This morning I was meditating on the topic of cells having their own consciousness. This was sparked by the ‘Thought of the Day’ from Prosveta, a spiritual school founded by
Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov:
“The cells of our body are small intelligent souls. There is a whole population inside us, with which we can make contact and which it is our task to train. Are you aware of it? No, or very rarely. This is why your cells do not obey you. You would like to improve the state of your liver, your stomach, your heart, your brain and so on, but you can’t – the cells of all those organs do not obey you. You are unable to make an impression on them; they have a will of their own.
“Initiatic Science, which has studied the psychic anatomy of human beings and the rules governing its workings, teaches us that we can give commands to our organs’ cells. But we have first to accept the idea that they are intelligent, conscious beings and learn to communicate with them.”
This is a very interesting concept and leads onto some quite profound implications. If cells are intelligent souls are they reincarnated when a cell dies? What independence of thought do they have?
Rudolf Steiner may be able to help us a little here. He writes that there are four main levels of consciousness in the ‘the physical realm’.
Inorganic matter (like rocks and water) has the lowest level of consciousness. It tends to be very collective – i.e. spread amongst many different atoms.
Plant matter – which has the next level of consciousness up from inorganic matter. At this level we can talk about individual plants which have been shown to respond to respond to thought. In other words talking to plants does make a difference.
The animal kingdom. Here we have consciousness which drives a whole new set of behaviour, including mobility and choice of reproduction, etc.
The highest level is humanity – which is the first level of self-awareness as a conscious entity. In other words we have a sense of ourselves, which, incidentally, only really develops within us after about the age of 7. Prior to that we are essentially unconscious sponges soaking up everything from the environment – programming our minds.
As with anything in the spiritual world the levels here do not have clear boundaries between them – but they are a useful starting point to help our understanding.
If we broadly accept this view then where does that put individual cells? They would seem to be clearly in the animal kingdom but how would an individual cell compare with a mature oak tree for example? Intuitively one might say that it is likely that the oak tree has a higher level of consciousness than a single human cell.
What about bacteria and viruses then? Where do they fit? This could take us on a long diversion so I will come back to human cells and the questions I asked at the beginning of this chapter.
If we accept the concept that all physical things are a representation in this plane of a spiritual consciousness (whether it be etheric, astral or whatever) then there is something that is eternal that continues after the cell dies. The big question is whether it continues to exist as an independent entity or just melts back into some kind of collective consciousness.
Let us briefly consider the question of reincarnation as it relates to humans. Most of the spiritual traditions consider that the ‘soul’ continues to live after the physical body has died. The traditional Christian belief is that we are each incarnated once and that our soul either goes to heaven or hell. I believe Islam has a similar concept. Other religions and spiritual belief systems, probably the majority, tend to go for the idea of reincarnation. The concept here is that individual souls are reincarnated until they have progressed sufficiently that they reach nirvana after which they no longer reincarnate, unless they choose to in order to help others on their spiritual journey.
The reincarnation concept assumes that souls retain their individuality between incarnations. What does this individuality mean? Do we retain our full memories? Is it a pure spiritual essence that survives without specific memories? Does the soul retain a decision making capability between incarnations? Can it decide for itself about when and where it reincarnates, or is it governed by some higher power?
From what I have read, and there are many differing views on this, I would say the predominant view is that souls do not retain specific memories but they do have individual choice about when and where to reincarnate.
Thomas Troward, one of the pioneering thinkers in the Science of Mind movement, talks about reaching a point in our spiritual development where we retain more of our independence between incarnations. Only then can we truly consider ourselves to be immortal, as individuals. If we have not achieved that level then it is a lower level of individuality that is retained. Most others believe that we are put back into the spiritual planes at a different level after a life, according to how far we have progressed along the spiritual path (similar to the ‘many mansions’ concept found in Christianity – see John 14:2). Essentially this means that we progress up through the planes in the spiritual hierarchy, step by step, following each incarnation. At some point we become a ‘spiritual master’ and then we have a choice whether we return in another incarnation or not. We may choose to operate solely from the spiritual planes or return to help others along their path.
For lower levels of consciousness there is no individuality between incarnations. The soul of a plant, for example, would go back into the general collective consciousness representing that species.
If we tie this in with the idea of thought-forms it sheds more light on the subject. If we consider everything in the spiritual realm as a thought-form, which we discussed earlier, then it has a differing degree of permanence. Some thought-forms have indefinite life. These are self-sustaining and have an energy of their own. For an individual there is a strong thought-form relating to that individual person. If they are more spiritually developed then this thought-form will be stronger and more persistent and more individual. On this basis the thought-forms of animals, plants and minerals are not sufficiently individualised to persist as independent thought-forms.
I would suggest that cells follow the same pattern, in other words individual cells do not persist as independent thought-forms but return to some sort of pool. But what pool? A pool for the individual human being? A pool for the type of cell? A pool for the race? A pool for humanity in general?
If we consider thought-forms again we can see that there are thought-forms at each of these levels. The human ‘cell’ thought-form governs the general characteristics of a cell, nucleus, etc. The type of cell thought-form governs the characteristics for, say, liver cell, heart cell, etc. The thought-form for a person would be for all cells relating to ‘M’, for example. Clearly these thought-forms overlap – so they are not mutually exclusive.
At this point we may hear a biologist chipping in and saying all we are talking about here is DNA. We can’t argue with this – but we could say that the physical DNA is the material representation of the characteristics of the thought-form in the same way that a building plan is the material representation of the characteristics of the thought-form of a building.
If we were to destroy the entire physical DNA for a particular cell would it continue to exist as an independent thought-form in the spiritual plane? Going by the persistence rule for thought-forms it would depend on how strong that thought-form was. If it had been used many times then perhaps it is strong enough to persist. Does God, ultimately, retain and energise these thought-forms for cells?
If we consider the thought-forms for minerals, for example, these must be sustained in the ‘mind of God’ in order for these minerals to be recreated, but they cannot be considered as independent thought-forms for each atom or molecule.
I realise that I have asked more questions here than have given solid answers, but it is often through questioning that our understanding and awareness expands.