THEOSOPHY, Vol. 19, No. 8, June, 1931
(Pages 354-359; Size: 18K)
(Number 4 of a 10-part series)
STUDIES IN REINCARNATION
HEREDITY...the two chief difficulties of the science of embryology -- namely, what are the forces at work in the formation of the foetus, and the cause of "hereditary transmission" of likeness, physical, moral or mental -- have never been properly answered; nor will they ever be solved till the day when scientists condescend to accept the Occult theories.IT is evident that the conception held by many Theosophists regarding the relation between heredity and Karma is crude -- not to say crass; and it is made more so when there is a failure to keep pace with scientific thought in matters embryological. The standard works of Madame Blavatsky and Mr. Judge, commenting on science as it then was, point out the erroneous nature of the doctrine that "like produces like." But that doctrine no longer exists in science, and Theosophists who fail to perceive its passing are all too likely to commit unintentional offenses against the repute of Theosophy. So far from "like producing like," embryology under Mendelism now pronounces that in the human species as in some others, the chance for any pair of parents to have two identical children is just one in 16,777,216 times, as a maximum; and the chance for any parent to have a child identical with himself is -- non-existent.
... Those who are not acquainted with the new discovery of Professor Weissman -- at one time a fervent Darwinist -- ought to hasten to repair the deficiency. The German Embryologist-philosopher shows -- thus stepping over the heads of the Greek Hippocrates and Aristotle right back into the teachings of the old Aryans -- one infinitesimal cell, out of millions of others at work in the formation of an organism, determining alone and unaided, by means of constant segmentation and multiplication, the correct image of the future man (or animal) in its physical, mental, and psychic characteristics. It is that cell which impresses on the face and form of the new individual the features of the parents or of some distant ancestor; it is that cell again which transmits to him the intellectual and mental idiosyncrasies of his sires, and so on. This Plasm is the immortal portion of our bodies -- simply through the process of successive assimilations.... There are but two ways of explaining the mystery of heredity; either the substance of the germinal cell is endowed with the faculty of crossing the whole cycle of transformations that lead to the construction of a separate organism and then to the reproduction of identical germinal cells; or, these germinal cells do not have their genesis at all in the body of the individual, but proceed directly from the ancestral germinal cell passed from father to son through long generations. It is the latter hypothesis that Weissman accepted and has worked upon; and it is to this cell that he traces the immortal portion of man ... when this almost correct theory is accepted, how will Biologists explain the first appearance of this everlasting cell?
Complete the physical plasm ... the "Germinal Cell" of man with all its material potentialities, with the "spiritual plasm," so to say, or the fluid that contains the five lower principles of the six-principled Dhyan -- and you have the secret, if you are spiritual enough to understand it. (S.D. I, 223-4.)
For flexibility and concord with fact, therefore, this scientific doctrine compares favorably with the view held by so many Theosophists: namely, that the Karma of soul and of body are things apart; that the bodily heredity is determined by material means, and that the reincarnating Ego is quasi-arbitrarily thrust into a body with which it has no relation other than that the heredity of that body makes it a fitting instrument for the working out of the Egoic Karma generated in past lives; much as a machine operator is thrust into the seat of a machine which he never saw before, had no hand in making, but is qualified by separate training to operate. The true relation of Karma and heredity is infinitely more complex.
Science having, as said, come so far along the Theosophical road, the means by which it has done so must partake of the nature of truth and therefore should be part of Theosophical education. And in fact when delved into, the present scientific doctrine is found to throw light on some of the most profound mysteries of generation metaphysical as well as physical -- when properly correlated. We therefore propose to trace out roughly from the material and microscopic point of view what is now taught.
Generation begins with the fertilization of the ovum, which is nothing more nor less than the egg, though in most species it is of microscopic size. This is the female cell. The male cell is flagellate in type, self-moving. Fertilization results from the male cell forcing its way through the wall of the egg.
Every cell consists of a nucleus of highly organized matter surrounded by a mass of other material, the latter being the first nutriment of the embryo. In the nucleus are found masses of material named "chromatin." After the male cell enters the egg, it splits into two parts; one of these becomes a secondary nucleus in the egg, and the other becomes a "centrosome." This latter, which lies at first between the two nuclei, splits into two parts, which retire toward opposite sides of the egg. A spindle-shaped axis then forms between these parts of the split centrosome. In the meantime the chromatin in each nucleus is organized into definite bodies, which differ among themselves in each nucleus. But in each of the two nuclei, as in all the nuclei formed in that species, the sets of bodies, or "chromosomes," are identical in size, shape, and number; that is, if there are three chromosomes in a male nucleus, "a," "b," and "c," each differing from the others, there will be a corresponding set, a, b, and c, in the female nucleus. And in all other reproductive cells of the species, past, present, and future, there will be the same a, b, and c. Next, a set of chromosomes is drawn to each pole of the egg. And the chromosomes are so selected that one-half of the male bodies and one-half of the female are drawn to each end. Whereupon a new nucleus is formed at each of the corresponding points, and the whole egg divides into two, each with its nucleus which now contains an equal amount of the male and female elements. In man, the possible combinations of pairings of chromosomes amount to the aforesaid 16 million odd. This is the simplest possible division. But it is held that there is also an exchange of chromatin between corresponding male and female chromosomes. In that case the possible combinations are indefinitely greater than the estimated number.
Now each chromosome is composed of many lesser units called "chromomeres," held to be the "carriers" of heredity. In asexual reproduction, the mother-cell simply divides after a process by which each chromosome is split in two. The daughter cell thus contains simply the heredity of the one parent and no more. In sexual reproduction the offspring has exactly equal elements of each parent. There is obviously a deep significance in this.
In some low forms of life, the egg and the individual are identical. This corresponds to the early stages of the human race when reproduction was by budding or fission, and the whole body of the individual was the germ-cell. In more complex types, such as man has now become, the primal germ-cell begins to build up about it a collection of cells which reproduce by asexual fission and do not have the heredity-carrying properties of the germ cell. This collection becomes the embryonic body proper. At a very early stage in this body, a new set of germ-cells are formed, and through the life of the individual continue to reproduce themselves apart from the rest of the body-cells. They are the special and sacred caste of cells, set apart to carry on the species. And they must form the true physical body of the "six-principled Dhyan"; this must lead any thoughtful Theosophist to deep consideration of the direful Karma on all planes necessarily to ensue from abuse of this sacred reproductive principle by those not "spiritual enough to understand it."
The function of sexual reproduction is obviously the development of all the capacities, traits, and tendencies of the whole human race in each individual of it. For one has only to go back a few generations to find that the actual number of one's ancestors is greater than the earth's population. Where intermarriage is limited by natural or social barriers, several of the mathematically theoretical ancestors become a single individual. But the tendency in any intermarrying group is to develop in each individual the full potencies of the race, and to level out distinctions of types, producing a homogeneous or primary race. This is the history of races, and the contemporary history of the new type, not yet homogeneous, developing in America. Thus to fulfill race Karma and race evolution, the utmost heterogeneity of ancestry is to be sought, as the true Eugenics.
Hereditary traits are scientifically supposed to be divided into sharply distinguished units, each riding upon a particular chromomere. When traits coming from the two sides of the ancestry are contradictory, one is called "dominant" and the other "recessive," and the mutual relation between the members of such a pair are invariable. Thus in some plants, "tallness" and "shortness" can simultaneously be inherited from opposite sides. But only one can manifest, and so, for instance, "tallness" is called "dominant" and "shortness" "recessive." In mankind, and assuming that moral traits follow the same rules, "goodness" and "badness" -- or rather certain ones of the sub-traits which make up those classifications -- can be inherited simultaneously. But in some families goodness will be dominant and badness recessive, and in others the opposite. It is at this point that Nature parts company with orthodox embryology so far as the latter has gone. Moreover, no plant or animal can affect the "dominance" or "recessiveness" of its traits, because the necessary fulcrum of self-alteration, which is self-consciousness, is missing. But a man who finds a bad trait "dominant" in him, and its corresponding good one "recessive," can by taking stock and making use of other elements in his nature, reverse the balance of power. This is why in plant and animal the hereditary traits fall accurately, generation after generation, precisely according to the laws of "chance" governing the fall of dice, this being the basis of Mendelism; while in man, no rules at all apply, or rather, we have to look deeper for the rules; into the spiritual "dominants" and "recessives" of the "six-principled Dhyan," and to the fact that those principles are the tools and vehicles of the real man when he chooses to make them so. In the animal the corresponding invisible principles are all there is of the metaphysical animal -- and are exactly correlated to the physical. It would appear that when in the evolution of a human race all traits have reached a balance in the individual man, his heredity visible and invisible become fully fused, consolidated, and leveled out, he has reached full free-will and responsibility -- and therefore, the moment of choice. Until that time, each man is and must be, to the extent of his ability, "his brother's keeper" with an eye ever to the development of full responsibility and free-will in that brother, by leading him ever to exercise what he may have of those capacities. The present scientific doctrines of irresponsibility form therefore the stained and blurred image or shadow of a fact in nature. And a consideration of this will enlighten the doubtful Theosophist as to the seeming paradox between the incessant urge to Theosophical propaganda and teaching, and the statement that "in this cycle the man himself is the final authority."
What, then, of reincarnation? In reality, all Karma operates through unbroken invisible magnetic ties between the Ego and men, places, things, and thoughts. The incarnating Ego therefore does not assume when entering a family the vesture of a "six-principled Dhyan" apart from his own nature. It is his own principles he reassumes, his own spiritual family, or rather some particular branch of a real family which may almost include the entire race, that he enters. The race heredity being a great fusion, as shown above, and so on all planes, there must be necessarily thousands of physical families with whom his ties are strong enough to permit incarnation for the manifestation of some particular phase of the almost limitless Karmic storage of his vast unknown past. We may also see from this wide-spread nature of the real family why husband and wife are found to resemble one another to the same degree as brothers. The curious facts unearthed by the same research,(1) that sisters in a family are most alike and father and daughter most unlike, have to do with the sex-determining astral polarities formed prior to birth -- even to conception, perhaps. It is only as he becomes sharply individualized for good or evil, wisdom or imbecility, that his range of possible incarnations narrows by the gradual attenuation of some Karmic ties and the strengthening of others. In this manner his real invisible heredity is in constant alteration behind the scenes, by the interaction of his own will with that of others. Progressive individualization results at one end of the scale in those who can find incarnation only in hereditarily diseased, criminal, or insane families; some of whom may again rise -- provided they are not kept out of evolution by eugenistic follies -- but many of whom are on their way down and out of evolution. At the other end are those who can only be born "in pure and fortunate families;" Adepts and Mahatmas of high degree, are able normally to incarnate only in certain families and races whom we need not and would not name openly, though hints are here and there given for the assiduous student by H.P.B. Also there are the "great and long-gone Gnanis" who cannot reincarnate at all while the atmosphere of the world remains as vile as it is; and, still beyond, the Dhyanis who incarnate no more in this Manvantara.
As to geniuses born in stupid families, criminals of good families, and good men of bad families -- well, could we see "on the other side" all the intricate spiritual heredity of our kind, complicated and upset for good or ill by the individual struggles of countless Egos, these strange "dominants" would no longer be any more a mystery than the neatly-falling dice of the experimental biologist!
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:
FAITH AND WILL
"Brahmâ thought of himself (during the process) as the father of the world." This thinking of oneself as this, that, or the other, is the chief factor in the production of every kind of psychic or even physical phenomena. The words "whosoever shall say to this mountain be thou removed and cast into the sea, and shall not doubt ... that thing will come to pass," are no vain words. Only the word "faith" ought to be translated by WILL. Faith without Will is like a wind-mill without wind -- barren of results. --S.D. II, p. 59.
STUDIES IN REINCARNATION
(Part 5 of a 10-part series)
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(1) Science News-Letter, January 29, 1927.
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