Do Theosophist have to believe in reincarnation? Can one be a Theosophist and not believe in it?
According to Theosophy does one have to reincarnate?
ANSWER: Calvin, I am glad to answer that question because (1) it's about Theosophy and (2) because I have personal experience with it. You can be a Theosophist and not believe in reincarnation. I know because I was a very happy Theosophist for many years and did not believe in it. Theosophy has about four basic principles and not one of them has to do with reincarnation. They are more about the brotherhood of man and ancient wisdom. Theosophy, technically, believes in freedom of thought; however, reincarnation is definitely part of Theosophical belief. You see it discussed in books as THE SECRET DOCTRINE (which is a basic text) and in THE OCEAN OF THEOSOPHY by William Q. Judge (a popular introduction). Here is my case: I was taking a home study course on THE OCEAN OF THEOSOPHY through Theosophical University (of California). (I should mention, there are several Theosophical groups. I currently belong to the United Lodge of Theosophy, but there is also the Theosophical Society of America--which, I believe, is connected to Annie Besant--and Theosophical University, which, I think, is connected to Katherine Tingley. The United Lodge, in its basic principles, does not officially require a belief in reincarnation). In the course, the book came to a chapter on reincarnation. It said that Moses, Jesus, and Paul taught reincarnation, and that it was part of Christian teaching. I explained that this was not true. I am trained in Christian theology and history and know that reincarnation was never a definitive Christian teaching. Christianity teaches justification by faith which has salvation through God's grace and that leaves no room for reincarnation, which is salvation by works. You know what happened? The instructor asked if I wanted to drop the course. Theosophists claim to be non-dogmatic, but they are very dogmatic, in a fundamentalist sense, about reincarnation. They do teach that you have or you do reincarnate. If I remember right, your "astral body" creates your next body. Theosophy does not seem to have a clear idea of God. It's like your astral body creates your next body. It's cyclical, depending on your prior life. I raised an issue about that, too. If a person is sick or disabled and that is due to a previous life, then why treat them? They are just living out karma (which, they believe, is just). Also, we have no proof that the person had a previous life or was this other person. So, I got dropped from the course (which was probably just as well). Theosophy does not technically require a belief in reincarnation, but it does teach it. It depends on how deeply you are involved with it.
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QUESTION: Thanks for answering my question.
It good to know that one can be Theosophist and not believe in reincarnation. Which doesn't make sense to me and seem cruel that we have repeat life over and over again and suffer.
But since Theosophy does teach reincarnation how can one be devout Theosophists and not believe in it? Can you study Theosophy by yourself and not be in a group?
I personally believe in the Summerland which make sense to me but not the reincarnation part.
I try reading the Secret doctrine but the old English concept was kind of hard to read. I heard of a book call Secret Gateway by Ed Abdill which is the only Theosophy book written for this generation. Have you heard of it?
ANSWER: You can be a Theosophist "on your own" by being a "member at large." This is how the Theosophical Society of America does it. They have an excellent program. They send a monthly letter which describes Theosophical concepts. It is very helpful. The California group is more detailed (regarding membership, or so it seems). There are no requirements to join the United Lodge, except to sign a statement about world brotherhood. Theosophy does teach reincarnation, but it is not condition of membership. Theosophists like to think that they have freedom of thought, yet when you get into it, you see that it's not so free. They can be very dogmatic on karma and reincarnation. It seems to me that there are two schools regarding reincarnation: the popular and the classical. The popular view is espoused by people as Cayce, Sylvia Brown, or Shirley Maclaine. This is not necessarily rooted in classical views as in Hinduism and Buddhism. The popular school says that reincarnation is to learn lessons. It has ideas as of the "Lords of Karma" (whoever they are). However, Buddhism and Hinduism do not seem to have the idea that reincarnation (or transmigration) is to learn lessons. Reincarnation happens because people are bound by materiality and desire. The idea is not to reincarnate, but to NOT reincarnate. It is to break that cycle and enter into nirvana. Reincarnation ISN'T what's supposed to happen! This popular school is not based on the Hindu-Buddhist roots. It is, frankly, based on "flim flam." I've not heard of Adbill's book, though I think I saw him on a video. You'd think if these people were going to teach reincarnation, they'd do it properly, with the right sources. What irritated me about William Q. Judge, he gave no proofs or citations for his claims. He could have been talking off the top of his head. I like a philosophy based on sound principles, not fantasy.
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QUESTION: Thanks for the answer.
Do you have a belief on.the.afterlife in regards to Theosophy?
Theosophy's idea of afterlife was keyed to reincarnation and karma. It is defined in books as THE SECRET DOCTRINE and THE OCEAN OF THEOSOPHY. That I recall, Madame Blavatsky was involved in Spiritualism, but I don't think that that is endorsed in Theosophy.