Let us start with a clear understanding of what is meant by Reincarnation. So far as the derivation of the word is concerned, any repeated entering into a physical, or fleshly covering, might be included thereunder. It certainly implies the existence of something relatively permanent that enters into and inhabits successive somethings relatively impermanent. Now Reincarnation is a truth that has swayed the minds of innumerable millions of our race, and has molded the thoughts of the vast majority for uncounted centuries. It dropped out of the European mind during the Dark Ages, and so ceased to influence our mental and moral development—very much, be it said in passing, to the injury of that development. For the last hundred years it has from time to time flashed through the minds of some of the greater Westerns, as a possible explanation of some of life's most puzzling problems: and during recent years, since its clear enunciation as an essential part of the Esoteric Teaching, it has been constantly debated, and is as constantly gaining ground, among the more thoughtful students of the mysteries of life and of evolution.
Seven is one of the most important numbers in the teachings of theosophy, the wisdom-religion. It is a key by which are revealed and explained many of the mysteries of nature, for in theosophy it is taught that number and numbers underlie all the processes of creation. This numerical key of seven lies at the root of all evolution, whether physical or spiritual. It is therefore important both in its meanings and application. There is nothing arbitrary about the use of seven as applied to the study of our composite constitution, as this number is found to be universal throughout the universe. We discover it everywhere. Some common facts are good instances of this, such as the seven layers of the human skin, the musical scale with its seven notes, and the seven colors which make up a ray of sunlight. Then there is the moon, which theosophy and science both show to have close relation to the generation of physical life on our planet. The moon is governed in its activities by the number seven. Note the recurrence of seven in the gestation period, the phases of the moon, with the week of seven days, etc. The inquirer has only to look observantly into the matter to find many other examples of the septenary in the world about him.
According to Theosophy, the generally prevailing idea that man is a body and has a soul should be reversed. The physical body, it is maintained, is not the real man, and to regard it so is equivalent to mistaking a house for the one who dwells within it. Man—the true man—is the monad, a fragment of divinity, a spark of the divine flame. In the well known Biblical story, when Jesus had driven the money-changers out of the temple, he said to those who questioned him, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up...” But he spoke of the temple of his body. Jesus spoke from that lofty state of awareness toward which, says Theosophy, we all move: The Christ-consciousness which knows the body as but a vehicle. The seed of all power, all wisdom, and all goodness is encased in the shell of the body awaiting fruition, and man, in the course of his evolution, has to unfold its latent potentialities.
Out of the darkness, through the open window of Birth, the life of a man comes to the earth; it dwells for a while before our eyes; into the darkness, through the open window of Death, it vanishes out of our sight. And man has questioned ever of Religion, Whence comes it? Whither goes it? And the answers have varied with the faiths. Death consists, indeed, in a repeated process of unrobing, or unsheathing. The immortal part of man shakes off from itself, one after the other, its outer casings, and as the snake from its skin, the butterfly from its chrysalis emerges from one after another, passing into a higher state of consciousness. Now it is the fact that this escape from the body, and this dwelling of the conscious entity either in the vehicle called the body of desire, the kâmic or astral body, or in a yet more ethereal Thought Body, can be effected during earth-life; so that man may become familiar with the excarnated condition, and it may lose for him all the terrors that encircle the unknown. He can know himself as a conscious entity in either of these vehicles, and so prove to his own satisfaction that "life" does not depend on his functioning through the physical body. Why should a man who has thus repeatedly "shed" his lower bodies, and has found the process result, not in unconsciousness, but in a vastly extended freedom and vividness of life why should he fear the final casting away of his fetters, and the freeing of his Immortal Self from what he realises as the prison of the flesh?
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