We have just seen how an Ego, after a long restorative rest, eventually withdraws into unconsciousness and awaits a new birth in another physical body. We stated this baldly and omitted technical and metaphysical explanations. Every event and process, however, is subject to law. We have seen that everything proceeds in cycles; it has a beginning, its period of existence and its end. Winter with bare earth and trees is followed by spring with its flowers and leaves; from oaks come acorns, from acorns come oaks, and so cycles succeed one another. Parents have children, who soon become parents themselves. Life is continually burgeoning and withdrawing. All forms are its temporary abodes. Alternation is the order of things and the pendulum of life swings ever from the visible objective state of being to invisible subjectivity, and from subjectivity back to objectivity again in ever recurrent cycles.
There is not nothing between periods of objective existence. Something continues in the realms of non-being. The human Ego, in its life cycle, ensouls a physical body from infancy to old age. At death it withdraws from the physical world but the life still continues its processes in its surviving inner principles, in the invisible worlds. In due season the Ego puts down a ray of itself again into another personality. It learns and develops its innate potentialities as it goes from physical life to physical life. No cycle of existence, however, is quite the same as its predecessor. Change is a characteristic of living processes. Growth, in time, is part of the cyclic law. In each earthly life, the Ego gains experience that slowly transmutes into faculty and character, when manifesting in a person. Each successive personality is more developed than its predecessor, even if ever so slightly, and in spite of perhaps an apparent retrogression in outward circumstances. These are decided by Karma. The process of Egoic development, of expansion and growth, is however very slow u such time as the personal man begins to feel responsible for his own growth. Conscious effort thereafter progressively hastens his development.
We must see something of the mechanics of the life process which makes this Egoic development possible, something of how each personality reflects this development and how it also reaps its karmic deserts.
As life passes, in manifold successive re-embodiments in an enormous variety of organisms and forms, through the various stages of development, matter both organic and inorganic becomes increasingly organised into more complex patterns. The life force, as it were, leaves behind it matter, organ and form 'educated' by experience. As evolution proceeds this results in the progressive modification of the organs of the more complicated organisms of which they form part. Thus, for example, brain, heart, liver, skin, nerves, lungs etc. organs for performing the specific functions of the life of our bodies, are evolved. As they collectively develop and become more competent so our bodies, as whole beings, become progressively more fitted to act as vehicles for the inherent faculties of the indwelling spirit. Matter and form learn to respond to and fulfil life's inherent powers and qualities. This is an immensely long process involving vast time cycles and world periods of existence, during which the inner life moves from one world to another, in sequential series.
The process of development is also immensely complicated. We can think, for example, of what a simple amoeba is capable of, then what the specialised organs of a body do severally and in concert within the body, in perfect harmony. A parallel development and organisation takes place in the inner worlds of life's forces and energies. The abilities, for example, to feel emotion, to think, to imagine, have all been learned by life itself, as an essence, as it gradually moves up through the kingdoms of nature. Such faculties can only develop as do the abilities of the necessary organs to give them expression. They also learn, as we have seen, to cooperate with one another. The living mechanisms to ensure this mutual cooperation are slowly established. For this cooperation to take place there has to be developed an interaction between the physical vehicle and the inner modes of action of the life and consciousness. In man, as we have seen, this is principally via his astral double. It seems that in the inner worlds there are agents analogous to hormones in the physical body.
When a man dies certain seed elements of the various aspects of his nature, together with their modifications as a result of his living experience, are retained, in a dormant state, in the inner world after his death, as life atoms. At the advent of another incarnation, under the impulse from the Ego, the life atoms are revitalised and attract to themselves suitable 'material ' from the appropriate plane of action to re-form a mento-emotional, or mind-feeling vehicle which will determine these characteristics in the new personality. They will, of course, have been earned in previous lives. In the East these characteristics, are known as skandhas. They not only condition our psyche but they can, and do, also affect the new physical vehicle. Heredity will give the new physical body its primary characteristics and qualities but the skandhas can, for example, affect its appearance, its visage, in much the same way that moods show in our facial expressions. Personality impresses the bodily man, the visible person, with its particular stamp.
The operations of Karma which determine the initial conditions of a birth, select parents and so determine the circumstances of early life, are seen here acting as the expression of universal law and justice. This is the principle but how the law works in particular cases, i.e. what effects certain actions will have, is not known. The law's action is sometimes explained on the basis of affinity links like magnetism, which lead to an attraction or drawing together again where links have been previously made. Others describe it as karmic effects wrought by the elementals which, in these cases, are the semi-intelligent but quite irresponsible agents of the Law. The sensitive plastic inner mould of the new man is also susceptible of impression by the 'memory' images existing in the astral light. Each man is inseparably linked to the images that he has created. The new personality has an affinity with them and may often give expression to them. The new man is, therefore, to this extent the effect of prior causes set up by the old one. It is said that before each new birth the Ego has a period of consciousness in which it enjoys a prevision of the general tenor of the life to come and of its significance to the Ego. Karma decides the conditions of the new life and not the Ego as such. They are inescapable.
It is important to realise that no-one is completely bound by his circumstances once he becomes capable of making decisions and acting for himself. He can then modify his surroundings and affect the people round him. They react to whatever he originates. The quality of relationships is affected by his contribution to them. In this way it can be seen how, to a greater or lesser extent depending on our inherent power, we create our own circumstances and environment. Man individually slowly learns his responsibility for what he does and, in the main, what befalls him. Mankind as a whole must also learn that it, collectively, creates the circumstances it enjoys or suffers from. No one and nothing else can put the world right. Whether a given man's life be prosperous and happy, creative and worth- while with a maximum of personal freedom, or mean and miserable, unimaginative and stunting, with a minimum of personal freedom, depends on the man himself, on his personal aims and energies, on his individual qualities, on what he does and, significantly, what he willingly puts at the service of his community. Reincarnation ensures that we never lack the opportunity for learning and reforming ourselves. It is an aspect of the workings of the law which unfailingly, in the long run, works in our favour, however hard or bitter our lot in any particular life or circumstance may be. Everything moves to good.
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