Isis and Reincarnation
Dec 30, 2004 05:05 AM
by W.Dallas TenBroeck
Dec 30 2004
Here are two more articles by HPB on the subject
Isis and Reincarnation
"ISIS UNVEILED" AND THE "THEOSOPHIST" ON REINCARNATION
H. P. Blavatsky
IN LIGHT (July 8) C.C.M. quotes from the THEOSOPHIST (June 1882) a sentence
which appeared in the Editor's Note at the foot of an article headed
Then, turning to the review of "The Perfect Way" in the same number, he
quotes at length from "an authoritative teaching of the later period," as he
adds rather sarcastically. Then, again, a long paragraph from Isis. The
three quotations and the remarks of our friend run thus:
"There never was, nor can there be, any radical discrepancy between the
teachings in 'Isis' ('Isis Unveiled') and those of this later period, as
both proceed from one and the same source--the ADEPT BROTHERS. (Editor's
Note in Seeming Discrepancies.")
Having drawn the attention of his readers to the above assertion C.C.M.
proceeds to show--as he thinks--its fallacy:
"To begin with, re-Incarnation--if other worlds besides this are taken into
account--is the regular routine of nature. But re-Incarnation in the next
higher objective world is one thing; re-Incarnation on this earth is
another. Even that takes place over and over again till the highest
condition of humanity, as known on this earth, is attained, but not
afterwards, and here is the clue to the mystery.... But once let a man be as
far perfected by successive re-incarnations as the present race will permit,
and then his next re-incarnation will be among the early growths of the next
higher world, where the earliest growths are far higher than the highest
here. The ghastly mistake that the modern re-lncarnationists make is in
supposing that there can be a return on this earth to lower bodily
forms";--not, therefore, that man is re-incarnated as man again and again
upon this earth, for that is laid down as truth in the above cited passages
in the most positive and explicit form." (Review of T.P.W. in the
And now for "Isis": [ I 351-2 ]
"We will now present a few fragments of this mysterious doctrine of
re-Incarnation--as distinct from metempsychosis--which we have from an
authority. Re-Incarnation, i.e., the appearance of the same individual--or
rather, of his astral monad--twice on the same planet is not a rule in
nature; it is an exception, like the teratological phenomenon of a
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 has 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.
If reason has been so far developed as to become active and discriminative,
there is no re-incarnation on, this earth, for the three parts of the triune
man have been united together, and he is capable of running the race. But
when the new being has not passed beyond the condition of monad, or when, as
in the idiot, the trinity has not been completed, the immortal spark which
illuminates it has to re-enter on the earthly planet, as it was frustrated
in its first attempt. . . . Further, the same occult doctrine recognizes
another possibility, albeit so rare and so vague that it is really useless
to mention it. Even the modern Occidental Occultists deny it, though it is
universally accepted in Eastern countries." . . .
This is the occasional return of the terribly depraved human Spirits which
have fallen to the eighth sphere--it is unnecessary to quote the passage at
length. Exclusive of that rare and doubtful possibility, then "Isis"--I have
quoted from volume I, pp. 351-2--allows only three cases--abortion, very
early death, and idiocy--in which re-Incarnation on this earth occurs.
I am a long-suffering student of the mysteries, more apt to accuse my own
stupidity than to make "seeming discrepancies" an occasion for scoffing. But
after all, two and three will not make just four; black is not white, nor,
in reference to plain and definite statements, is "Yes" equivalent to "No."
If there is one thing which I ardently desire to be taught, it is the truth
about this same question of re-Incarnation. I hope I am not, as a dutiful
Theosophist, expected to reconcile the statement of "Isis" with that of this
authoritative Reviewer. But there is one consolation. The accomplished
authoress of "Isis" cannot have totally forgotten the teaching on this
subject therein contained. She, therefore, certainly did not dictate the
statements of the Reviewer. If I may conjecture that Koot Hoomi stands close
behind the latter, then assuredly Koot Hoomi is not, as has been maliciously
suggested, an alias for Madame Blavatsky.
We hope not--for Koot Hoomi's sake. Mme. B. would become too vain and too
proud, could she but dream of such an honour. But how true the remark of the
French classic: La critique est aisée, mais l'art est difficile [Criticism
is easy, Art is difficult] --though we feel more inclined to hang our
diminished head in sincere sorrow and exclaim: Et tu Brute!--than to quote
old truisms. Only, where that (even) "seeming discrepancy" is to be found
between the two passages--except by those who are entirely ignorant of the
occult doctrine--will be certainly a mystery to every Eastern Occultist who
reads the above and who studies at the same school as the reviewer of "The
Nevertheless the latter is chosen as the weapon to break our head with. It
is sufficient to read No. 1 of the Fragments of Occult Truth, and ponder
over the septenary constitution of man into which the triple human entity is
divided by the occultists, to perceive that the "astral" monad is not the
"Spiritual" monad and vice versa.
That there is no discrepancy whatsoever between the two statements, may be
easily shown, and we hope will be shown, by our friend the "reviewer." The
most that can be said of the passage quoted from Isis is, that it is
incomplete, chaotic, vague, perhaps--clumsy, as 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. Therefore, in the face of
the statement from the very correct and excellent review of "The Perfect
Way"--we say again that "Reincarnation, i.e., the appearance of the same
individual--or rather, of his astral monad (or the personality as claimed by
the modern Reincarnationists)--twice on the same planet is not a rule in
nature "and that it is an exception."
Let us try once more to explain our meaning. The reviewer speaks of the
"Spiritual Individuality" or the Immortal Monad as it is called, i.e. the
7th and 6th [ATMA & BUDDHI] Principles in the Fragments. In Isis we refer to
the personality or the Finite astral monad, a compound of imponderable
elements composed of the 5th and 4th [MANAS & KAMA] principles.
The former as an emanation of the ONE absolute is indestructible; the latter
as an elementary compound is finite and doomed sooner or later to
destruction with the exception of the more spiritualized portions of the 5th
principle (the Manas or mind) which are assimilated by the 6th principle
[BUDDHI] when it follows the 7th [ATMA] to its "gestation state" to be
reborn or not reborn, as the case may be, in the Arupa Loka (the Formless
World). The seven principles, forming, so to say, a triad and a Quaternary,
or, as some have it a "Compound Trinity" subdivided into a triad and two
duads may be better understood in the following groups of Principles :
And now we ask,--where is the "discrepancy" or contradiction? Whether man
was good, bad, or indifferent, Group II has to become either a "shell," or
to be once or several times more reincarnated under "exceptional
There is a mighty difference in our Occult doctrine between an impersonal
Individuality, and an individual Personality. C.C.M. will not be
reincarnated; nor will he be in his next re-birth C.C.M., but quite a new
being, born of the thoughts and deeds of C.C.M.: his own creation, the child
and fruit of his present life, the effect of the causes he is now producing.
Shall we say then with the Spiritists that C.C.M., the man, we know, will be
re-born again? No; but that his divine Monad will be clothed thousands of
times yet before the end of the Grand Cycle, in various human forms, every
one of them a new personality.
Like a mighty tree that clothes itself every spring with a new foliage, to
see it wither and die towards autumn, so the eternal Monad prevails through
the series of smaller cycles, ever the same, yet ever changing and putting
on, at each birth, a new garment. The bud, that failed to open one year,
will re-appear in the next; the leaf that reached its maturity and died a
natural death--can never be re-born on the same tree again. While writing
Isis, we were not permitted to enter into details; hence--the vague
generalities. We are told to do so now--and we do as we are commanded.
And thus, it seems, after all, that "two and three" will "make just four,"
if the "three" was only mistaken for that number. And, we have heard of
cases when that, which was universally regarded and denounced as something
very "black"--shockingly so--suddenly re-became "white," as soon as an
additional light was permitted to shine upon it. Well, the day may yet come
when even the much misunderstood occultists will appear in such a light.
Vaut mieux tard que jamais! [Better late than never.]
Meanwhile we will wait and see whether C.C.M. will quote again from our
present answer--in Light.
Theosophist, August, 1882
H. P. Blavatsky
TO THE EDITOR OF THE "THEOSOPHIST"
I have lately been engaged in devoting a few evenings' study to your
admirable article, "FRAGMENTS OF OCCULT TRUTH," which deserves far more
attention than a mere casual reading. It is therein stated that the
translated Ego cannot span the abyss separating its state from ours, or that
it cannot descend into our atmosphere and reach us; that it attracts but
cannot be attracted, or, in short, that no departed SPIRIT can visit us.
In Vol. I., page 67, of "Isis," I find it said that many of the spirits,
subjectively controlling mediums, are human disembodied spirits, that their
being benevolent or wicked in quality largely depends upon the medium's
private morality, that "they cannot materialise, but only project their
ætherial reflections on the atmospheric waves."
On page 69:
"Not every one can attract human spirits, who likes. One of the most
powerful attractions of our departed ones is their strong affection for
those whom they have left on earth. It draws them irresistibly, by degrees,
into the current of the astral light vibrating between the person
sympathetic to them and the universal soul."
On page 325:
"Sometimes, but rarely, the planetary spirits . . . produce them (subjective
manifestations); sometimes the spirits of our translated and beloved
>From the foregoing it would appear as if both teachings were not uniform,
but it may be that souls, instead of spirits, are implied, or that I have
misunderstood the meaning.
Such difficult subjects are rather puzzling to Western students, especially
to one who, like myself, is a mere tyro, though always grateful to receive
knowledge from those who are in a position to impart such.
9th January, 1882
EDITOR'S NOTE.--It is to be feared that our valued Brother has both
misunderstood our meaning in "Isis" and that of the "Fragments of Occult
Truth." Read in their correct sense, the statements in the latter do not
offer the slightest discrepancy with the passages quoted from "Isis," but
both teachings are uniform.
Our "Caledonian" Brother believes that, because it is stated in "Isis," that
"many, among those who control the medium subjectively, are human
disembodied spirits," and in the "Fragments," in the words of our critic,
that "the Ego cannot span the abyss separating its state from ours . . .
cannot descend into our atmosphere, . . . or, in short, that no departed
SPIRIT can visit us"--there is a contradiction between the two teachings?
We answer--"None at all." We reiterate both statements, and will defend the
proposition. Throughout "Isis"--although an attempt was made in the
Introductory Chapter to show the great difference that exists between the
terms "soul" and "spirit"--one the reliqui of the personal EGO, the other
the pure essence of the spiritual INDIVIDUALITY--the term "spirit" had to be
often used in the sense given to it by the Spiritualists, as well as other
similar conventional terms, as, otherwise, a still greater confusion would
have been caused. Therefore, the meaning of the three sentences, cited by
our friend, should be thus understood:
On page 67 [Isis I ] wherein it is stated that many of the spirits,
subjectively controlling mediums, are human disembodied spirits," &c., the
word "controlling" must not be understood in the sense of a "spirit"
possessing himself of the organism of a medium; nor that, in each case, it
is a "spirit"; for often it is but a shell in its preliminary stage of
dissolution, when most of the physical intelligence and faculties are yet
fresh and have not begun to disintegrate, or fade out.
A "spirit," or the spiritual Ego, cannot descend to the medium, but it can
attract the spirit of the latter to itself, and it can do this only during
the two intervals--before and after its "gestation period." Interval the
first is that period between the physical death and the merging of the
spiritual Ego into that state which is known in the Arhat esoteric doctrine
as "BAR-DO." We have translated this as the "gestation" period, and it lasts
from a few days to several years, according to the evidence of the adepts.
Interval the second, lasts so long as the merits of the old Ego entitle the
being to reap the fruit of its reward in its new regenerated Ego-ship. It
occurs after the gestation period is over, and the new spiritual Ego is
reborn--like the fabled Phnix from its ashes--from the old one. The
locality, which the former inhabits, is called by the northern Buddhist
Occultists "DEVA-CHAN," the word answering, perhaps, to Paradise or the
Kingdom of Heaven of the Christian elect.
Having enjoyed a time of bliss, proportionate to his deserts, the new
personal Ego gets re-incarnated into a personality when the remembrance of
his previous Egoship, of course, fades out, and he can "communicate" no
longer with his fellowmen on the planet he has left forever, as the
individual he was there known to be.
After numberless re-incarnations, and on numerous planets and in various
spheres, a time will come, at the end of the Maha-Yug or great cycle, when
each individuality will have become so spiritualised that, before its final
absorption into the One All, its series of past personal existences will
marshal themselves before him in a retrospective order like the many days of
some one period of a man's existence.
The words--"their being benevolent or wicked in quality largely depends upon
the medium's private morality"--which conclude the first quoted sentence
mean simply this: a pure medium's Ego can be drawn to and made, for an
instant, to unite in a magnetic (?) relation with a real disembodied spirit,
whereas the soul of an impure medium can only confabulate with the astral
soul, or "shell," of the deceased. The former possibility explains those
extremely rare cases of direct writing in recognized autographs, and of
messages from the higher class of disembodied intelligences.
We should say then that the personal morality of the medium would be a fair
test of the genuineness of the manifestation. As quoted by our friend,
"affection to those whom they have left on earth" is "one of the most
powerful attractions" between two loving spirits--the embodied and the
Whence the idea, then, that the two teachings are "not uniform"? We may well
be taxed with too loose and careless a mode of expression, with a misuse of
the foreign language in which we write, with leaving too much unsaid and
depending unwarrantably upon the imperfectly developed intuition of the
reader. But there never was, nor can there be, any radical discrepancy
between the teachings in "Isis" and those of this later period, as both
proceed from one and the same source--the ADEPT BROTHERS.
Theosophist, June, 1882
ISIS UNVEILED AND THE VISHISHTADWAITA
SIR,--"R. P." attempts in the October number of our Magazine to prove that I
have taught in Isis Unveiled substantially the doctrine of Visishtadwaita,
to which view I take exception.
I am quite aware of the fact that Isis is far from being as complete a work
as, with the same materials, it might have been made by a better scholar;
and that it lacks symmetry, as a literary production, and perhaps here and
there accuracy. But I have some excuse for all that. It was my first book;
it was written in a language foreign to me--in which I had not been
accustomed to write; the language was even more unfamiliar to certain
Asiatic philosophers who rendered assistance; and, finally, Colonel Olcott,
who revised the manuscript and worked with me throughout, was then--in the
years 1875 and 1876--almost entirely ignorant of Aryan Philosophy, and hence
unable to detect and correct such errors as I might so readily fall into
when putting my thoughts into English. Still, despite all this, I think "R.
P.'s" criticism is faulty.
If I erred in making too little distinction between an Impersonal God, or
Parabrahm, and a Personal God, I scarcely went to the length of confounding
the one with the other completely. The pages (vol. ii. 216-17; and 153; and
pref. p. 2) that he relies upon, represent not my own doctrine but the
ideas of others.
The first two are quotations from Manu, and show what an educated Brahman
and a Buddhist might answer to Prof. Max Müller's affirmation that Moksha
and Nirvana mean annihilation; while the third (vol. ii. p. 153) is a
defense and explanation of the inner sense of the Bible, as from a Christian
mystic's standpoint. Of course this would resemble Visishtadwaitism, which,
like Christianity, ascribes personal attributes to the Universal Principle.
As for the reference to the Preface, it seems that even when read in the
dead-letter sense, the paragraph could only be said to reflect my personal
opinion and not the Esoteric Doctrine.
A sceptic in my early life, I had sought and obtained through the Masters
the full assurance of the existence of a principle (not Personal God)--"a
boundless and fathomless ocean" of which my "soul" was a drop.
Like the Adwaitis, I made no difference between my Seventh Principle[ATMA]
and the Universal Spirit, or Parabrahm; nor did, or do I believe in an
individual, segregated spirit in me, as a something apart from the whole.
And see, for proof, my remark about the "omnipotence of man's immortal
spirit"--which would be a logical absurdity upon any theory of egoistic
My mistake was that throughout the whole work I indifferently employed the
words Parabrahm and God to express the same idea: a venial sin surely, when
one knows that the English language is so poor that even at this moment I am
using the Sanskrit word to express one idea and the English one for the
Whether it be orthodox Adwaita or not, I maintain as an occultist, on the
authority of the Secret Doctrine, that though merged entirely into
Parabrahm, man's spirit while not individual per se, yet preserves its
distinct individuality in Paranirvana, owing to the accumulation in it of
the aggregates, or skandhas that have survived after each death, from the
highest faculties of the Manas.
The most spiritual--i.e., the highest and divinest aspirations of every
personality follow Buddhi and the Seventh Principle [ATMA] into Devachan
(Swarga) after the death of each personality along the line of rebirths, and
become part and parcel of the Monad [ATMA-BUDDHI].
The personality fades out, disappearing before the occurrence of the
evolution of the new personality (rebirth) out of Devachan:
but the individuality of the spirit-soul [dear, dear, what can be made out
of this English!] is preserved to the end of the great cycle
(Maha-Manwantara) when each Ego enters Paranirvana, or is merged in
To our talpatic, or mole-like comprehension, the human spirit is then lost
in the One Spirit, as the drop of water thrown into the sea can no longer be
traced out and recovered. But de facto it is not so in the world of
immaterial thought. This latter stands in relation to the human dynamic
thought, as, say, the visual power through the strongest conceivable
microscope would to the sight of a half-blind man: and yet even this is a
most insufficient simile--the difference is "inexpressible in terms of
That such Parabrahmic and Paranirvanic "spirits," or units, have and must
preserve their divine (not human) individualities, is shown in the fact
that, however long the "night of Brahma" or even the Universal Pralaya (not
the local Pralaya affecting some one group of worlds) yet, when it ends, the
same individual Divine Monad resumes its majestic path of evolution, though
on a higher, hundredfold perfected and more pure chain of earths than
before, and brings with it all the essence of compound spiritualities from
its previous countless rebirths.
Spiral evolution, it must be remembered, is dual, and the path of
spirituality turns, corkscrew-like, within and around physical,
semi-physical, and supra-physical evolution. But I am being tempted into
details which had best be left for the full consideration which their
importance merits to my forthcoming work, the Secret Doctrine.
H. P. BLAVATSKY
Theosophist, January, 1886
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