Is there a purpose and meaning to human life? Are you interested in exploring some ideas which may place your life in a broader perspective? Are you interested in spirituality? If so, this booklet may help you on your own journey.
The ideas which will be presented here come from a stream of enquiry which has been with humanity for millennia—Theosophy or the Perennial Wisdom, sometimes also known as the Ageless Wisdom or the Perennial Philosophy. Theosophy, meaning "Divine Wisdom", can be thought of as the spiritual heritage of humanity. Its principles have been restated in different ways throughout human history, being the essence of the great religions and philosophies of the world. They have been present in teachings such as those of ancient India and China, the Egyptian Thoth or the Greek Hermes, the neo-Platonists, Gnostics of the early Christian era and others such as various poets and philosophers. In each case, the teachings have been suited to their time and culture. In the late 19th century theosophical teachings were re-presented to the world in a more modern form by Madame Blavatsky, a Principal Co-Founder of The Theosophical Society. This form continues to adapt to changing times. However, the fundamental principles of Theosophy remain enduring and timeless.
Concepts offered in this booklet are put forward in a non-dogmatic spirit for the consideration of individuals with enquiring minds. A web address and suggested reading list appear afterwards in case you are interested in further study.
Karma - The Universal Law of Harmony
The word "karma" is used commonly in movies, novels and everyday language today. Yet it was not well-known in the West until the late nineteenth century and is, in fact, an ancient teaching. Before looking more closely at what karma means, let us begin by briefly considering life's bigger picture. We humans do not exist in isolation. Modern science attests to the interconnectedness of life. We live, not just in a particular home or district, but on a sizeable planet which is located within a solar system, which in turn is but a small aspect of a vast universe. Is our universe an accident? Perhaps not.
Theosophical teachings propose that all aspects of the universe are interconnected; that order pervades the universe; that nothing exists which is not affected by Nature's laws; and that a divine plan governs all things. Furthermore, they propose that Natural law operates not only in the physical world, but in the realms of thought and feeling as well. Karma is regarded as one of these Natural laws.
Some people may prefer to think of the workings of Karma as a principle or a process, but for our purposes let us use the word "law". Let us be clear, though, about what law means here. It is important not to confuse a Natural law with a human law. Human laws may be added to, may change and may be violated. However, a Natural law is an enduring pattern or process which operates continually in the background, whether we are aware of it or not. It cannot be struggled against without some sort of reaction. Gravity is one example of this. We often hear the phrase, "What goes up, must come down"!
Karma can be thought of as that law of spiritual dynamics which relates to every act in daily life. The word "karma" is Sanskrit, meaning action. The "law of Karma" implies the entire cycle of cause-effect. It includes the accumulation of effects brought about by causes set in motion through our attitudes and actions in the past. It also includes those new causes initiated in the present that will result in future effects. This law is said to apply, not just to individuals, but to various groups of human beings as well as all life forms. It is universal in nature and implies a great intelligence at work behind a natural process.
The science of physics demonstrates that no particle of energy can be put forth anywhere in the universe without a natural result following. A stone tossed into the air returns at once to earth as a result of the law of gravity. The energy expended in winding a clock will produce a more delayed result, but the resulting force will exactly equal the original expenditure of energy or cause. When chemical elements are mixed, the reaction may be immediate or delayed. This is no less true in the chemistry of living, as we bring together actions, thoughts and feelings. The result may follow at once or be postponed due to factors of which we are not aware. All thought, desire and action disturb in some measure the equilibrium of the universe. Such disturbances are naturally returned to a point of equilibrium through a process of readjustment or reharmonisation.
Who or What is in Control?
It seems that the law of Karma operates whether or not we are conscious of it, although modern ecology has made people much more aware of the way in which our actions can have discernable repercussions. Through the functioning of the law in relation to our actions, our destinies are shaped. Through our ignorance, we bind ourselves to situations through selfish actions, feelings and thoughts. Therefore we are ultimately in control of our own journey through our attitudes and responses to life's many situations.
The concept of reincarnation is introduced here for your consideration and will be discussed more further on. The Wisdom teachings suggest that we will only begin to use the law of Karma consciously, towards our ultimate liberation from the cyclic necessity of reincarnation, when we have learned that only unselfish action leads to happiness and peace. Even the slightest thought or act has its inevitable consequences. If we take into account the concept of reincarnation then death does not automatically settle old scores, any more than moving to a new town will cancel the debts incurred in the old one.
Each of us is born with our unique character, in an environment and family that may seem helpful to our progress or otherwise. In reality, all sets of circumstances can be opportunities for us, for they can be viewed as natural results of past living and the stepping-stones for our future growth. Our destiny, therefore, is not imposed upon us from outside.
Cause - Effect
Sometimes the result alone can be seen without the preceding cause, and it is difficult to account for what happens to us. Or the cause is witnessed and the result seems non-existent. When viewed from the long-term perspective of a succession of lives, all events are perceived to have their natural cause and logical consequence, even if the consequence is considerably delayed.
In an ideal situation we could take complete responsibility for ourselves and our actions, but we do not always do this. Even a basic understanding of the law of Karma helps to make us aware that we are self-reliant beings and cannot ultimately escape this responsibility. As an appreciation of karma grows, this provides the potential for us to recondition or remould our character in a more positive way.
People have various ideas about the law of Karma. Some consider that it involves predestination nor fate but it is suggested that this is not the case. Nor does it involve such a thing as luck, either good or bad. Behind every piece of what we consider to be good fortune, lie the causes that we have consciously or unconsciously precipitated, perhaps recently or else in a previous life. Behind every "misfortune" lies an energy which we have generated ourselves.
Do we have freedom? While it is true that our accumulated karma helps or hinders our progress, we are still free to choose within the limits of our making. Through successive efforts and choices— or lack of effort—we determine the orbit of our freedom. On the other hand, fatalism or predestination would imply that we are so bound by circumstances or by some power outside ourselves that no effort of our own can free us. It is suggested that it is those who generate the causes or forces who can modify or neutralise them. So we may be temporarily bound, but we do our own binding. It can be reassuring to realise the extent to which we can actively modify our future.
The Energies That We Generate
While the working out of the process or law of Karma may be very complex, with almost infinite permutations and combinations in human lives, we can grasp and use certain basic principles of operation. For example, our consciousness operates most of the time in three worlds—physical, emotional and mental. We generate energies or forces as we act in each of these worlds. These energies bring corresponding results in their respective fields. Physical acts or deeds create our physical environment, desires determine our life circumstances, family and social links with other individuals, and thoughts result in mental abilities or limitations. All these factors contribute to our character.
Physical, Emotional And Mental Action
Most thoughts are linked with some sort of emotion and therefore may bring the thinker into certain situations and relationships, whether pleasant or unpleasant.
Thought is also a great creative power through which we can build habits and character. Action is the physical expression of thought, which is as natural and inevitable as the growth of a plant from the seed.
Knowing that we become that on which we think, we can deliberately set ourselves to think of those virtues and qualities which we desire to possess. Slowly, the moulding power of thought results in a transformative interior process. The process of creative thought is as natural as that of developing muscles by exercise and can be scientifically employed.
An Impersonal Law
It is important to remember that although we may consider certain karmic effects to be "good" or "bad" the law itself is impersonal and simply restores harmony. From a human point of view, "good" or "right" may be defined as those actions which are in line with the furtherance of evolution; the opposite would apply to "bad" or "evil". Even in the case of what we would regard as bad actions, the law functions not to punish the person, but to teach.
Karmic Situations as Opportunities
When we are faced with a piece of "unpleasant" karma, it is beneficial to try to meet it constructively and wisely, remembering that it is in reality an opportunity to build new qualities of character. For example, courage and serenity in meeting misfortune, or efforts to eradicate feelings of ill-will or resentment toward those who seem to be responsible for our unhappiness, will do much to mitigate both present and future effects. It has been said that forgiveness can go a long way towards neutralising certain karmic situations. We can reshape the present more nearly in the image of the future, and so modify effects from the past.
Reincarnation - Have We Been Here Before?
It would be difficult to imagine that the repercussions of all our actions could be rebalanced within the limits of one life. Therefore, it is suggested that the physical, emotional and mental energy we generate determine not only our mode of life now, with its successes or failures, and the state of consciousness after death, but also our environment and relationships with others in succeeding incarnations. Let us now consider how the teaching of reincarnation can provide an added dimension to the human journey.
Have we, in fact, been here before? Various spiritual traditions propose that this life is not the first one we have lived on this earth, but one of many. We could say that with each new life we are in fact picking up from where we left off. In a similar manner, every day we have a period of activity followed by a period of rest and assimilation. Each new day can be seen as a fresh start with new opportunities for growth.
Let us consider several views explaining the human condition. Each has implications for the degree of control that we have over our lives.
1. One explanation often given by religion is that we each have a soul which is a creation by God. This suggests that our destinies are controlled or guided by a will or force beyond our control.
2. Materialistic science proposes that human differences are due to the combined influence of heredity and environment. This implies considerable powerlessness on our part, suggesting that we are the result of inherited and environmental factors over which we have only limited control.
3. A third explanation, already mentioned, involves reincarnation or a succession of rebirths. When reincarnation is considered in conjunction with the law of Karma or cause and effect, then our present condition can be viewed as the consequence of our own past actions. This implies that we can have considerable control over our current and future lives, and that we can influence our own destiny by our present thoughts, feelings and actions.
In the first explanation above, that we are a special creation by God, we have no individual past but we seem to have an endless future. Our characters are specially created by God and imposed upon us without any choice on our part.
In the second heredity/environment explanation, evolution becomes significant. However, there is difficulty in accounting for qualities such as unexpected saintliness or genius.
In the third explanation, reincarnation and evolution are essential aspects, but with added features not observed by science. Reincarnation allows for both intellectual and spiritual evolution, as well as our physical evolution which is greatly influenced by hereditary and environmental factors. Many people view reincarnation as a logical explanation for perceived inequities such as those between people who are born into lives of great difficulty, compared with others who have lives of apparent ease and wealth.
Consider the idea that we each have a spiritual soul—a deeper, non-physical aspect of us which begins a pilgrimage by entering a cycle of incarnations. We learn from our experiences, pleasant and painful, and the results of these experiences help to develop our mental and moral faculties. The character with which we are born at the beginning of each new life would therefore be selfmade and mark the stage we have reached in our long evolutionary journey. This may not be related at all to social status or the country in which we are born. It is suggested that the heredity and environment we encounter in each life are not accidental, but are the consequences of our thoughts, emotions and actions in previous lives. According to this view our mental and moral qualities are also the result of past effort. Our total nature can therefore be considered as the outcome of the choices we have made during our many incarnations and those choices become more thoughtful and deliberate as we evolve.
Some further thoughts on a theosophical view of reincarnation, based on teachings from the Perennial Wisdom, are presented here for your consideration.
Memory of Previous Lives
When reincarnation is mentioned, a question often asked is: "If I have been here before, why do I not remember my past lives?" Surely we would agree that we forget more of our present life than we remember. Many people cannot remember learning to read, yet the fact that they can read proves that they did. Incidents of childhood and youth fade from memory, yet they leave traces on our character.
If we are greatly affected by experiences encountered in the present body, how much more would we reflect the results of numerous past experiences encountered in former lives? Yet, as our present body and brain have had no part of such far-off happenings, how could we remember any of them? The memory of these past-life events does not disappear altogether, though. It is suggested that these events leave a permanent record which will eventually become accessible during the course of our evolution. It is the soul that truly remembers.
When we feel we know a stranger on first meeting, the soul may recognise a friend from the past. When we react negatively to a stranger, it could be the soul's recognition of an old enemy. These affinities, or warnings, come from deep within. We remember but, as the body and brain are new, we are not able to recall the details. In any case, considering peoples' busy lives and the huge input of information which we receive every day in the world today, why would we wish to have even more information to cope with?
Consideration of what reincarnates will help answer the question of not remembering past lives. Theosophical teachings suggest that the human being has a number of aspects or "bodies". On the one hand, we consist of temporary aspects—the physical body, emotions and the factual mind—which make up our personality. On the other hand, many people sense that there is a deeper spiritual and more permanent part of ourselves. It is said that this contains the accumulated results of experiences gained over many lives. The various aspects or fields of our makeup are not separate, but are said to interpenetrate each other.
Our more permanent Self, said to remain with us throughout the whole cycle of reincarnation, is often called the soul. At death, the temporary aspects fall away and return to their elements before we come into incarnation again. New mental, emotional and physical matter is eventually moulded for a new incarnation or birth. An accountant closing a year's accounts and opening new ones does not enter in the new all the items of the old, but only its balances. In a similar way, the soul hands on to the new bodies the qualities, tendencies and capacities which are the result of past life experiences. These include aspects of our make-up such as our conscience, our instinctive response to emotional and intellectual appeals, and our assent to fundamental principles of right and wrong—all the results of past experiences.
Growth of Capacity
Evolutionary development is an important and integral aspect of reincarnation. The emphasis is on continual growth toward full human Self-realisation or Enlightenment, achieved by personal effort rather than bestowed by some outside source. Existence of great human beings such as the Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad point to this possibility. According to theosophical teachings we do not regress, i.e., reincarnate as an animal or plant. On the contrary, there is a natural impulse to take a human form again in order to gradually develop our full human potential in all areas. This process takes many lives but may be hastened if we apply ourselves unselfishly. When a philosophy or a science is quickly grasped and applied, when an art is mastered easily, these could be the result of accomplishments gained in past lives although the facts have been forgotten.
This true remembrance is related to spiritual growth and requires the control and quietening of the restless mind. Only when we are capable of hearing the quiet voice of the soul can the true story of the past journey be unrolled and the lessons it contains be fully learned.
Pain follows mistakes, but this can be constructive once we learn not to make the same mistakes again. Strength is developed by effort. We learn from every experience the inevitable consequences: that happiness grows out of acting unselfishly and according to our conscience, sorrow out of error and self-centred activities.
We can say that the past explains the present and the present influences the future. If we accept the notion of spiritual growth through many lives, we can become more responsible for building humanity's future. Our lives will become increasingly fulfilled. Along the way we are able to make an increasingly effective contribution toward our own progress.
Reincarnation implies that death is a temporary change of state, rather than permanent. What do theosophical teachings have to say about death and after? Can they perhaps help us to come to terms more easily with death?
Are We Dead When We Die?
Just what is physical death? Some people believe that death is a final extinction, with life and consciousness ending the moment the physical body ceases to function. Others consider some form of life after death to be perfectly possible. Even though they cannot prove it, many people have a personal faith in the existence of life after death. This faith may or may not be the result of a particular religious practice. If it is true that some part of us remains afterwards, then so-called "death'"can be regarded more as a transition from one state to another than an end in itself. The process of birth, growth, maturity, old age and death is one of the great cycles found at every level in Nature, from atoms to universes. Some of the fear which commonly surrounds death begins to be removed if it is viewed as part of a recurring cycle and, in fact, as a new beginning in a different state of consciousness. The teaching that life continues and does not cease at physical death has been with humanity throughout the ages. As with the previous comments about karma and reincarnation, the following ideas about death are also presented for your consideration from theosophical teachings. Your freedom to ponder over these concepts for yourself is respected.
Who Am I?
Within ourselves, many of us feel intuitively that we are more than this physical body—more than a person just living to eat, sleep and perpetuate the human species. It is natural to ask questions such as "Who am I?" and "Is there more to me than this body?" As previously mentioned, theosophical teachings 15 suggest that humans are more than a physical body and that we function in three main fields:
1. An indwelling Spirit which existed before our birth and will continue to exist after death,
2. A soul/mind which also existed before our birth and will continue after death, and
3. A physical body
Consider the idea that our soul/mind is a projection or "vehicle" of the indwelling Spirit. The soul evolves over a long period by assimilating life experiences, gradually gaining qualities such as compassion, pure intelligence, understanding and wisdom. It does so by periodically taking on a new physical body and personality. However, it has already been proposed that our human evolutionary journey requires many lives in which to develop our full human and spiritual potential.
From this point of view, we have all passed through the processes of birth and death many times. More important, however, is the intuitive realisation many of us have of our own continuity. We sense that within us are other deeper layers of consciousness. Those who regularly practise meditation, for example, may experience states which are different from everyday "waking'"consciousness.
Other Fields of Consciousness
All around and through physical matter, other grades of matter exist. Today with X-rays, mobile telephones and television, it is easier for us to accept the reality of an unseen world. Science is dealing with ever widening concepts of the nature of matter and energy and we are better able to grasp ideas that include invisible as well as visible forces. Therefore, it is not too difficult to imagine that humans have subtler aspects or "bodies" made of finer matter.
How do Death and Sleep Differ?
Theosophical teachings suggest that death is not very different from sleep. When we go to sleep, consciousness is temporarily withdrawn from the body but we continue to have emotional and mental adventures which are often remembered on waking. In our dream state, we can reach heights that indicate realms of consciousness beyond those experienced in our waking hours.
Consider the idea that at physical death our consciousness begins a journey into finer realms than those entered while asleep. In the dream state, we are still connected in consciousness with our physical body and can return to it. However, at death this link is permanently broken and some clairvoyants can actually see the life force leave the body from the crown of the head in the form of a fine silver stream or silver cord.
What Happens after Death?
Ageless teachings suggest that after physical death we go to a world of light where we experience increasing freedom as consciousness is progressively released from the heavier vibrations of dense physical matter. That world is said to interpenetrate our physical world although normally we cannot see it. A process of purification then takes place before the soul can go on into the deep and blissful state which has been earned.
During earth life we identify mainly with the desires of the physical world. It is said that these desires remain after death and may even be temporarily intensified. However, they must be left behind before the soul can complete the next stage of its journey. Perhaps an analogy can help to explain this. We know that when salt is extracted from sea water, as the water evaporates it leaves a residue which is not pure salt. The impurities have to be removed. We might say that something like this takes place when the soul leaves the physical body—it still has to go through a process of purification. Time is needed for this, especially if the emotions have been intense and not especially constructive in nature. We do not suddenly become perfect after death, for the human journey is said to take many lives. Our fears, longings, joys and sorrows remain and need to be understood in the afterlife. Gradually, however, the refining process takes place and in a new state of freedom the soul/mind begins to appreciate the radiant world which it now inhabits. It is said that eventually we further awaken to a happy, heaven- like state of comfort and reward in which there is no pain or sorrow, only joy and fulfilment.
But have you ever thought that we are creating or determining that "heaven" experience now? What motivates our life? Are we overly concerned with the trivia of daily existence or do we also think more deeply? Are we self-centred or do we readily give a helping hand to others? Do we get upset easily or are we able to remain calm and centred, helped by moments of quiet reflection and meditation? If we can cultivate such practices it is said that the process of transition to the "heaven" world will be easier after physical death. In fact, the life we lead now is said to determine the type of after death state we will experience.
Different points of view have been expressed about the length of our stay in the heaven world. However, this is likely to vary between individuals and cannot be measured by earthly time, for it is a state unrelated to time as we know it. After we have been fully rested and renewed, theosophical teachings suggest that we feel again the urge for experience in the world. We then begin the process of being born into a fresh physical body to begin the cycle over again, drawn back into circumstances of our own making.
Increasing Evidence for Continuing Existence
Although it is difficult to prove the continuing existence of human consciousness outside the physical body, evidence for this concept is growing as a result of research within the disciplines of science into ESP (extra-sensory perception) and out-of-body experiences. What might be called empirical evidence for the concept of reincarnation or multiple lives is provided by the purported memories of many people about past existences. While these cannot be proved in any objective sense, they often come across as quite genuine and some claims regarding previous existences have actually been proven. Dr Ian Stevenson, an American psychiatrist, has conducted some extensive, compelling research in this area.
Many people have had near-death experiences. Most relevant here are the testimonies in recent years of hundreds of people who have experienced "clinical death", collected and published by researchers including Dr Raymond Moody, Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and Australian author Dr Cherie Sutherland.
The experiences of people who have been revived and lived to tell what happened to them when they were regarded as clinically dead are remarkably similar to those described in theosophical literature. For most, the first experience was passing through a dark enclosure or tunnel before their consciousness refocussed and they became aware of themselves in a spiritual "body". From this they may have watched in a detached way their physical body being revived—for example, on an operating table or when rescued from a wrecked car. Many then found themselves in a world of light and freedom in which they met a "being of light" who epitomised perfect understanding and perfect love. A deep sense of peace and well-being was commonly felt. Often these people experienced a vivid review or replay of their lives and understood that they must return to complete the unfinished business of this incarnation.
Many who were reluctant to return testified that the experience completely changed their lives. They no longer had any fear of death, realising that although they thought they had died, they continued to exist in another state. These people returned to physical consciousness with a desire to cultivate love for others. They also appreciated the importance of learning and growing in wisdom through the experiences of this particular lifetime.
Helping at the Moment of Death
One important suggestion made by students of Wisdom teachings is that those present at the moment of death can assist the departing soul by allowing the transition to take place in the most calm and peaceful atmosphere possible. A great step forward has been taken in recent years with the establishment throughout the world of hospices where loving care and confidence are given to the dying by specially trained staff.
Is Grief Necessary?
Imagine how it must feel to slip quietly, perhaps from a pain racked body, to find yourself free, even slightly bewildered at first—perhaps unaware that the realm of consciousness which you have just entered is not the physical world to which you are accustomed. It is explained in The Tibetan Book of the Dead and in other texts dealing with the subject, that the adjustment for the departed one is made more difficult if those who loved the dead person prolong their grief and sorrow. It is natural to feel grief and modern psychologists would agree that it is unhealthy to suppress bereavement. However, many who view death as part of a regular birth-death cycle of the soul, and have faith in the existence of an after-life, would attest that their grief is lessened. For them death is seen as a regular cyclic process and there is less fear of an uncertain future for their departed loved ones.
Preparing for Our Own Death
When an infant is to be born, we make preparations for the birth. As all of us will eventually die we can help ourselves by preparing for that transition also. This whole process is made easier if we live a life which takes into account the deeper, more enduring aspects of being human.
Information is Available: Many books are available on events before, during and after the death experience. Some are based on common sense observations of the dying process; others are accounts of those who thought that they were dying but then returned to life. Still others, such as theosophical literature, are records of timeless teachings about death and the after world.
Learning to Adapt: Death is a major change, therefore we need to expect differences. We can prepare ourselves better if we learn to become consciously more adaptable change in general.
Discovering Who We Are: An important consequence of death is that we have to adjust our sense of who and what we are. Normally, during daily life, we identify with our bodies, senses, instincts, emotions and brain-thoughts. However, at or soon after death, it is suggested that we will have to adjust our sense of self-identity. This could be a shock unless we are prepared for it. Regular meditation can assist us to contact our true Self within and ease this transition.
Taking Stock of Ourselves Daily: It is said that at the moment of death the life just past is reviewed. We can prepare for that experience by going over the day's activities each night as impartially as possible. This may lead to positive changes in our responses to life's many challenges. It is a good idea to keep a diary for recording impressions and evaluating our day's experiences.
Establishing a Frame of Mind Which Transcends Everyday Experiences: Certain affirmations or mantras may assist in this process. Some people find the following words helpful:
O hidden life, vibrant in every atom,
O hidden light, shining in every creature,
O hidden love, embracing all in oneness,
May all who feel themselves as one with thee
Know they are therefore one with every other.
People respond differently to such passages. Christians, for example, may choose to focus on a prayer or the rosary. Others such as Muslims, Buddhists or Taoists may be attracted to other writings in their respective traditions. Some may not feel the need to use affirmations or mantras.
To sum up this section, then, death can be thought of as a change of state, followed by an inevitable rebirth. Although birth and death are twin mysteries, our preoccupation with death seems to have assumed more importance than our entry into life. Let us now turn to considering birth as another opportunity for growth on our human journey, which gives a wider perspective on a single life ...
Birth - Another Opportunity
There is no death but only in appearance – even as there is no birth save only in seeming. The change from "being" to "becoming" seems to be birth and the return again from 'becoming' to the state of "being" seems to be death.
- Apollonius of Tyana
The miraculous event of birth is as important as our departure from the physical body. The long period between lives can be regarded as somewhat like the hours between meals, a period of digestion and assimilation as necessary as the meal itself. The Ageless Wisdom teaches that between lives the soul extracts and assimilates the essence of its experience in its former physical life and this influences the circumstances of the new incarnation.
Birth involves a dual mystery. Firstly, there is the mystery of the growth of the embryo from the physical union of the sperm and egg of the parents. The embryo develops into a complex and uniquely formed human baby. The second half of this mystery is the union of the soul with the physical body. Drawn by an inner urge to seek new experience on the path of return to its Divine Source, it is suggested that the soul returns again and again to physical life. Theosophical teachings suggest that the soul attracts not just a new physical body, but also emotional and mental "vehicles" appropriate to its new incarnation.
Recall that the various characteristics of the individual’s nature are said to be the outcome of experiences from past lives. If this is so, then former thoughts, desires and actions therefore influence the present circumstances and environment into which the birth occurs.
Theosophical teachings suggest the existence of spiritual intelligences that guide the working out of residual Karma from the past. These intelligences, which may even be thought of as being similar to search engines, help bring a soul into an environment where it may best balance the consequences of past actions and provide new opportunities to express itself. It is further suggested that the child's new circumstances may continue relationships from past lives. Unfortunately, there are some instances in which past ties were not harmonious and these karmic bonds need to be transformed into ties of love and understanding.
Many parents are deeply aware of the responsibility they have undertaken in assisting the birth of a soul into a new body. They understand the importance of creating an atmosphere conducive to the soul's further growth as well as providing for the child's physical, emotional and mental development. They recognise this opportunity to assist the soul's growth by helping the child to develop its strengths and latent talents while overcoming inherent weaknesses. The parental influence, if provided in an atmosphere of love and respect, is of great assistance when the child moves into the larger environment and faces life's inevitable difficulties.
A Child’s Early Environment
Birth is an experience which we do not normally consciously remember. Yet the atmosphere into which a child is born can be one of the most significant experiences the parents can provide as a harmonious and positive environment provides a basis for steady growth.
A newborn child provides a vehicle of experience for a pilgrim soul. Wise parents seek the best possible ways of aiding the child to understand its emotional nature and to direct its mind in positive ways, thus encouraging the child to develop Spiritual Wisdom.
Considering Life in a Larger Context
If the ideas which have been presented in this booklet are meaningful to you, it may help to consider seriously the possibility that our present life is only one phase in the great cycle of our existence, one incarnation of many, all governed by the Law of Karma or Harmony. What we are now could be the result of our past actions and thoughts. How we think and act each day determines the quality of our life after death and in future lives.
The Greatest Journey
According to timeless teachings we are individual sparks of the One Flame, the Source from which we came and to which we are returning. We can therefore think of ourselves as co-creators of the universe. We have lived many lives; we have died many deaths. Eventually our souls will return to that great Source or indwelling Spirit. Our "heaven" is of our own making; it is not an eternity but rather a period of time for assimilation and rest. Consider, therefore, that each earth life brings us closer to the journey's end, when the individual soul will have freed itself from the round of births and deaths. Sir Edwin Arnold described this beautifully in his book, The Light of Asia, when he wrote that the soul will follow the example of the Enlightened Ones and like the dewdrop, "slip into the shining sea", at last one with its Divine Source.
Books Suggested for Further Reading About Karma, Reincarnation, Death and Birth
Reincarnation and Karma
The Key to Theosophy
by H.P. Blavatsky (TPH London edition)
by Dr. John Algeo
Reincarnation: Fact or Fallacy?
by Geoffrey Hodson
by James S. Perkins
Reincarnation in Christianity
by Geddes MacGregor
Reincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery
by Joseph Head and S.L. Cranston
Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation
by Dr. Ian Stevenson
Where Biology and Reincarnation Intersect
by Dr. Ian Stevenson
Karma and Rebirth
by Christmas Humphreys
Karma: Rhythmic Return to Harmony
V. Hanson, R. Stewart and S. Nicholson (eds.)
The Mirror of Life and Death
Laurence J. Bendit
When We Die
On Death and Dying
Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Life After Life
Dr Raymond Moody
Through Death to Rebirth
James S. Perkins
A Practical Guide to Death and Dying
Our Last Adventure
E. Lester Smith
Death and After
Through the Gateway of Death
Within The Light, and, Transformed By The Light
Dr Cherie Sutherland
The Basic Ideas of Occult Wisdom
Anna Kennedy Winner
The Key to Theosophy
H.P. Blavatsky (TPH London edition)
The Miracle of Birth
The above books are available from libraries and bookshops of The Theosophical Society.
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s star,
Has had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar
from Intimations of Immortality
by William Wordsworth
The art of happy, of beautiful living, is living according to Nature's laws, in harmony with that subtle universal order into which all things must inevitably ascend. When we are in that state of harmony, we are at peace with ourselves and with others; we become channel for those forces which will create peace and happiness for all.
N. Sri Ram