We sometimes turn to Nature for illustrations that we can use in explaining some of the doctrines, and the best illustration that I can find for the teaching of reincarnation is a perennial plant. Perhaps a plant growing from a bulb provides the best example of all, because during the winter months all that had grown above the ground has been shed, and the bulb lies invisibly below the surface waiting for the new spring-time growth.
It is a wonderful thing, once you come to think about it, how the life-energies bring forth the blade-like leaves, and then the flower, and then when the flowering is over, the energies withdraw into the bulb, and the flower and the leaves are shed.
Suppose, just for the sake of this illustration, we cut the flower in its prime and preserve it. When the new flower appears during the next Spring, we may find that to all intents and purposes it is an altogether different flower, as much so almost as though it had sprung from a different bulb. And yet it is the outgrowth of the flower that we preserved from the year before, because the same life-energy produced them both.
It seems that here is the secret of the difference between the personality and the individuality. The individuality, which we also call the reincarnating ego, is like the bulb because it puts forth a new personality at each new birth, which process we have come to call reincarnation. The personality of this life-time is to all intents and purposes a different being from the personality that the reincarnating ego brought forth in its previous sojourn on earth. And this is the reason that we cannot remember our past lives.
Now the great task confronting us in human life is to make of this personality a fitting instrument and vehicle for the life of the individuality, which is really the higher Self. When we recognize that we as human beings have the responsibility of maintaining our bodies in health and control, and of using them for constructive purposes, and that we are responsible in the last analysis to our higher Selves, then this higher Self, or the individuality as we also call it, can become more manifest in our consciousness. When this has been more or less successfully accomplished we have true human greatness.
So when a person says: “But I don’t want to reincarnate,” that is the impermanent part of him speaking that isn’t going to endure anyway. When he makes a sincere effort to study the grand teachings, and to live them, then he becomes conscious of those vaster reaches of his being that comprise the entity which does survive through the ages in that mysterious process called reincarnation.
And one more thought. Reincarnation is only a special case of a wider teaching of the Continuance of Life. We reincarnate because humanity at the present level of its unfoldment needs the experience. There are entities in the universe that do not reincarnate because there is not the need for it. They have passed through that phase of spiritual evolution, or, again, in other instances have not yet reached that phase, wherein reincarnation is the answer to their specific needs.
All entities, however, follow the habits of Nature, and the Continuance of Life in one form or another is the first law of cosmic activity. Thus many entities, both above and below the human kingdom, reimbody although they remain within their own class. Only entities that wear bodies of flesh, such as we humans, and the animals, reincarnate.
If we follow this line of thinking it will lead us into some of the deepest mysteries of consciousness. And there is no spiritual exercise to be compared with that of delving into the teachings and encompassing them with our minds and hearts. That is the secret of growth along spiritual and ethical lines.
– L. Gordon Plummer, (Eclectic Theosophist, May, 1978)