Heredity and Rebirth

Modern science recognizes that there are factors that help to predetermine the physical characteristics of the individual being. These factors carry forward through physical transmission from ancestors and help to determine the capacities and physical attributes of the being. This is called “heredity”. Heredity primarily deals with physical characteristics and as a theory, it has done a good job in explaining many things. It has, however, not succeeded as well in terms of explaining issues such as personality, the phenomenon of genius or prodigy traits, or emotional character. Heredity is also not as “cut and dried” as many believe, inasmuch as different children born into the same family to the same parents can have totally different physical traits, as well as intellects.

There is of course also the debate about the influence of environment on the individual development, but that is not relevant to the current review. “Nature vs. Nurture” is of course an interesting subject that deserves its own scrutiny in its own place.

Turning to the question of rebirth, Sri Aurobindo explains that “Rebirth accounts, for example, for the phenomenon of genius, inborn faculty and so many other psychological mysteries.”

No theory of heredity can explain the ability of Mozart or Beethoven as young children to create musical compositions and play them. Nor can it be explained away by training or “nurture”. Once we get into the cases of talents and capacities that are far beyond the norm, outside the capacities of the parents and outside the specific training and focus the parents provide, it becomes even more obvious that there is something at work here beyond pure heredity or training.

This is one area where rebirth actually begins to illuminate the issue; but it does not stop there. Rebirth and karma are able to provide solutions to other issues that are not explicable otherwise, as we shall see hereafter.

Sri Aurobindo,

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