Rebirth and Other Worlds: An Introduction

Having ascertained the existence of other worlds than the purely material, and the interaction of those worlds with the physical manifestation, it is appropriate to raise the question of how the soul interacts with those other worlds, and in particular how the process of rebirth interfaces with those other worlds, if at all. We thus begin a new chapter called “Rebirth and Other Worlds; Karma, the Soul and Immortality” to take up these and related questions.

It is useful to review the Vedic and Upanishadic citations that Sri Aurobindo sets forth at the beginning of any new chapter as they provide insight into the understanding of the ancient rishis and sages, and in many cases illuminate the issues far more clearly with their intuitive, experiential process than we do nowadays with our rational, linear process.

Since we are dealing in this chapter with the mechanism of the soul’s rebirth in relation to the existence and influence of other worlds, we can fruitfully look at what the sages have to say in that regard.

The first citation comes from the Taittiriya Upanishad: “He passes in his departure from this world to the physical Self; he passes to the Self of life; he passes to the Self of mind; he passes to the Self of knowledge; he passes to the Self of bliss; he moves through these worlds at will.”

And the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: “They say indeed that the conscious being is made of desire. But of whatsoever desire he comes to be, he comes to be of that will, and of whatever will he comes to be, he does that action, and whatever his action, to (the result of) that he reaches….Adhered to by his Karma, he goes in his subtle body to wherever his mind cleaves, then, coming to the end of his Karma, even of whatsoever action he does here, he returns from that world to this world for Karma.”

A lot to reflect on before we enter into the systematic review of the chapter in the next post.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 22, Rebirth and Other Worlds; Karma, the Soul and Immortality

Action and Impact of the Higher Planes on the Terrestrial Being

It is not possible to create something out of nothing, and therefore, the planes of Spirit, Mind and Life which we are reviewing could not have been created out of Matter. They must therefore take priority since it is their involved powers which are evolving out into manifestation in the material world.

Sri Aurobindo points out: “For even if there is an ascending as well as a descending gradation, this ascending gradation must be in its first nature a provision for the evolutionary emergence in Matter, a formative power for its endeavour, contributing to it helpful and adverse elements, and not a mere consequence of the terrestrial evolution…”

Man does not create the mental or life worlds; rather, the imaginations, visions, experiences are signs of an interaction, a pressure or a presence of the forces of those worlds impinging upon the development of the powers of man in the material world.

“We have been led to conclude that the development of Life, Mind and Spirit in the physical being presupposes their existence; for these powers are developed here by two cooperating forces, an upward-tending force from below, an upward-drawing and downward-pressing force from above….It is this upward-drawing action and this pressure, this insistence from above, which explain the constant influence of the spiritual, mental and vital worlds upon the physical plane. It is evident that, given a complex universe and seven principles interwoven in every part of its system and naturally therefore drawn to act upon and resond to each other wherever they can at all get at one another, such an action, such a constant pressure and influence, is an inevitable consequence, must be inherent in the very nature of the manifested universe.”

The effect of this action of the higher planes and principles on development in the terrestrial sphere has been to liberate these powers that were involved in Matter. “…its last effect has been to assist the emergence of a spiritual consciousness, a spiritual will and spiritual sense of existence in the terrestrial being so that he is no longer solely preoccupied with his outermost life or with that and mental pursuits and interests, but has learned to look within, to discover his inner being, his spiritual self, to aspire to overpass earth and her limitations.”

The result can be to “substitute the Spirit for Matter as his conscious foundation of being and liberate its higher powers to their complete and characteristic expression in the life of the soul embodied in Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 21, The Order of the Worlds