administer their possessions; there are those who still live as slaves, and those who have the power to dispose over the welfare, life and death of millions; there are the mentally weak and those gifted with brilliant minds; there are those with wasting bodies, and those with radiant health. And similarly one could name many more contrasting conditions and characteristics; but finally there are those interested only in their personal well-being, in contrast with those advanced disciples whose lower vehicles are already completely subject to the behests of the soul, and characterized by spiritual love, living solely to serve their fellows.
Now if man were granted only one life on Earth, only a single opportunity to either succeed or fail, with all these individuals so unequally equipped for life’s challenges and struggles, how could such a state of affairs possibly be justified and regarded as equitable? How could one possibly believe in a God of love apparently favouring one with every conceivable advantage in life, and another nothing, no intelligence, no worldly goods, no opportunities, and no spiritual consciousness? How could two such divergent individuals be brought before the Seat of Justice and be judged on the same terms? No, impossible! No Loving Father would ever countenance such anomalies, when providing only one opportunity for redemption.
Fortunately for man, we do have a loving Father, on whose wisdom and justice we can depend. The shortcoming lies with man himself who can neither understand nor interpret that with which he is surrounded. He can only distinguish one small facet of the Truth and of a most involved system, and therefore bases his judgement on totally inadequate evidence. But where then has man failed in his reasoning? The answer and crux of the whole problem lies in the misleading and erroneous assumption that the evolution and redemption of the human soul must be completed in a single spell of life on Earth.
The inner man — the soul
The disparate condition between both individuals and races is factual, and forms part of the pattern of human existence, but once the reason for this disparity is understood, there can no longer remain any doubt about the compassionate love and justice of our Divine Father. What we observe, in races and individuals, is merely the outer expression of the stages of development attained by the many components of humanity, all of whom are in a state of constant change, evolution and adaptation. Some are still at a primitive stage, whereas others are already well advanced along the Path. Man’s main handicap is lack of discernment and understanding; his myopic vision, which is accentuated and distorted by the glamour of the astral surround in which the majority still move and live.
What should be recognised is that the personality is only the physical instrument, which is temporarily occupied by the real, immortal, inner man -the soul. The material sheath of flesh, blood and bone, is definitely mortal, and ‘dies’ at the end of the life span, when the soul, together with the essence of life, is withdrawn. The dead body then disintegrates into its constituent atoms, but the immortal soul is transferred to one of the etheric levels, depending on the spiritual development achieved. Existence will continue ‘normally’ on these higher levels, except that the soul will now be free and no longer encumbered by a limiting physical, outer covering. After a long or shorter sojourn in these subjective spheres, a growing urge will develop in the soul for further physical experience.
In the Ageless Wisdom writings repeated reference is made to the developing or unfolding soul. Strictly speaking this is incorrect. The soul is a reflection of the Monad or Spirit, and as such is a spark or minute fraction of Deity, and should therefore also be perfect. But ‘perfection’ is a relative concept, and although our Deity, the Logos of our planet Earth, is the consummation of perfection to man, even this Deity, according to the Ageless Wisdom, remains mutable and in a perpetual state of change and evolution. For this evolution ‘experience’ is needed. Towards what objective the Logos is evolving will always remain beyond human conception but, apparently, for the realisation of that purpose it is essential for the soul, as a fragment of the comprehensive Spirit, to sustain every possible experience which can be acquired through contact with dense matter. From these experiences the soul then gleans the ‘essence’, which is transmitted to the Higher Self to serve some unknown higher purpose on behalf of the Logos. All that concerns man is the fact that the soul needs these experiences, and that human bodies on Earth are required through which souls can operate.
Souls commence their age-long cycle by occupying the bodies of primitive men, and the only influence exerted on these bodies at this early stage is apparently to provide them with the self-consciousness needed to distinguish them from the animal world. For innumerable incarnations, covering hundreds of thousands or even millions of years, these periodic or cyclic reincarnations are endlessly repeated, the soul gaining its requirements for gradual unfoldment, but for a long time having no noticeable effect on its instrument. With the passing of ages, however, the soul becomes selective, choosing bodies that show some measure of development or refinement; at first the bodies are purely focused on satisfying the physical aspect of existence, but subsequently forms are evolved which gradually begin to be oriented towards emotional living. Eventually the lower mind begins to awaken, resulting in the development of the mental body. It is only with the unfoldment of the mind that the soul can begin to assert itself, but real guidance by the soul only arises when the physical, astral and mental bodies become integrated and jointly function as the ‘personality’.
The above digression may help to explain the wide diversity in type, quality, characteristics and development occurring among the billions of individuals of which mankind is composed. There is therefore no question of an unjust Father favouring certain races, communities or individuals, and penalising others; what is observed are merely stages in the kaleidoscopic range of patterns in which souls find expression. Individuals and nations are to be seen in all stages of evolution, from the most primitive to the highly evolved, each and everyone undergoing those experiences needed by the indwelling soul.
To man’s injudicious eye some of these experiences may seem unnecessarily harsh or cruel, but we can be sure that, for some reason inexplicable to the limited human mind, it is exactly what the soul needs at this specific stage. We are observing the human panorama composed of millions of individuals, each guided by its own indwelling soul, each at its own particular stage of evolutionary unfoldment, and in the process of gathering additional experience on its long, long journey back to the Father’s home. Remember also that at whatever lowly stage of development a particular instrument may at present happen to be, all are on the same path, every soul has endured or will endure, the same experiences in past, present or future lives, and eventually all will attain the same temporary destination, only to proceed again still further on the timeless evolutionary path leading into the mysterious Unknown.
Aspects of rebirth
A few aspects of rebirth perhaps deserve some further elaboration:
- Intervals between Reincarnation. Too much value should not be attached to generalisation on this subject, as wide differences occur in the rapidity with which these ‘cyclic impulses’ take place. Some souls linger for aeons on astral levels before deciding to return to the world of physical expression, while others rotate fairly rapidly. It can nevertheless be said that the little evolved as a rule circulate fairly rapidly, and do not dally long on subjective levels. As spiritual development proceeds, the length of these periodic withdrawals is increased, till much more time is spent ‘on the other side’ than in physical incarnation. However, with the path of discipleship nearing its final stages, the periods between incarnations will again begin to shorten: it is as if the soul is incited to complete its aeons of physical experience as rapidly as possible, with an urge for rounding off commitments and service obligations initiated during previous lives.
- Normally the intent to reincarnate arises within the soul itself. When this happens, the soul, assisted by a specialized group of spiritual helpers, will select suitable parents who are to give birth to the physical body which must serve the soul as its next channel of expression. These parents must be selected with care, not only as to their heritable qualities, but also with due consideration of the environment in which they are functioning. The soul is returning for specific purposes, and for their realization it is important that a form be provided with the required potentialities, as well as suitable surroundings for the needed experiences.
- Souls belong to groups, and as a rule a soul is reborn in the same period as other members of his group. The degree to which these group members will be associated during their physical life will vary. Some of these members may be born into the same family, but this is only one of many possibilities. It will also occasionally happen that all group members will reincarnate in the same period or in the same region or race. When a soul returns ‘home’ after completing an incarnation, it will usually be welcomed back by group members ‘on the other side’.
- Actually group bonds and the consequent ‘cyclic impulse’ of groups plays a far more important role than has so far been realized by the average esoteric student. Man with his typical egotistic concern, has in the past largely stressed the many personal implications of rebirth and development, not realizing the function which the group has to fulfil, or the service and sacrifice underlying group incarnation on behalf of the overall evolution of mankind. In the coming years this aspect of rebirth will receive far more consideration.
- As far as soul life is concerned gender is irrelevant, since this is essentially an attribute of physical and emotional existence. For the sake of rounding off its experiences, the soul will, however, periodically be incarnated in either male or female bodies.
For similar reasons the soul will also take birth in nations and races of all colours and qualities.
- Advanced souls who have reached the stage where they are delegated to fulfil some specific function in service of humanity, may be induced either to delay the termination of a particular incarnation, or in other instances to expedite their return. The ‘Lords of Karma’, who are mainly responsible for arranging conditions of rebirth, can therefore exert a strong influence on the trend of world affairs, by either retarding or accelerating the entry into incarnation of a suitable number of specially ‘trained’ souls to guide mankind in a required direction. It should also be remembered that advanced souls are no longer prompted to incarnate by a desire for achieving perfection — with them the incentive is an urge to sacrifice, and a will to serve and to contribute their share towards realizing the divine Plan.
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