Setting the Stage
An introduction to the "Body of Knowledge" known as Theosophy
Part 47 - Arguments On Reincarnation Xiv
The Social Cycle
THEOSOPHY, Vol. 34, No. 7, May, 1946
(Pages 269-270; Size: 6K)
(Number 14 of a 14-part series)
REINCARNATION is no special law, but applies to all things under the universal law of cycles. We reincarnate because the various powers that make up a human being have variant cycles of manifestation; the variation in the length of the cycles brings about an alternative aggregation and disaggregation, called "birth" and "death" in the case of man and animal. That is, the entelechy of "soul" lasts infinitely longer than does the cohesive power of the body.
This law applies equally to nations; just as a man is a compound of various powers having attractive affinities for one another, so does a nation or race consist of Egos bound together by past deeds and relationships. Thus any national order has a duration determined by the length of the average reincarnation cycle, which is, for Western races, about 1,500 years.
At the birth of a nation, a certain type of men are active. As they exhaust their necessary experience in that nation, other types gradually come in, and the national character changes by degrees. Since no group is infinite in number, the apex cannot be sustained, and decline sets in. The higher types are followed by lower, until in its declining days the once great country becomes inhabited with Egos at the barbarian or savage stage of evolution; it is an advance for them, though an apparent decline for the nation. As this happens, the Egos who built its highest civilization are beginning to build a still newer one.
Thus periodically the general pattern of a nation repeats itself -- where the people have in the past lived with high ideals, the new pattern is a refined and purified edition of the old, and conversely.
Will America have ended, fifteen hundred years hence, to give birth to new nations? Will the present European nations be lost in the dimness of history and their lands occupied by new racial mixtures and new nations? Will the Roman Empire of 1,500 years ago occupy then the place in history that Babylon now does? The cycle of national birth and death can no more be avoided than can that of a man, but those concerned have it in their power to make the national cycle a useful and honorable one or the reverse. There are nations that die in honor and nations that die in degradation.
This law has an intimate application to all of us; the "posterity" of which we speak will be ourselves. The starvation we are preparing for future generations by our waste of soil and natural resources will be our poverty. It was in this way that some of the Chinese nation today prepared their own present misery and starvation when they lived in former times. At the same time those who battle against abuses would be found in new and higher nations at the time when their more selfish and dull compatriots are back to reap what they have sown.
Along with this goes a tendency to return to old religious ideas and customs. The rise of emotional sects in the present is the flareback of the primitive Christianity of 1,5OO years ago; while modernistic Christianity, Western Buddhism, and reincarnationist movements in general are the return of the Neo Platonic and Neo Pythagorean schools of Alexandria, and of Manicheism, which rose during the decline of Rome. The return of paganism to Germany was the natural reincarnation, with the people who practiced it, of the Teutonic cults of 1,500 years ago.
These cycles, of course, are only roughly 1,500-year cycles, and probably very few individuals are reborn in exactly that time, some being gone for only a few years, others for thousands. Evolution is thus not a straight line, but a spiral, conditions returning constantly to corresponding points, but on either a higher or lower plane according to the individual enterprise. The general tone of a national group may become either higher or lower according to the action of its influential men; if an individual exerts himself to diverge from his national type, he will in time reincarnate in either a higher or lower group.
Those who will study history, men and things, in the light of this great spiral law, will see a new world of understanding of human affairs open to them; and by studying the current tendencies of the times, will, by comparing corresponding times of the past, be able to anticipate the trends intelligently.
NOTE.--This concludes the series begun in April, 1945. --Editors.