This is part of an ongoing series of posts regarding specific concepts related to theosophy.

Other Resources: Evolution, Karma, Souls

The intention of these posts are to create a resource for inquiring students, so we'll approach it a little differently than we would a normal discussion.

Please read below for the intended format of this project.

Here's how we do this:

  • Members are invited and encouraged to post their favorite quotes along with links to websites for further reading. If the quote is long (i.e. an entire chapter of a book), please select a couple sentences that stand out and then provide a link to the full chapter online (or if the book is not available online, please provide the title and author name). Anonymous quotes will be deleted, so be sure to source your info...
  • Members are also invited and encouraged to share their own thoughts/interpretations on the concept. However, no rebuttals or counter arguments are to be made in regards to any member posts. As this will be a resource for students interested in learning about a topic, we're not looking for debates on its validity, but instead are looking for sincere attempts at interpretation of its meaning (whether by Plato, Buddha, Blavatsky or Mr. Average Joe Smith!).
  • Each member will be allowed only ONE post of their own interpretation, but are encouraged to post as many quotes and links to other sources as they wish. So think carefully and take your time composing your own thoughts on the subject - there's no rush and no deadlines!
  • Let's also set a 500 word maximum for any post (whether of a quote or member interpretation).


The main idea here is that when you come across something while reading and think to yourself: "wow, what a beautiful description of such and such!", you can come here and post the quote and/or link so that we may all share in the discovery! As this resource builds, when we say to ourselves: "Oh, now where did I hear that quote again? I know it was somewhere!?", we can come to Theosophy.Net, run a quick search, and viola! find the quote/link we were looking for!



Here we will post quotes, thoughts and links on the concept of Reincarnation.

I hope everyone will feel free to add to this ongoing resource. Don't be shy... share away! This is a "no debate zone". :)

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There is some interesting view on Reincarnation from the other Krishnamurti (U G Krishnamurti) as he was popularly known.

Like with karma, its twin teaching of reincarnation seems to have been taken for granted in India. I do not know of any Sanskrit treatises that try to prove reincarnation. Of course, stories about it may be found in texts such as the Upanishads, and a few of these stories depict attempts to demonstrate it. A bigger question may be whether humans can be reborn as animals, as the Eastern religions generally teach, but Theosophy denies.

The teaching of reincarnation is also attributed to Pythagoras in Greece. He is often considered to have taught rebirth as animals. In one of the early Theosophical books on the subject, E. D. Walker's 1888 Reincarnation: A Study of Forgotten Truth, this topic is brought up. He writes on p. 201, about Pythagoras:

"Although his name is synonymous with the transmigration of human souls through animal bodies, the strong probabilities are that if this doctrine came from him it was entirely exoteric, concealing the inner truth of reincarnation. Some of his later disciples, especially the author of the work which is attributed to Timaeus the Locian, denied that he taught it in any literal sense, and said that by it he meant merely to emphasize the fact that men are assimilated in their vices to the beasts."

It would be worthwhile for someone to try to find this Greek text, and quote exactly what he says on this question.

Those interested in Advaita Vedanta's view on reincarnation may like to read the simpler explanation offered here.

Theosophical writers, as we know, say that humans cannot be reborn as animals. The religions that teach rebirth, however, say that humans can be reborn as animals. Theosophy holds that this is an exoteric or symbolic teaching, which must be understood esoterically and not literally. Here is a response to this idea by a modern Buddhist writer. It is titled, "The Buddhist Doctrine of Rebirth in Subhuman Realms," by Francis Story. It was reprinted in his book, Rebirth as Doctrine and Experience: Essays and Case Studies (Collected Writings, vol. II), Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1975. It begins:
"The question of whether a human being after death can take rebirth on a lower biological level has been debated for many years by Western Buddhists, particularly by those whose approach to Buddhism has been via theosophy, and whose interpretation of it has remained syncretic in spirit. The latest contribution to the subject is an article by Dr. Willem Roos of Sacramento, California, entitled 'Is Rebirth in a Subhuman Kingdom Possible?' ('The Maha Bodhi,' July 1967)."

So Herodotus reports that the Greeks got the doctrine of reincarnation from the Egyptians. Blavatsky and her teachers say that the Egyptians got it from India much earlier, but also that there was direct contact between Greece and India during the classical age of Greece. This idea has long been rejected by classical scholars. Their longstanding rejection received a major challenge in 2002 with the publication of the extensive work by Thomas McEvilley titled, "The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies". Its chapter four is "The Doctrine of Reincarnation," pp. 98-156. It begins:

"The conviction that there were mutually formative contacts between the Greek and the Indian philosophical traditions goes back to antiquity -- Porphyry, for example, felt convinced of it. There were many clues from which this conviction could arise, but the most conspicuous one, without which the very question might not have been raised, is the doctrine of reincarnation: Though it is especially associated with India, reincarnation was also a standard teaching of most Greek philosophers."

It concludes:

"Finally, the early schools of Greek and Indian philosophy seem to have had more or less the same contents, though presented in different styles and combinations, like different branches of a single tradition."

Two famous verses on reincarnation from the Bhagavad Gita (trans. W. J. Johnson, The World's Classics, Oxford University Press, 1994):

2.12: There never was a time when I was not, or you, or these rulers of men. Nor will there ever be a time when we shall cease to be, all of us hereafter.

2.22: Just as a man casting off worn-out clothes takes up others that are new, so the embodied self, casting off its worn-out bodies, goes to other, new ones.


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