THEOSOPHY, Vol. 19, No. 7, May, 1931
(Pages 312-317; Size: 18K)
(Number 3 of a 10-part series)
STUDIES IN REINCARNATION
FAMILIARITY indeed does breed contempt. Let any phenomenon, however inexplicable, be part of the pattern of daily experience, and all the resources of the sages will fail of forcing us from our smug regard thereof into a newness of view such as must be had to solve in reality any phenomenon in the universe. To this must be ascribed the fact that far-reaching discoveries in some lines of thought have been made by laymen in those particular lines, who approached their problems devoid of training and therefore of the blunting illusion of familiarity.
Let us consider, as one meeting the phenomena of this planet for the first time, the growth of an individual from an invisible point in space to a six-foot man. Here we have the surface of the earth, cumbered with certain appurtenances, which are manipulated and moved from place to place by "organized" beings possessed of intelligence. Certain parts of this combination have what we call "life," one of the properties of which, possessed by a solid form, is to permit that form to sprout from within itself similar forms. The rest of creation lies dumbly, inertly, flaccidly, at the mercy of heat and cold, wind and wave. It reproduces not; it generates forms neither from itself nor within itself, save for the phenomenon of crystallization. The stone disintegrates under natural forces, forms powder, settles, hardens by heat and pressure into stone again, is upheaved into the atmosphere, once again macerated into powder, and begins the inert cycle over again, time without end. Upon it live plants, which show something utterly different. They have the power, absent from the stone, of maintaining a coherent form while ever changing the substance thereof. They have the power, absent from the stone, of creating specks of substance from themselves which, after an infinitely complex cycle of metamorphoses, acquire the likeness of the mother plant.
Feeding upon plants live animals, like plants except in an infinitely greater development of mobility, and the possession of that which can be defined only in terms of itself -- feeling. Feeding upon plants and animals alike -- even to some degree upon mineral direct -- is man, who to appearance differs from plant and animal only in an immense effloration of all the qualities which distinguish plant from mineral, animal from plant.
But ask the test-tube to differentiate for us between carbon in a bit of diamond, the carbon basis of vegetable cellular formation, the carbon of an animal bone, and finally, carbon in the human brain, and it is helpless. All four, mineral, vegetable, animal and human, are one to the test-tube; they are one to each and every resource of science. And so on for every single elementary constituent which science can name or touch. What, then, differentiates the human brain from the lump of coal? A different geometrical connection with its brother elements in the space of the skull? So they say. Then will two grindstones in juxtaposition form a nearer approach to an intellectual organism than a single one? We know better. Will three? Four? A thousand? A crore? The materialist will deny it, thus bluntly put. But he affirms it in saying that the complexity of inert matter, brought to a certain degree, produces intelligence. If we add to the grindstones a number of lumps of coal, of pieces of slate, granite, whatnot, is the mélange any nearer self-consciousness than a single fragment of any one of them? The materialist will laugh at such an idea; yet it is implicit in his philosophy. Connect the congeries together by electric currents, magnetic lines of force, to any degree of complexity, any measure of intensity we will. Have we life? Not unless electricity is alive. And this proposition the materialist would indeed repudiate with horror; but he would be wrong.
Now, going to the depths of known matter, we nevertheless can, by manipulation of electrical force, trace the first faint signs of vegetable, animal, human nerve reactions in mineral matter itself, as Sir Chunder Bose has proven. In metals the signs of nerve reaction are so faint as to be barely detectable; and the "nerve" itself is the whole mass of metal under test. In the vegetable, the main stem corresponds to a nerve trunk, and the limbs and leaves its ramifications, its end-organs.
In the human being, the brain is exactly like the root-system of a plant. The fibrils and cells of its outer layer, the cortex or thinking mechanism, correspond to the roots of a plant, except that their spread is delimited by the skull; instead of sucking nutriment from surrounding earth, they subsist upon matter first worked over by the stomach and then conveyed to them by appropriate means. The spinal cord and its conduits correspond exactly to the tree-trunk, and the ramifying nerves to its branches; except that they do not wave in air, but are enclosed in, supported and stiffened by the bones and muscular fibre, only their tips being exposed to the outer world. Their food is drawn from the blood, not the air. This human tree is thus enclosed in a casing for two reasons; first, the infinite delicacy of its structure, which unlike the plant cannot bear atmospheric exposure. Second, greater mobility. What is gained by this increment of delicacy, which adds correspondingly to vulnerability? Perhaps we may best arrive at it by another correspondence -- the fact of a psychic nourishment and excretion as a function of the human nerve-plant. Where the leaves of a tree, its nerve-tips, gather food from the air, its tactile functions being as yet only in the faintest germ except in such cases as the mimosa and the "sensitive-plant," the human nerve-tips gather sensation. Where the roots of the plant gather food from the soil, of a more complex nature than that garnered by the leaves, the human brain-roots collect, integrate, and rationalize that more complex psychic food consisting of the thoughts, feelings, aroused by sensation.
Doth the reader now perceive the "sacred tree of life -- the Ashvatta Tree that grows with its roots above and its branches below?"
Is there in the mineral a form corresponding to that in plant, animal, and man? There is. It is the well-known "crystallization-plant." When certain chemicals are precipitated out of a saturated solution, their tendency is to rally upon the first crystal precipitated in the bottom of the vessel, successive crystals being added thereto along ramifying lines, by "chemical attraction," until sometimes a mock plant of astonishing beauty and complexity is formed. Whether this is purely a depositing by chemical affinities, chance-guided by infinitesimal currents in the liquid; or whether it is under some of the same mysterious formative forces which govern plant-formation, is still a moot point in science. But there is no trace of a reproductive power.
Thus we have, to begin with, a tendency toward tree-formation inherent in the lowest known forms of matter, but without reproductive quality. In the plant, the same tendency, immensely elaborated, more complex, plus reproduction, plus a faint germ of sensation ... In the animal, the same formation, still more complex, cased from the destructive forces of the outer world, plus a psychic nutrimental environment of sensation full-blown, plus a faint germ of thought. In the human, formative quality plus reproduction plus sensation plus full capacity for thought; plus, in faint germ, spiritual perception. Thus each kingdom exhibits in germ the qualities of the next higher; but between each rung of the ladder of life is an incalculably great stimulation or magnification of some one power. The identical factors are there, but between the kingdoms there are gulfs which suggest in each case the superposition or interposition of some invisible power, its special quality the stimulation of a definite latent power. This must be so, since as we have shown, mere increasing complexity of inert matter cannot produce or add to intelligence. Now when we admit preëxisting intelligence which requires complexity of mechanism for expression in the material world, all becomes comprehensible and unbreakably logical. But there never was a time when a mechanism created or directed itself; its birth always depends upon a preëxisting intelligence ...
Let us trace the irruption of this intelligence into the manifest world. Crystallization-plant, plant, animal, man, all alike grow from a single infinitesimal point in space. Natural chemical affinity -- which in itself needs explanation -- can account for only a rude, unreproducing tree-form. Something behind and preëxisting seizes upon that natural tendency of matter, in the case of plant, animal, man, to bend it to its will and elaborate from the point in space -- the focal crystal or cell. What are the physical evidences of the preëxistence of such a force?
In 1924, one Alexander Nodon reported the discovery of a type of "rays" which emanated only from living objects. Almost simultaneously, a Russian, Alexander Gurwitsch, found the same rays; and further, that they were the cause of mitosis, or cell-division, upon which, of course, all growth depends. They radiated, he said, from an unknown center. The "center" still remains unknown.
It is curious to trace the further development of this discovery, at first held in great contempt. Researches severally made by Wagner, Mellon, Rashevsky, Hauser and Vahle, the Siemens Electrical Company, Naville, Reiter, and Gabor, showed that these rays emanated from the tips of growing roots and stimulated growth in whatever organic material they touched. They were found to be of the general nature of ultra-violet light, but specifically unknown and apparently, from results so far, unknowable. Now it is self-evident that if mitosis or reproduction, depends on these rays, the rays and their "center of radiation," must have preceded the beginning of reproduction.
Now a number of collateral discoveries were made by others, which, however, do not seem to have been correlated by science as yet. In 1926, Dr. Coghill discovered that, contrary to previous opinion, the nervous system of an embryo develops first, and directs the formation of its body-casing. Obviously, something first had to direct the formation of the nervous system. That this something not only developed the nervous system, but remains encased within it, is indicated by the discovery of Dr. Ladd-Franklin, to the effect that the optic nerve-fibres glow with a light of their own. "Light is life," says H. P. Blavatsky; "And both are electricity."
Further indication of the priority of the "something" is found in the discovery that an ameba, when treated with alcohol, displays the same discoördination that a human being does. Inasmuch as the presence of a nervous system to be affected by alcohol has been regarded as prerequisite to this effect, and none has been found in the ameba, this forms a great scientific puzzle. The nervous system is there, we reply; though probably in astral, or quasi-physical form. But the ameba is merely a germ-cell which never grows up, so far as structure is concerned. Dr. Stockard -- like Dr. Seba Eldridge -- then came forward with the statement that there are unknown "organizers" -- which he regards as like hormones, or chemical "messengers," present in the embryo, harmonizing its development and bringing about an orderly growth. This organizatory power is so capable of controlling form that when a cell is misplaced it is made to conform in shape and function to the organ where it finds itself, although its essential nature remains unchanged. Referring back to the statements of Dr. A. Weber,(1) we are told that in its development the embryo is "sketched out" by advance lines or curves, which are filled in with more solid matter; then a further "sketching out" takes place, and another filling in; this is the process of "embryotectony," which proceeds in fact from the first cell-splitting until the full maturity of the individual, as shown by the alternating growth-periods of the growing child.
It seems not to have occurred to any of these investigators that the "rays," the "organizers," the "embryotectonic process," are all witnesses to the presence of the "astral body," or Linga Sharira, imbued with and energized by its Prana or solar-electrical vitality; present at conception, and fully formed before the child is born. It is this, existent in faintest germ in the mineral, full-functioned in the plant, imbued with feelings in the animal, and acted upon and through by the reincarnating Ego in man, which seizes upon the primal cell as a basis of action, and from then collects, organizes, and directs the matter, physical and metaphysical, with which the incoming Ego has prior connection and must deal in the coming life. It is a being, of limited and specialized intelligence; in mineral, vegetable, animal, an "elemental"; in man, it is the "Lunar Pitri," or rather, its body, its intelligence being fused with that of the incoming Ego, which latter is dormant through the above stages. In the Ocean of Theosophy it is thus spoken of:The astral body is the guiding model for the physical one, and all the other kingdoms have the same astral model. Vegetables, minerals, and animals have the ethereal double, and this theory is the only one which will answer the question how it is that the seed produces its own kind and all sentient beings bring forth their like ... in the old schools of the past the true doctrine was known, and it has been once again brought out in the West through the efforts of H. P. Blavatsky and those who have found inspiration in her works.But it is no theory.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
UNIVERSAL AND PARTICULAR
... On strict analogy, the cycle of Seven Rounds in their work of the gradual formation of man through every kingdom of Nature, are repeated on a microscopical scale in the first seven months of gestation of a future human being. Let the student think over and work out this analogy. As the seven months' old unborn baby, though quite ready, yet needs two months more in which to acquire strength and consolidate; so man, having perfected his evolution during seven Rounds, remains two periods more in the womb of mother-Nature before he is born, or rather reborn a Dhyani, still more perfect than he was before he launched forth as a Monad on the newly built chain of worlds. Let the student ponder over this mystery, and then he will easily convince himself that, as there are also physical links between many classes, so there are precise domains wherein the astral merges into physical evolution. Of this Science breathes not one word. Man has evolved with and from the monkey, it says. --S.D. II, p. 257.
STUDIES IN REINCARNATION
(Part 4 of a 10-part series)
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(1) THEOSOPHY, June, 1921.
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