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.)
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
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.)
(1) There is no immediate reincarnation on Earth for the Monad, as falsely taught by the
Reincarnationist Spiritists; nor is there any second incarnation at all for the "personal" or false Ego – the
perisprit – save the exceptional cases mentioned. But that (a) there are rebirths, or periodical reincarnations for the
immortal Ego – ("Ego" during the cycle of re-births, and non-Ego, in Nirvana or Moksha when it becomes impersonal and
absolute); for that Ego is the root of every new incarnation, the string on which are threaded, one after the other, the false
personalities or illusive bodies called men, in which the Monad-Ego incarnates itself during the cycle of births; and (b) that such
reincarnations take place not before 1,500, 2,000 and even 3,000 years of Devachanic life.
(2) That Manas – the seat of Jiv, that spark which runs the round of the cycle of birth
and rebirths with the Monad from the beginning to the end of a Manvantara – is the real Ego. That (a) the Jiv follows
the divine monad that gives it spiritual life and immortality into Devachan – that therefore, it can neither be reborn before its appointed
period, nor reappear on Earth visibly or invisibly in the interim; and (b) that, unless the fruition, the
spiritual aroma of the Manas, or all these highest aspirations and spiritual qualities and attributes that constitute the higher SELF of man become united to its monad, the latter becomes as Non existent; since it is in esse
"impersonal" and per se Ego-less, so to say, and gets its spiritual colouring or flavour of Ego-tism only from each
Manas during incarnation and after it is disembodied, and separated from all its lower principles.
Therefore the reincarnating* principles are left behind in Kama-loka,
firstly as a material residue, then later on as a reflection on the mirror of Astral light. Endowed with illusive action, to the day
when having gradually faded out they disappear, what is it but the Greek Eidolon and the simulacrum of the Greek and Latin
poets and classics?
What reward or punishment can there be in that sphere of disembodied human entities for a fútus
or a human embryo which had not even time to breathe on this earth, still less an opportunity to exercise the divine faculties of its spirit?
Or, for an irresponsible infant, whose senseless monad remaining dormant within the astral and physical casket, could as little prevent him
from burning himself as any other person to death? Or again for one idiotic from birth, the number of whose cerebral circumvolutions is only
from twenty to thirty per cent of those of sane persons, and who therefore is irresponsible for either his disposition, acts, or for the
imperfections of his vagrant, half developed intellect. (Isis I, 352.)
These are, then, the "exceptions" spoken of in Isis, and the doctrine is maintained now
as it was then. Moreover, there is no "discrepancy" but only incompleteness – hence, misconceptions arising from later
teachings. Then again, there are several important mistakes in Isis which, as the plates of the work had been stereotyped, were
not corrected in subsequent editions.
One of such is on page 346, and another in connection with it and as a sequence on page 347.
The philosophy teaches that nature never leaves her work unfinished; if baffled at the first
attempt, she tries again. When she evolves a human embryo the intention is that a man shall be perfected – physically, intellectually, and
spiritually. His body is to grow, mature, wear out, and die; his mind unfold, ripen, and be harmoniously balanced; his divine spirit illuminate
and blend easily with the inner man. No human being completes its grand cycle, or the "circle of necessity," until all these are
accomplished. As the laggards in a race struggle and plod in their first quarter while the victor darts past the goal, so, in the race of
immortality, some souls outspeed all the rest and reach the end, while their myriad competitors are toiling under the load of matter, close to
the starting point. Some unfortunates fall out entirely and lose all chance of the prize; some retrace their steps and begin again.
Clear enough this, one should say. Nature baffled tries again. No one can pass out of this world
(our earth) without becoming perfected "physically, morally, and spiritually." How can this be done, unless there
isa series of rebirths required for the necessary perfection in each department – to evolute in the "circle of
necessity," can surely never be found in one human life? and yet this sentence is followed without any break by the following parenthetical
statement: "This is what the Hindu dreads above all things – transmigration and reincarnation; only on other and inferior
planets, never on this one!!!"
The last "sentence" is a fatal mistake and one to which the writer pleads "not
guilty." It is evidently the blunder of some "reader" who had no idea of Hindu philosophy and who was led into a subsequent
mistake on the next page, wherein the unfortunate word "planet" is put for cycle. Isis was hardly, if ever, looked into after
its publication by its writer, who had other work to do; otherwise there would have been an apology and a page pointing to the errata
and the sentence made to run: "The Hindu dreads transmigration in other inferior forms, on this planet."
This would have dove-tailed with the preceding sentence, and would show a fact, as the Hindu
exoteric views allow him to believe and fear the possibility of reincarnation – human and animal in turn by jumps, from man to beast and
even a plant – and vice versa; whereas esoteric philosophy teaches that nature never proceeding backward in her evolutionary
progress, once that man has evoluted from every kind of lower forms – the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms – into the human form, he can
never become an animal except morally, hence – metaphorically. Human incarnation is a cyclic necessity, and law; and no Hindu dreads it
– however much he may deplore the necessity. And this law and the periodical recurrence of man's rebirth is shown on the same page (346) and in
the same unbroken paragraph, where it is closed by saying that:
This ought to settle the question and show there must have been some carelessly unnoticed mistake, and if
this is not sufficient, there is something else to demonstrate it, for it is further on:
Thus, like the revolutions of a wheel, there is a regular succession of death and birth, the
moral cause of which is the cleaving to existing objects, while the instrumental cause is Karma (the power which controls the
universe, prompting it to activity), merit and demerit. It is therefore the greatest desire of all beings who would be released from the
sorrows of successive birth, to seek the destruction of the moral cause, the cleaving to existing objects, or evil desire.
They in whom evil desire is entirely destroyed are called Arhats. Freedom from evil desire
insures the possession of a miraculous power. At his death the Arhat is never reincarnated; he invariably attains nirvana – a word, by
the by, falsely interpreted by the Christian scholar and skeptical commentators. Nirvana is the world of cause, in which all deceptive
effects or delusions of our senses disappear. Nirvana is the highest attainable sphere. The pitris (the pre-Adamic spirits) are
considered as reincarnated by the Buddhistic philosopher, though in a degree far superior to that of the man of earth. Do they not die in their
turn? Do not their astral bodies suffer and rejoice, and feel the same curse of illusionary feelings as when embodied?
And just after this we are again made to say of Buddha and his: Doctrine of "Merit and Demerit,"
But this former life believed in by the Buddhists, is not a life on this planet for,
more than any other people, the Buddhistical philosopher appreciated the great doctrine of cycles.
Correct "life on this planet" by "life in the same cycle," and you will have
the correct reading: for what would have appreciation of "the great doctrine of cycles" to do with Buddha's philosophy, had the great
sage believed but in one short life on this Earth and in the same cycle. But to return to the real theory of reincarnation as in the esoteric
teaching and its unlucky rendering in Isis.
Thus, what was really meant therein, was that, the principle which does not reincarnate – save the
exceptions pointed out – is the false personality, the illusive human Entity defined and individualized during this short life of ours,
under some specific form and name; but that which does and has to reincarnate nolens volens under the unflinching, stern rule
of Karmic law – is the real EGO. This confusing of the real immortal Ego in man, with the false and ephemeral
personalities it inhabits during its Manvantaric progress, lies at the root of every such misunderstanding. Now what is the one, and
what is the other? The first group is –
1. The immortal Spirit – sexless, formless (arupa), an emanation from the One universal BREATH.
2. Its Vehicle – the divine Soul – called the "Immortal Ego," the "Divine
monad," etc., etc., which by accretions from Manas in which burns the ever existing Jiv – the undying spark – adds to
itself at the close of each incarnation the essence of that individuality that was, the aroma of the culled flower that is no more.
All that bundle of Egotism, that apparent and evanescent "I" disappears after
death, as the costume of the part he played disappears from the actor's body, after he leaves the theatre and goes to bed. That actor re-becomes
at once the same "John Smith" or Gray, he was from his birth and is no longer the Othello or Hamlet that he had represented for a few
hours. Nothing remains now of that "bundle" to go to the next incarnation, except the seed for future Karma that
Manas may have united to its immortal group, to form with it – the disembodied Higher Self in "Devachan." As to the
four lower principles, that which becomes of them is found in most classics, from which we mean to quote at length for our defense. The doctrine
of the perisprit, the "false personality," or the remains of the deceased under their astral form – fading out to disappear in
time, is terribly distasteful to the spiritualists, who insist upon confusing the temporary with the immortal EGO.
Unfortunately for them and happily for us, it is not the modern Occultists who have invented the doctrine.
They are on their defense. And they prove what they say, i.e., that no "personality" has ever yet been
"reincarnated" "on the same planet" (our earth, this once there is no mistake) save in the three
exceptional cases above cited. Adding to these a fourth case, which is the deliberate, conscious act of adeptship; and that such an
astral body belongs neither to the body nor the soul still less to the immortal spirit of man, the following is brought forward
and proofs cited.
Before one brings out on the strength of undeniable manifestations, theories as to what produces
them and claims at once on prima facie evidence that it is the spirits of the departed mortals that revisit us, it behooves one
to first study what antiquity has declared upon the subject. Ghosts and apparitions, materialized and semi-material "SPIRITS" have not originated with Allan Kardec, nor at Rochester. If those beings whose invariable habit it is to give
themselves out for souls and the phantoms of the dead, choose to do so and succeed, it is only because the cautious philosophy of old is
now replaced by an a priori conceit, and unproven assumptions. The first question is to be settled – "Have spirits any kind of
substance to clothe themselves with?" Answer: That which is now called perisprit in France, and a "materialized
Form" in England and America, was called in days of old peri-psyche, and peri-nous, hence was well known to the old
Greeks. Have they a body whether gaseous, fluidic, etherial, material or semi-material? No; we say this on the authority of the occult
teachings the world over. For with the Hindus atma or spirit is Arupa, bodiless, and with the Greeks also. Even in the Roman
Catholic Church the angels of Light as those of Darkness are absolutely incorporeal: "meri spiritus, omnes corporis expertes,"
and in the words of The Secret Doctrine, primordial. Emanations of the undifferentiated Principle, the Dhyan Chohans of the ONE (First) category or pure Spiritual Essence, are formed of the Spirit of the one Element; the second category,
of the second Emanation of the Soul of the Elements; the third have a "mind body" to which they are not subject, but that they
can assume and govern as a body, subject to them, pliant to their will in form and substance. Parting from this (third) category, they
(the spirits, angels, Devas or Dhyan Chohans) have BODIES, the first rupa group of which is composed of one
element Ether; the second, of two – ether and fire; the third, of three – Ether, fire and water; the fourth, of four – Ether, air, fire
and water. Then comes man, who, besides the four elements, has the fifth that predominates in him – Earth: therefore he suffers. Of the Angels,
as said by St. Augustine and Peter Lombard, "their bodies are made to act, not to suffer. It is earth and water, humor et
humus, that gives an aptitude for suffering and passivity, ad patientiam, and Ether and Fire for action."
The spirits or human monads, belonging to the first, or undifferentiated essence, are thus incorporeal; but their third principle (or
the human Fifth – Manas) can in conjunction with its vehicle become Kama rupa and Mayavi rupa – body of desire or
"illusion body." After death, the best, noblest, purest qualities of Manas or the human soul ascending along with the
divine Monad into Devachan whence no one emerges from or returns, except at the time of reincarnation – what is that then which appears under the double mask of the spiritual Ego or soul of the departed individual? The Kama rupa element with
the help of elementals. For we are taught that those spiritual beings that can assume a form at will and appear, i.e., make
themselves objective and even tangible – are the angels alone (the Dhyan Chohans) and the nirmanakaya10 of the
adepts, whose spirits are clothed in sublime matter. The astral bodies – the remnants and dregs of a mortal being which has
been disembodied, when they do appear, are not the individuals they claim to be, but only their simulachres. And such was the belief of the whole
of antiquity, from Homer to Swedenborg; from the third race down to our own day.
More than one devoted spiritualist has hitherto quoted Paul as corroborating his claim that spirits do and
can appear. "There is a natural and there is a spiritual body," etc., etc., (I Cor. xv:44); but one has only to study closer the verses
preceding and following the one quoted, to perceive that what St. Paul meant was quite different from the sense claimed for it. Surely there is a
spiritual body, but it is not identical with the astral form contained in the "natural" man. The
"spiritual" is formed only by our individuality unclothed and transformed after death; for the apostle takes care to
explain in Verses 51 and 52, "Immut abimur sed non omnes." Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all
sleep but we shall all be changed. This corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality.
But this is no proof except for the Christians. Let us see what the old Egyptians and the Neo-Platonists –
both "theurgists" par excellence, thought on the subject: They divided man into three principal groups subdivided into
principles as we do: pure immortal spirit; the "Spectral Soul" (a luminous phantom) and the gross material body. Apart from
the latter, which was considered as the terrestrial shell, these groups were divided into six principles; (1) Kha "vital
body"; (2) Khaba "astral form," or shadow; (3) Khou "animal soul"; (4) Akh "terrestrial
intelligence"; (5) Sa "the divine soul" (or Buddhi); and (6) Sah or mummy, the functions of which began
after death. Osiris was the highest uncreated spirit, for it was, in one sense, a generic name, every man becoming after his translation
Osirified, i.e., absorbed into Osiris-Sun or into the glorious divine state. It was Khou, with the lower portions of
Akh or Kama rupa with the addition of the dregs of Manas remaining all behind in the astral light of our atmosphere –
that formed the counterparts of the terrible and so much dreaded bhoots of the Hindus (our "elementaries"). This is seen in the rendering made of the so-called "Harris Papyrus on magic" (papyrus magique, translated by
Chabas) who calls them Kouey or Khou, and explains that according to the hieroglyphics they were called Khou or the
"revivified dead," the "resurrected shadows." 11
When it was said of a person that he "had a Khou" it meant that he was possessed by a
"Spirit." There were two kinds of Khous – the justified ones – who after living for a short time a second life (nam
onh) faded out, disappeared; and those Khous who were condemned to wandering without rest in darkness after dying for a second
time – mut, em, nam – and who were called the H'ou – métre ("second time dead") which did not prevent them from
clinging to a vicarious life after the manner of Vampires. How dreaded they were is explained in our Appendices on Egyptian Magic and
"Chinese Spirits" (Secret Doctrine). They were exorcised by Egyptian priests as the evil spirit is exorcised by the Roman
Catholic curé; or again the Chinese houen, identical with the Khou and the "Elementary," as also with
the lares or larvæ – a word derived from the former by Festus, the grammarian; who explains that they were
"the shadows of the dead who gave no rest in the house they were in either to the Masters or the servants." These creatures
when evoked during theurgic, and especially necromantic rites, were regarded, and are so regarded still, in China – as neither the
Spirit, Soul nor anything belonging to the deceased personality they represented, but simply, as his reflection – simulacrum.
"The human soul," says Apuleius, "is an immortal God" (Buddhi) which
nevertheless has his beginning. When death rids it (the Soul), from its earthly corporeal organism, it is called lemure. There are among
the latter not a few which are beneficent, and which become the gods or demons of the family, i.e., its domestic gods: in which case
they are called lares. But they are vilified and spoken of as larvæ when sentenced by fate to wander about, they spread
around them evil and plagues. (Inane terriculamentum, ceterum noxium malis); or if their real nature is doubtful they are referred to as
simply manes (Apuleius, see – Du Dieu de Socrate, pp. 143-145. Edit. Niz.). Listen to Yamblichus, Proclus, Porphyry, Psellus,
and to dozens of other writers on these mystic subjects.
The Magi of Chaldea believed and taught that the celestial or divine soul would participate in the
bliss of eternal light, while the animal or sensuous soul would, if good, rapidly dissolve, and if wicked, go on wandering about in the
Earth's sphere. In this case, "it (the soul) assumes at times the forms of various human phantoms and even those of animals." The same
was said of the Eidolon of the Greeks, and of their Nepesh by the Rabbins. (See Sciences Occultes, Count de Resie. V.
11.) All the Illuminati of the middle ages tell us of our astral Soul, the reflection of the dead or his spectre. At
Natal death (birth) the pure spirit remains attached to the intermediate and luminous body but as soon as its lower
form (the physical body) is dead, the former ascends heavenward, and the latter descends into the nether worlds, or the Kama loka.
Homer shows us the body of Patroclus – the true image of the terrestrial body lying killed by Hector –
rising in its spiritual form, and Lucretius shows old Ennius representing Homer himself, shedding bitter tears, amidst the shadows and the
human simulachres on the shores of Acherusia "where live neither our bodies nor our souls," but only our images.
". . . Esse Acherusia templa,
. . . Quo neque permanent animæ, neque corpora nostra, Sed quædam simulacra. . . ."
Virgil called it imago "image" and in the Odyssey (I. XI) the author refers to
it as the type, the model, and at the same time the copy of the body; since Telemachus will not recognize Ulysses and seeks to drive him off by
saying – "No thou art not my father; thou art a demon, – trying to seduce me!" (Odys. 1. XVI. v. 194.) "Latins
do not lack significant proper names to designate the varieties of their demons; and thus they called them in turn, lares, lemures,
genii and manes." Cicero, in translating Plato's Timæus, translates the word daimones by
lares; and Festus the grammarian, explains that the inferior or lower gods were the souls of men, making a difference
between the two as Homer did, and between anima bruta and anima divina (animal and divine souls). Plutarch (in Proble.
Rom.) makes the lares preside and inhabit the (haunted) houses, and calls them cruel, exacting,
inquisitive, etc., etc. Festus thinks that there are good and bad ones among the lares. For he calls them at one time prústites as they
gave occasionally and watched over things carefully (direct apports), and at another – hostileos.12
"However it may be," says in his queer old French, Leloyer, "they are no better than our devils, who, if they do appear helping
sometimes men, and presenting them with property, it is only to hurt them the better and the more later on. Lemures are also devils and
larvæ for they appear at night in various human and animal forms, but still more frequently with features that THEYborrow from dead men." (Livre des Spectres. V. 1V, p. 15 and 16.)
After this little honour rendered to his Christian preconceptions, that see Satan everywhere, Leloyer speaks
like an Occultist, and a very erudite one too.
"It is quite certain that the genii and none other had mission to watch over every newly born
man, and that they were called genii, as says Censorius, because they had in their charge our race, and not only they presided
over every mortal being but over whole generations and tribes, being the genii of the people."
The idea of guardian angels of men, races, localities, cities, and nations, was taken by the Roman Catholics
from the pre-christian occultists and pagans. Symmachus (Epistol, 1. X) writes: "As souls are given to those who are born, so genii
are distributed to the nations. Every city had its protecting genius, to whom the people sacrificed." There is more than one inscription
found that reads: Genio civitates – "to the genius of the city."
The doctrines of Theosophy are simply the faithful echoes of Antiquity. Man is a Unity only at his
origin and at his end. All the Spirits, all the Souls, gods and demons emanate from and have for their root-principle the SOUL OF THE UNIVERSE – says Porphyry (De Sacrifice). Not a philosopher of any notoriety who did not believe (1) in
reincarnation (metempsychosis), (2) in the plurality of principles in man, or that man had two Souls of separate and quite different
natures; one perishable, the Astral Soul, the other incorruptible and immortal; and (3) that the former was not the man whom it
represented – "neither his spirit nor his body, but his reflection at best." This was taught by Brahmins, Buddhists, Hebrews,
Greeks, Egyptians and Chaldeans; by the post-diluvian heirs of the prediluvian Wisdom, by Pythagoras and Socrates, Clemens Alexandrinus,
Synesius, and Origen, the oldest Greek poets as much as the Gnostics, whom Gibbon shows as the most refined, learned and enlightened men of all
ages (See "Decline and Fall," etc.). But the rabble was the same in every age: superstitious self-opinionated, materializing every most
spiritual and noble idealistic conception and dragging it down to its own low level, and – ever adverse to philosophy.
But all this does not interfere with that fact, that our "fifth Race" man, analyzed esoterically
as a septenary creature, was ever exoterically recognized as mundane, sub-mundane, terrestrial and supra mundane, Ovid graphically
describing him as –
Bis duo sunt hominis; manes, caro, spiritus, umbra
Quatuor ista loca bis duo suscipiunt.
Terra tegit carnem, tumulum circumvolat umbra,
Orcus habet manes, spiritus estra petit.
In the November number of Path in my article "Theories about Reincarnation and
Spirits," the entire batch of elaborate arguments is upset and made to fall flat owing to the mistake of either copyist or printer. On
page 235, the last paragraph is made to begin with these words: "Therefore the reincarnating principles are left behind in
Kama-loka, etc.," whereas it ought to read "Therefore the NON-reincarnating principles (the
false personality) are left behind in Kama-loka, etc.," a statement fully corroborated by what follows, since it is stated that those
principles fade out and disappear.
There seems to be some fatality attending this question. The spiritualists will not fail to see in it the
guiding hand of their dear departed ones from "Summerland", and I am inclined to share that belief with them in so far that there must
be some mischievous spook between me and the printing of my articles, Unless immediately corrected and attention drawn to it, this error is one
which is sure to be quoted some day against me and called a contradiction.
– H. P. BLAVATSKY
November 20th, 1886.
NOTE. – The MS. for the article referred to was written out by some one for Mme.
Blavatsky and forwarded to us as it was printed, and it is quite evident that the error was the copyist's, and not ours nor Madame's; besides
that, the remainder of the paragraph clearly shows a mistake. We did not feel justified in making such an important change on our own
responsibility, but are now glad to have the author do it herself. Other minor errors probably also can be found in consequence of the peculiar
writing of the amanuensis, but they are very trivial in their nature. – [ED. Path back to text
To this query the author answers as any true theosophist would: "The difficulties of the question
ready spring from a misconception of the true nature of these attributes. The components of our mental equipment – appetites, aversions,
feelings, tastes and qualities generally – are not absolute but relative existences. Hunger and thirst for instance are states of consciousness
which arise in response to the stimuli of physical necessities. They are not inherent elements of the soul and willdisappear
or become modified, etc." (pp. 356 and 357). In other words, the theosophical doctrine is adopted, Atma and Buddhi having culled off the
Manas the aroma of the personality or human soul – go into Devachan; while the lower principles, the astral simulacrum
or false personality void of its Divine monad or spirit, will remain in the Kamaloka – the "Summerland." back to text