Rosicrucians believe that humans are dual beings, possessing both a physical body and a spiritual ‘body’ commonly referred to as the soul.
While the physical body is composed of material components, the soul, carried by the so-call Vital Life Force, enters the infant at birth with its first breath of air. With that first breath, the child becomes a living expression of the universal soul of God.
And when life comes to its inevitable end, the physical body is interred in the earth where it gradually decays and brings nutrients to plant life; or if cremated, still finds it way into the earth where its remaining elements assist other life forms to survive.
The soul on the other hand, leaves the physical world for the spiritual world from whence it came, and there merges with the Universal Soul at whatever level of spiritual attainment it has reached.
The principle of reincarnation enables us to know that the soul incarnates, returns to the earth plane where it ‘inhabits’ a human body, and through many such incarnations learns the different lessons it needs for the evolution of its earthly manifestation, the soul personality.
Why does the soul reincarnate so many times? What purpose is served by so many incarnations?
Evolving Towards Perfection
The primary reason for incarnating in a world such as our Earth, is for the personality of the incarnated soul, the so-called ‘soul personality’, to go through many experiences in material reality in order to assist its own evolution towards an eventual reunion with its Creator.
The ‘earth plane’ provides the environment for each individual soul personality to evolve towards that perfection.
Through many incarnations, the soul comes into different families, meets different groups of people, different communities, different traditions, different religions and cultures, all with whom its personality, the soul personality interacts during those life spans.
The soul personality is faced with many new and interesting problems and challenges, and must use its accumulated experience and potentials to guide its human ward into solving the life problems she or he faces, eventually overcome them, and then make a success of each earthly life.
The physical body therefore serves as the vehicle with which the soul personality can and must exist and function on the earth plane, thereby serving as “the temple of the soul.”
The so-called ‘earth plane’ serves as the environment within which the soul’s personality can manifest itself to the individual in the form of an ‘inner guide’, one who is known to Rosicrucians as the Master Within.
Why a Master? Because in comparison to the outer personality or character of its human ward, the soul personality or Master Within is the epitome of perfection, the highest form of expression that the person can possibly attain in a single lifetime.
The experiences of each earthly life are stored permanently in the portion of the ‘Akashic Records’ unique to that soul personality, and constitute part of its permanent attributes, and are what gives continuity to the soul personality from life to life.
In a recent Rosicrucian forum class, a member asked:
“What is it that must evolve? Is it the physical body or the soul? If it is the soul, why does it need to incarnate many times in order to evolve to perfection when the soul is already perfect or pure?”
Being a direct and partial expression of the Universal Soul itself, the individual soul is already perfect in every respect it could possibly manifest.
But the personality that the soul is capable of manifesting through a human body needs to evolve to the perfection of the soul itself, while the outer personality of the person needs to evolve to the highly refined level of accomplishment of the soul personality.
And the soul’s personality needs to evolve to the level of the Universal Soul.
So, in the spiritual world, the individual soul is a ‘segment’ of the Universal Soul, and cannot be as all encompassing and ‘perfect’ as the Universal Soul itself.
There are degrees of attainment and therefore stages of development towards perfection of each soul personality. Though it may be imperfect, while in the spiritual plane, it is more conscious of its relationship with and to other souls in the spiritual plane, as well as to other souls incarnated in the physical plane.
For all souls belong to the same community of human life when in the physical plane.
The soul is aware of course that it is a partially formed ‘segment’ of the one and only Universal Soul from which all humans have originated and ipso facto, the same universal community of humankind.
The soul is not bound by space and time and does not carry the weight of a physical body or the burden of physical life. Conversely while in the physical plane, the soul’s personality will have degrees of awareness of its relationship with other souls, depending on the level of its spiritual evolution.
Awareness of the Universal Soul
Why are so many of us on the physical plane not consciously aware that we belong to the same Universal Soul or community of humankind?
Let us use a simple analogy to explain. Let us represent the Universal Soul by a large expanse or unlimited expanse of the ‘ocean of consciousness’. It is vast and unlimited in space. By space here I mean our existence in both the physical and spiritual spheres.
The consciousness is a single continuum throughout all planes, physical and otherwise.
At the spiritual level, the human soul is free and has no absolute need of a physical body to serve its purpose.
Each individual soul can be viewed as a ‘seed of consciousness’ among billions of such seeds, all related and linked within or throughout the overall consciousness of the Universal Soul.
When each seed of consciousness is ready, namely when it has sufficiently assessed its work during the past life, and a plan has been laid out for its next incarnation in material reality, including fixing the family and the environment it will live in, it then incarnates through a new born baby, carrying with it experiences of previous incarnations, similar to or analogous to the genetic composition of the physical body which the individual acquired from his or her parents.
In the physical body, the soul personality is not free to act as it would like to. One can view it as almost ‘imprisoned’ in the physical body by the weight and burden of physical existence.
To view and know the world, it needs to use the five physical senses which, limited as they are, can only partially experience or ‘see’ things in their true nature. The soul personality must in order to carry the physical, intellectual and emotional ‘weight’ of the body and its interaction with the world, as it deals constantly with physical challenges and the attendant requirements of the body in maintaining its life.
The five physical senses have little or no useful application beyond the material world, but for us, our outer selves that is, they are of supreme importance.
The burdens of life impact upon us to such an extent at times that it is difficult to realise our true relationship with other people, all of them possessing souls, but who, on the outside at least, we may see as competitors rather than as brothers and sisters united by a common bond to the Universal Soul.
Indications of Development
The more a person allows negative traits of intolerance, greed, selfishness and other vices to harm their fellow brothers and sisters of humankind, the more the conscience of that person, the voice of his or her Inner Master or soul personality, who is connected or linked with all other souls, becomes stifled; thereby reducing the extent of his awareness of his or her own soul.
This is the primary indicator of a low level of spiritual development and evolution towards perfection.
Through attunement with higher spiritual principles, through prayer, meditation and other mystical practices, all people can learn to listen to and increasingly permit the voice of the Master Within to direct them in realising that there is a power within them beyond their physical selves.
They become gradually aware of their individual souls and may with time develop consciousness of the Universal Soul and the community of humankind through self, even while on the physical plane, though with difficulty.
Thus even though they are on the physical plane, they are still able to make contact with the spiritual plane through their subconscious, psychic beings, as direct channels to the Universal Soul itself.
This will undoubtedly depend on their respective levels of spiritual development and attributes acquired in numerous past lives.
As they show compassion, love, tolerance, honesty and other virtues to their fellow brothers and sisters, indicating an awareness of their relationship with them, so their ascent on the ladder of spiritual development and perfection of their respective soul personalities will be enhanced.
When they pass through transition from this life into the spiritual plane again, though still imperfect, they become more conscious of their relationship with other soul personalities whom they then see and know as originating and belonging together as siblings in a universal sense.
Thus as explained above, the soul personality needs many incarnations to have many different life experiences to refine its nature.
It figuratively needs to transmute the ‘base metals’ of its being into ‘gold’, thereby moving closer to perfection.
The burden of physical existence, the limited vision of reality and the negative tendencies of character, prevent the individual on the earth plane from realising the connection that already exists with all other souls.
Mystical exercises, however, incorporating compassion, tolerance and love towards others, assist us to become aware of our true relationship with them, and to the same Universal community of human souls.
This is a trait acquired only over many incarnations. Such virtues and good behaviour to others on our part enhances evolution on the ladder of perfection and purity of the soul.
Then the person realises that we all owe our existence to a Universal Intelligence which through us contemplates its own perfection.
Adaptation of ‘The Universal Community: Evolving Towards Perfection’ by Akin Akinfe from the Rosicrucian Heritage, March 2014