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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Animals, Soul of

Theosophical literature affirms the existence of soul in animals. Helena P. BLAVATSKY states that animals have five principles (as opposed to seven in a human being), and that they reincarnate almost immediately to higher animal organisms after death. These five would then be manas (mind), kama (desire), prana (vitality), linga-sarira (etheric double), and physical body. She points out however that in animals the upper triad (Atma-Buddhi-Manas) is “absolutely dormant” (even in higher animals), suggesting that she is referring to the higher mental (arupa-manas) as dormant rather than the lower mental (rupa manas).

H. P. Blavatsky points out that Christian and Biblical teachings similarly affirm such a view. The Old Testament ascribes nephesh (soul) to animals. The Catholic Church in turn affirm that saints have resurrected dead animals, such as the feats of St. Francis, St. Isidore of Spain, and St. Nicholas of Tolentino. Such a resurrection can only be possible if the soul survives physical death.

The belief in the absence of souls in animals has led to cruelty to animals, such as in the practice of vivisection, the use of animals for laboratory testings, and hunting for sports. The latter practices are strongly opposed by many theosophists.

The sufferings of animals — even those which are undeserved — are part of the experience gained by them. They do not suffer in the same way as human beings. For example, they do not remember their suffering unless reminded by the sight of the instrument of their pain. They do not undergo the same level of misery that human beings do. “Indeed, when reflecting on such problems and on the awful horrors of vivisection, we may sometimes be inclined to feel more sorrow for the vivisector than for his pain-racked victim, for the awful pangs of remorse that sooner or later will seize on the former, will outweigh a thousand times the comparatively momentary pain of the poor dumb sufferers” (CW XII:239).

Group Soul. Annie BESANT and Charles W. LEADBEATER state that the souls of animals are not individualized as those of human beings. They have group souls, that is, a certain group of animals shares just one soul. The individual experiences of each animal contributes to the collective instinct or intelligence of the species. The group soul of animals may start with a large body of animals, gradually splitting up into smaller groups, until an animal soul may just be using one particular animal body. In the latter case, the animal is now nearing individualization, that is, readying to enter human evolution.

This view about the shared soul of animals appears to find confirmation in the researches of British biologist Rupert Sheldrake who proposed the theory of morphic resonance, where animals can transmit learnings across space through a shared substratum of consciousness. Thus when a group of rats learns to solve a particular maze for a number of hours, the rats of the same species in another place or continent will learn to solve the same maze in a shorter period, implying that the latter rats learned from the former through non-physical connections.

V.H.C.

 

 

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