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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Metempsychosis

A term meaning “the passing of the soul at death into another body, either human or animal” from the Greek meta- (“after”) and empsychos (“animate”). The term is often used, especially by Helena P. BLAVATSKY, in place of “reincarnation.” Both “metempsychosis” and “transmigration” mean essentially the same thing, but the latter is now associated with rebirth into an animal body, which theosophical teaching rejects as not possible for a human soul.

Blavatsky points out that “Nature, propelled by Karma, never recedes, but strives ever forward in her work on the physical plane; that she may lodge a human soul in the body of a man, morally ten times lower than any animal, but she will not reverse the order of her kingdoms” (CW XI:137). The Upaniads are ambiguous about transmigration, although they seem to imply it. The Manavadharmāstra (usually translated as “Laws of Manu”) refers to the transmigration of human beings, specifically those who kill a brahmin, into “the womb of a dog, a pig, an ass, a camel, a cow, a goat, a sheep, a deer, a bird, etc.” (XII, 3, and 55). Blavatsky says, however, that such a statement does not refer “to the human Ego, but only to the atoms of his body, of his lower triad and his fluidic emanations” (CW V:114).

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