Our responsibilities to the Animals

Andrew Rooke – Australia

Dogs in water

When the American Plains Indians rode forth to hunt bison 200 years ago, they first said a prayer of apology to their ‘younger brothers’ the animals which they were about to kill only to feed their  families. Such attitudes of humility and identity with the kingdom of life below us humans has, in the past, been little in evidence in our ‘civilized’ society. We often preach peace and brotherhood from the pulpit, but how often do we pause to think that Universal Brotherhood includes all of Nature’s kingdoms and not just our fellow humans?

Our theosophical teachers have made it clear that man is indeed intimately interlinked with the animal kingdom. The essential difference between man and the animals is that man has developed some measure more of his inner potential and therefore self-consciousness than have the animals. Unlike the animals, man has begun to self-consciously unfold his divine capacity of mind which enables him to choose right from wrong and thus realize, to some degree, his responsibilities and obligations to all life.

A hidden truth of this ethical obligation is that the animal kingdom is deeply rooted in the thought life of humanity. The Ancient Wisdom tells us that the inner constitutions of animals are mainly built of the ‘life atoms’ * (see definition of ‘life atoms’ below) thrown off by men. This means that disharmony in the human kingdom is eventually reflected in the kingdoms below man as anybody knows who has pets who seem to sense what we are thinking before we know it ourselves! Consequently, man is, in the main, spiritually and morally responsible for suffering in the animal kingdom in addition to the physical deprivations we inflict on the lower kingdoms. Theosophy makes it clear that this is a karmic debt man will have to repay, not the animals.

In the past 150 years there is evidence of a new awareness of our responsibility to our ‘younger brothers’, the animals. A sense of compassion and empathy with the animals and the environment has spawned any number of organizations advocating a variety of causes to alleviate animal suffering, from vegetarianism through to conservation of endangered species and anti-vivisection. More than at any time in known human history,there is a global awareness of our duties and responsibilities to the lesser kingdoms of life and the very planet itself.

Michiel en koe

Theosophy Forward contributor and friend Michiel Haas with a younger sister

Theosophy celebrates the Oneness of life. Therefore, it is always a suitable time for us to consider the teaching of the Ancient Wisdom that the Universe is a living being composed of consciousness on many levels, all interlinked and interdependent. In our hearts, let us take the opportunity of everyday to ponder the true meaning of Universal Brotherhood extended out to all the kingdoms of life and not just us humans.

* Life Atoms:

In theosophical literature, the vital ensouling power in every primary or ultimate physical particle, itself a vital quasi-conscious expression of the spiritual monad or highest consciousness-center. A life-atom is not the physical atom of science, which is but the vehicle or garment of the former, compounded of physical or physical-astral matter only. During man’s life those which are intimately connected with an individual are in a state of constant flux and reflux, entering and leaving in unceasing rhythms the body of their owner or host; but after death the dominant controlling factor having departed from the lower planes, each group of life-atoms proceeds to peregrinate throughout their respective natural habitats.  Thus, when the physical body dies, the life-atoms of the body go into the soil, into plants, or into the bodies of beasts or men — through food or by osmosis, or in breathing creatures through the air that is inspired or expired — they are drawn to bodies by magnetic sympathy.This transmigration of the life-atoms is the origin of the theories of the transmigration of the human soul into beasts after death.

Summarized from the Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary.

       The full entry is HERE


This article also appeared in June 2024 issue the magazine Theosophy Downunder (TS-Pasadena) 

If you would like to receive this high quality quarterly e-Magazine in your mailbox, write to the editor, Mr. Andrew Rooke: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   


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