The Doctrine of Samsara in the West
“Upon the walls of our most private apartments, where we think the eye of intrusion is altogether shut out, and our retirement can never be profaned, there exist the vestiges of all our acts, silhouettes of whatever we have done.“
This mere paragraph is enough to describe concisely the law of cause and effect, which in the Orient is known as “the doctrine of Samsara“. Samsara is a Sanscrit term meaning rotation and interchange; it is the rotation configurated by the power of an initial breath -therefore cause, which sets into continuous motion a wheel of consecutive causes and effects, thus leading the monad into the ocean of births and deaths.
“Intimately, or rather indissolubly, connected with Karma, then, is the law of re-birth, or of the reincarnation, of the same spiritual individuality in a long, almost interminable, series of personalities. The latter are like the various costumes and characters played by the same actor, with each of which that actor identifies himself and is identified by the public, for the space of a few hours. The inner, or real man, who personates those characters, knows the whole time that he is Hamlet … and he knows that he was, the night before, King Lear … the transformation in his turn of the Othello of a still earlier preceding night; but the outer, visible character is supposed to be ignorant of the fact. In actual life that ignorance is, unfortunately, but too real. Nevertheless, the permanent individuality is fully aware of the fact, though, through the atrophy of the “spiritual” eye in the physical body, that knowledge is unable to impress itself on the consciousness of the false personality.“
Also, “Occultists must teach cyclic and evolutionary reincarnation; that kind of re-birth, mysterious and still incomprehensible to many who are ignorant of the world’s history … A general rebirth for every individual with interlude of Kama-loka and Devachan, and a cyclic conscious reincarnation with a grand and divine object for the few.“
With these characteristic opinions, Helena Blavatsky is in favour of a “cycle of Samsara“, which is defined by the Secret Doctrine as the “journey of the Pilgrim“. The pilgrim is the Monad, which is a ray from the Absolute “…a breath of the … Absolute Homogeneity, having no relations with the conditioned and relative finiteness, is unconscious on our plane.“ Each Monad being a part of the Unique Essence, enters into/is submitted to the journey of the Pilgrim in order to – by unfolding progressively its latent potentials – influence spiritually not only the reign of Nature but also all the spheres of the Planetary Chains it contacts through its displayed rays.
The human monad is a projection of its spiritual Monad and it is called Re-incarnated Ego. This Ego will acquire the ability of self-consciousness by projecting it through its inferior ray, called human personality. That is, through the experiences recorded by the personality, at some point, the Re-incarnated Ego will acquire such high and vast consciousness that it will no longer need its projection into the plane of personality. During this journey, the pilgrim-monad obbeys to the law of Motion and Changes and it is contained by all the dimensions of objectivity. Thus, the pilgrim will have to win the trophee of self-consciousness through personal efforts supported by the laws of karma and rebirth.
Because the Secret Doctrine teaches that there is “the fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul, the latter being itself an aspect of the Unknown Root; and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul – a spark of the former – through the Cycle of Incarnation ( or “Necessity” ) in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic law, during the whole term. In other words, no purely spiritual Buddhi (divine Soul) can have an independent (conscious) existence before the spark which issued from the pure Essence of the Universal Sixth principle, – or the OVER-SOUL, – has (a) passed through every elemental form of the phenomenal world of that Manvantara, and (b) acquired individuality, first by natural impulse, and then by self-induced and self-devised efforts (checked by its Karma), thus ascending through all the degrees of intelligence, from the lowest to the highest Manas, from mineral and plant, up to the holiest archangel (Dhyani-Buddha). The pivotal doctrine of the Esoteric philosophy admits no privileges or special gifts in man, save those won by his own Ego through personal effort and merit throughout a long series of metempsychoses and reincarnations.“
The human monad, which is the projection of the spiritual one, is a consciousness which dominates from the start the wish it makes true, either positive or negative, because it thus fulfils the specifications of the plane within which it exists. The journey of Necessity is performed because at each section of differentiation the monad should impose its potential essence, activating its latent principles, those which correspond to the plane in which it exists. Further, the monad should express its higher principles, those which represent each time the next and higher level on its ascending spiritual scale. “In Esoteric Philosophy, every physical particle corresponds to and depends on its higher noumenon – the Being to whose essence it belongs; and above as below, the Spiritual evolves from the Divine, the psycho-mental from the Spiritual – tained from its lower plane by the astral – the whole animate and (seemingly) inanimate Nature evolving on parallel lines, and drawing its attributes from above as well as from below. “
However, according to the Eastern theory of Samsara, the perpetual cycle of life and death leads human soul not only to a human rebirth but also to a metempsychosis which animates an animal, a plant or a mineral. This fundamental view on the course of human soul, inspired by many annotators ad literam and not in substance and accepted by the mass of believers without questioning, leads them into the fallacy that each person, according to his sins, is driven to bodies of lower kinds of life as a punishment. That, of course, although partly true, does not represent the inner itinerary of the Re-incarnated Monad, but the itinerary of the vital and physical atoms which represent the bodies of the monad.
First of all, we should deal with the terms “reincarnation” and “metempsychosis“. Reincarnation means the presence of the re-incarnated Ego, that is Manas, through a personality into a physical body. While metempsychosis concerns the atom-monad – potential, for the time being – which follows the cycle of transmigration through the physical reigns without the possibility of conscious response. During the Monad’s journey through the spheres of manifested life, the Monad – collecting atoms from its Auric-Egg – configurates bodies corresponding to the planes within which it exists. These bodies are called psychic bodies and develop along with the centre of consciousness from which they are projected. The unfolding of the principles of the monad through its bodies demands a support from the monad itself and this is called empsychosis.
We could say that metempsychosis is the process during which the superior monad ensouls its rays within objectivity ; or that the monad, which is always the centre of consciousness, influences with its breath its wrappings so that it can retrieve them progressively towards its own spiritual state.
There is a steady and inviolable relation between the monad and its body, which although two, in fact they are one. In the case of “man“, when the monad-Ego possesses consciousness and manifests – with the help of Manas – its qualities, then we say that the Ego is reincarnated. However, as long as human potentials remain lethargic, its Monad – which is the soul-centre – ensouls it, so that its spiritual noetic breath penetrates the Ego and inspires it to express the principles and the qualities due to which it is called Man. This process is called “empsychosis” and “metempsychosis“, until the expression of the physical astral powers is achieved, those powers that belong to human species.
When someone dies, the Ego passes to Devahan, after the principles that constituted it having previously been withdrawn and unfolded towards the Causal Body – from which they are re-projected into a new birth. When the principles retire, the bodies that had covered them remain within their respective planes until the power that kept them alive is exhausted. Then, the atoms, when the shell disintegrates, return or go towards the environment by which they are psycho-magnetically attracted. Thus, they are submitted to the process of transmigration according to which the atoms travel for thousands of years through magnetically similar groups until they return again – revived by experience – to the point where they had started.
This starting point is the Oval of the human monad, its microcosmos and storeroom from where it draws the elemental atoms it uses for the configuration of its bodies. The same atoms form – at each incarnation – the wrappings of its principles, which develop and are rebuilt along with the activation of the principle which ensouls them. It is said that these elemental atoms return to their cradle, that is the Human Oval, every 2.000 to 3.000 years, following the withdrawal of the principles which accompanies the death of man, after having travelled cyclically through other groups by which they are magnetically attracted.
This process is called “the process of transmigration” and constitutes the fundament of metempsychosis. This doctrine, though, has been misunderstood and misinterpreted, even by the Westerners who believe that human soul descends to the animal bodies. That is not true, though, and even if it were, in that case it is not the Reincarnated Ego – the soul – that rules, but its lower principles. The Ego has abandoned the lower vehicle, the animal, if the principles that represent it are inexistent or better said totally unmanifested in this inferior life kind.
According to the Secret Doctrine, the Monad is a drop from the Unique Essence, which is the substratum of Divinity. The Higher Self is the Spiritual Monad – atma-buddhi – and its essnce is spiritual. Man is the Higher Ego and his essence is Buddhic and Manasic. The Reincarnated Ego is a ray of the Higher and its nature is kama-manasic. When dressed as personality, it becomes a human soul, a psycho-astral entity surrounded by life and physical atoms.
Man is a reincarnated Ego, a psycho-astral monad dressed as personality, which is determined by its own principles and bodies. These bodies, the mental-kamic, pranic and physical, are consisted of millions of atoms, which correspond to its bodies according to their homogeneity and their similar vibration. What makes man differ from the animal is his ability to reason, express and control his instincts.
Between the earthly life and rebirth, the atoms which constitute the bodies of human soul transmigrate through and inside the animal reign as well as the remaining lower life kinds. In fact, as they begin their exploring, they are attracted by those bodies and beings the rhythms and qualities of which are similar, be it human, animals, plants or minerals. The same atoms can transmigrate by means of other bodies through air, water, breath, alimentation. Life is governed by perpetual motion, by a cyclic rotation which leads steadily its atoms into new experiences, which in their turn lead to renewal of life and enhanced consciousness.
And as the human monad is submitted to the journey of Necessity or the cycle of Peregrination until it acquires self-consciousness and then returns to the Universal Soul from which it emerged, in the same way the life atom – being a ray of the human monad – is submitted to the cycle of transmigration in order to be revived through experiences, by means of similarly organized life groups until it returns to the initial focus from where it emerged. And during these peregrinations, both the projected monad and the atoms gain individual knowledge and direct experience, thus enhancing their consciousness – on the one hand the monad by reaching the target of spirituality, on the other, the atom by reaching the target of intellectuality.
If a person used to live in an extremely ugly and materialistic way, it is natural – according to the law of atunement- that his atoms would be attracted by similar groups of atoms, which usually constitute the animal bodies. In case these atoms belonged to a monad ruled by inertia as well as sensitivity, then the atoms may be attracted into the configuration of plants. These same atoms, after numerous transmigrations, are used again by the human monad, that is by the reincarnated Ego, of which they represented the bodies in their previous incarnation, and structured into noetic, emotional, energetic and physical units, configurate the new body that the human soul will use for its rebirth.
What we must know, is that in the case of re-birth there is no embodiment of the Higher Trinity, that is atma-buddhi- superior manas. It influences the brain and the heart through the power of intellect. The lower nature – that is the principles of the lower manas and kama – is the one that gathers – by descending from the Causal Body through the astral planes – all those atoms that have always belonged to it and reconstructs its human existence even before its re-birth. It is then said that the Ego is incarnated, while the Higher Trinity ensouls it with its light and power, by means of intellect and manas. In a similar way, the human monad, which is the immediate emanation of the Re-incarnated Ego – and which is called human because it contains a part of Manas – the atoms that constitute its vehicles.
In the Laws of Manu the following excerpt is mentioned: “every act, either mental, verbal or corporeal, bears good or evil fruit; the various transmigrations of men (not souls) through the highest, middle, and lowest stages, are produced by his actions” (Ch. XII, 3) and again that “A Brahman-killer enters the body of a dog, bear, ass, camel, goat, sheep, bird, &c.” (Ch. XII, 55). According to the interpretation given by Helena Blavatsky to the two previous excerpts “he who severs his personal Ego from the Atman and thus kills the future Devachanee, becomes a Brahman-killer.Instead of facilitating through a virtuous life and spiritual aspirations the mutual union of the Buddhi and the Manas, he condemns by his own evil acts every atom of his lower principles to become attracted and drawn in virtue of the magnetic affinity, thus created by his passions, into the forming bodies of lower animals or brutes. This is the real meaning of the doctrine of Metempsychosis. It is not that such amalgamation of human particles with animal and even vegetable atoms can carry in it any idea of personal punishment per se, for of course it does not. But it is acause created, the effects of which may manifest themselves throughout the next re-births – unless the personality is annihilated.“
It is worth giving special attention to this final phrase, because annihilation of personality means that the re-incarnated Ego withdraws its ray, that is the mental ray. This happens for two reasons : either because personality has performed its work and the Ego does not need it any more, or because the Ego abandons personality because of its very bad behaviour. In the second case, the lower principles (first, second and third), as well as a part of the middle one (fourth – kama), continue to exist and live without the Fifth principle of Manas. In this case, the previous human soul is punished, because it loses its leading principle, the one that defines it as a re-incarnated Ego, while it continues to exist with those lower principles that correspond to animals and plants.
In another excerpt from her article “Hierosophy and Theosophy“, she mentions the following concerning the Transmigration of the living atoms, as believed by the Egyptians: “We are taught that for 3000 years at least the “mummy”, notwithstanding all the chemical preparations, goes on throwing off, to the last, invisible atoms which from the hour of death, re-entering the various vortices of being, go indeed “through every variety of organized life forms.” But it is not the soul, the fifth, least of all the sixth principle, but the life atoms or the jiva, the second principle. At the end of 3000 years, sometimes more, sometimes less, after endless transmigrations all these atoms are once more drawn together, and are made to form the new outer clothing or the body of the same monad (the real soul) which had already been clothed with them two or three thousands years before. Even in the worst case, that of the annihilation of the conscious personal principle, the monad or individual soul is ever the same as are also the atoms of the lower principles which, regenerated and renewed in this ever-flowing river of being, are magnetically drawn together owing to their affinity, and are once more reincarnated together. Such was the true occult theory of the Egyptians.“
Going back to the doctrine of Samsara, I would like to express yet another opinion. The Monad, which is a column of light and a centre of consciousness, driven by the Monadic Essence , configurates certain ranks of consciousness, which are : a) the Divine Monad, b) the Spiritual Monad, c) the Ego Monad, d) the Noetic Monad or Soul, e) the monad-life atom, f) the monad-atom. At each differentiation there is a ring leader principle the latent potential of which must be activated and imposed to the bodies that surround it.. Every such process – that is the relation between the principle and the body – ends up into a life kind, and thus the Hierarchic Scale of Life is gradually formed. In this process which is the journey of the monad from the divine centre towards objectivity – this is called evolution – and its return after a long and full of experiences period into the cradle of its emanation – this is called involution – there is always an intermediary link-principle, which ensouls the inferior life and connects it with the superior one. There is a continuous and indestructible link between the atoms and their generators, and between the generator-monads and their headspring, which is the Over-Soul.
Manifested life is a chain of principles and qualities – the principles belong to Consciousness, while the qualities belong to the Matter-Essence – and there is not only a continuous flow and recycling from within to without and viceversa, but also a relation of paternal affection of the spiritual with the matter.
However, for every projection which constitutes temporarily a distinct life kind, there are specific laws and rules, that individual life must obbey, appreciate and use. The purpose of this constraint is the activation of the leading principle and its expression with appropriate qualities through its wrapping, during each differentiation. If individual life refuses to apply the law imposed by its leading principle, then this principle withdraws and draws in its ray, until it is magnetically attracted by another group of atoms, which anticipates the installation of the higher ray and the expression of its potentials outwards.
Then, in the case of departure of the superior ray – in our case the Reincarnated Ego – the monad of the lower principles and the atoms that constitute its wrapping, continues its cycle of peregrination and transmigration as an animal human monad or as a vital monad and not as a monad with consciousness and self-consciousness. This happens because the human monad is distinguished from the animal one due to its contact with the superior Manas and Buddhi, which enables the monad to distinguish between good and evil. Then, this abandoned by Buddhi and Higher Manas, the Sixth and Fifth Principles, lower existence continues to live as a lower life kind because this is what suits it. This lower round goes on until the lower animal existence grows mature enough to appreciate the scent of the Manasic principle and mainly to use it in a suitable way. Virtue and intelligent activity are the two major characteristics of the Superior Principle and are the attributes that can transform the animal-man into human.
In the Mahatma Letter no.16, the following are mentioned about the principles which constitute man and about the journey of the Ego: “To my knowledge and recollection H.P.B. explained … that man’s sixth principle, as something purely spiritual could not exist, or have conscious being in the Devachan, unless it assimilated some of the more abstract and pure of the mental attributes of the fifth principle or animal Soul: its manas (mind) and memory. When a man dies, his second and third principles die with him; the lower triad disappears, and the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh principles  form the surviving Quaternary. Thenceforth it is a “death” struggle between the Upper and Lower dualities. If the upper wins, the sixth, having attracted to itself the quintessence of Good from the fifth – its nobler affections, its saintly (though they be earthly) aspirations, and the most Spiritualized portions of its mind – follows its divine elder (the 7th) into the “Gestation”; and the fifth and fourth remain in association as an empty shell … to roam in the earth’s atmosphere, with half the personal memory gone, and the brutal instinct fully alive for a certain period – an “Elementary” in short. This is the angel guide of the average medium. If on the other hand, it is the Upper Duality which is defeated, then it is the fifth principle that assimilates all that there may be left of personal recollection and perceptions of its personal individuality in the sixth. But with all this additional stock, it will not remain in Kama-Loka – “the world of Desire” or our earth’s atmosphere. In a very short time like a straw floating within the attraction of the vortices and pits … it is caught up and drawn into the great whirlpool of human Egos; while the sixth and seventh – now a purely spiritual, individual MONAD, with nothing left in it of the late personality, having no regular “gestation” period to pass through, after a more or less prolonged period of unconscious Rest in the boundless Space – will find itself reborn in another personality…“ In this excerpt, the Master of Wisdom refers to the principles which constitute the human monad and defines the principles which promote the human nature in its release from the wheel of re-birth and those principles which limit man into the physical world.
According to the Secret Doctrine “The last human Monad incarnated before the beginning of the 5th Root-Race. The cycle of metempsychosis for the human monad is closed, for we are in the Fourth Round and the Fifth Root-Race … The latter is the cycle of the turning point, after which, matter, having reached its lowest depths, begins to strive onward and to get spiritualized with every new Race and with every fresh cycle.“
Metempsychosis is the process which pursues the activation of the potential of the latent essence at the non-intelligent life kinds through the radiation and the presence of superior life. The act of ensouling the first shadows by the principle of Manas, which much later became humans, took place at the first steps of the evolution of human races. “The Kumaras, explains an esoteric text, are the Dhyanis, derived immediately from the supreme Principle, who reappear … for the progress of mankind …a ‘special’ or extra creation, since it is they who, by incarnating themselves within the senseless human shells of the two first Root-Races, and a great portion of the Third Root-race – create, so to speak, a new race : that of thinking, self-conscious and divine men. “
This happens because, “Man remained an empty, senseless Bhuta“ and because “the Monad … is unconscious on our plane. Therefore, besides the material which will be needed for its future human form, the monad requires (a) a spiritual model, or prototype, for that material to shape itself into; and (b) an intelligent consciousness to guide its evolution and progress, neither of which is possessed by the homogeneous monad, or by the senseless though living matter. The Adam of dust requires the Soul of Life to be breathed into him : the two middle principles, which are the sentient life of the irrational animal and the Human Soul, for the former is irrational without the latter.“
Until the first Races of the Third Root Race, man was an animal shell, that is a body made up only from the forces of the Earth without any intelligent ability and self-consciousness. It was only a speechless animal. When the shells “were dwelt“, that is ensouled by Manasaputra – the Sons of Nous – then they began to be turned into intelligent beings and were transformed into human souls. This happened at the middle of the Third Root Race and during the remaining races until the end of the Fourth Root Race, the Manasic Monad ensouled new shells which were progressively prepared to accept it and be transformed – with much effort – from animal into human. That is, as long as the shell with its inferior principles was preserving the characteristics of the animal nature, the Manas ensouled it in order to transform it into human. This ensoulment meant that the psychological transformations undergone by the newly fomed human being until it was transformed from animal-man into human.
That is why it is mentioned in the Secret Doctrine that the Ego wins through personal effort “…throughout a long series of metempsychoses and reincarnations” (S.D. I, 17) and that starting with the Fifth Root Race, the process of metempsychosis stopped, since the access of new souls into mankind was closed, because its itinerary overcame the bottom of descent and started to march along the arch of ascent towards the closure of its Fourth Round.
The term metempsychosis could mean the process of psychological metamorphosis and it is thus hidden under animal names, which determine the characteristics of the incarnated personality and not, of course, the fact that a man is re-born as an animal or a plant for punishment. As Dr. de Purucker points out: “It is of course evident that these words have strict relations with each other, as, for instance, every soul in its metempsychosis also transtransmigrates in its own particular sense; and inversely every transtransmigrating entity also has its metempsychosis or soul-changings in its own particular sense. But these connections or interminglings of meanings must not be confused with the specific significance attached to each one of these words.“
As for the Platonicist view on the mutations of humans into animals according to their deeds, it should not be interpreted ad literam, but rather as allegories which carry the message of rebirth under circumstances that human ego has itself cultivated according to its own choices and efforts.
Within the world born from Wisdom and Its Infinite Compassion, there is a ring leader, Its Will, which becomes the Law of Manifestation. The Law sees to the materialization of the Divine Plan which is the evolution of manifested life and its course towards more and more spiritual planes. In this game of evolution, the implementation of the Law looks like punishment. However, punishment and reward are the two sides of the Law, which intervene in order to set the monad into its final spiritual straight. Essentially, there is no such thing as punishment or reward, there is only Its Infinite Compassion which, through Its Manifestation, enables Its offsprings to be like Itself.
 S.D. I, 104 – footnote 2
 S.D. II, 306
 S.D. V, 357
 S.D. I, 247
 S.D. I, 17
 S.D. I, 218
 Ch. XII, 3 & 55, the fifth vol. of “Collected Writings“, by Helena Blavatsky, ch. “The transmigration of life atoms“, p. 114
 “The transmigration of the life atoms” by Helena Blavatsky, from “Collected Writings“, 5th vol.
 “Hierosophy and Theosophy” by Helena Blavatsky, from the 4th Vol. of “Collected Writings“, p. 559
 Monadic Essence : the essence which constitutes the existence of a god
 The seven principles are : 7) Atma 6) Buddhi 5) Manas 4) Kama 3) Prana 2) Linga Sarira 1) Physical
 The gestation is the after-death period, during which the human soul assimilates as much as possible within a plane and thus enters into the next one or descends towards rebirth
 Mahatma Letter No. 16, from the book by G.A.Farthing “After Death Consciousness and Processes“, p.225
 S.D. I, 185
 S.D. I, 457 and footnote 5
 Anthropogenesis, Stanza IV, verse 17
 S.D. I, 246-7
 G. de Purucker, “Occult Lexicon“, p. 105, Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, California