When is the fetal home ready for the soul? At what point in the ovum’s development into an adult does an individual become a member of the society and thus become covered by the taboo against injuring a member of the in-group (contraception, abortion, murder?) The growth of the fertilized ovum into an adult human is a continuous process of the development of a single entity. However, when this entity is “human,” and precisely what its legal and moral rights are at each stage of development, depend on the culture involved.
Entering Physical Reality: Cross Cultural Reports
Conception of a Tibetan Yogi
Tibetan Buddhism and Pregnancy
Soul Enters during First Trimester
Soul inhabits Fetus at Quickening
Miscellaneous Soul Reports
Passage to Birth: Anthroposophy
Layers of the Soul
Entering Physical Reality: Cross Cultural Reports
Cultures offer a range of time frames – from conception to the time of birth – as to when a child’s soul first visits the fetus and sets up house in the mother’s womb. A soul may have dibs on a mother and hover around her during the first four months, but it may be indecisive about locking into the womb until the last trimester. After the initial visit, the soul’s presence may be continuous or the soul may come and go until birth.
Certain women notice a unique event happening as early as sexual intercourse.
Nepal – When the man’s penis enters the woman’s body, a soul slips in because it likes the taste of the man’s buttermilk (semen).
Satguru Sant Keshavadas – The soul, with its reflection called ego, holds its memories, or tendencies, the mindstuff, or chitta, and enters into those parents who have an indebtedness of karma for its birth. When the planetary conditions are favorable to its karma, the soul, with the help of the linga sharira (astral or subtle body), enters through the father’s seed into the mother’s womb. There the soul prepares its gross body according to its prarabda karma, or predestination. The soul enters at the very inception along with the subtle body, without which there could be no possibility of the formation of the physical body.
Ayurveda – The soul enters the fetus twenty-two days after conception, but life is there from conception. The Atman (the highest conscious element) penetrates the combined sperm-ovum to become the embryo. The embryo contains two powers: the ever-present Brahman Bindu (seed of God) and Prakriti Bindu (seed of Nature) – the latter divides multiple times to create the form of the infant. Twenty-two days later, the soul endows the impregnated material with its attributes of consciousness, sense-perception, creative faculty, faculty of movement, faculty of observation, faculty of self-subsistence and faculty of self-expression. The emotions develop after four months. The mind begins to function during the fifth month as the fetus wakes from the sleep of subconscious existence. The intellect develops in the sixth month.
Thailand – The soul of an unborn child flies into the woman’s body during sexual intercourse and lodges itself in the womb at conception. The pregnant woman may have a dream which reveals the child’s sex and what characteristics he will have. The soul of the baby flits in and out of the baby’s heart around the third month when the mother first feels the movements inside her.
Geoffrey Hodson – A flash of light descends from the highest spiritual level of the Ego into the spermatozoon at the moment of fertilization giving it creative power and energy. An angel attaches the physical permanent atoms of the Ego about to incarnate to the twin cell then formed at or near the time of conception. The permanent atom bestows upon the twin celled organism its ordered, biological impetus, causes it, in fact, to grow according to the ‘Word’.
Sikhism – The soul puts in a reservation for a particular body at conception, but doesn’t enter for 120 days. During this four or five month period, parents can change destiny by reciting sacred chants and attracting a higher soul.
Conception of a Tibetan Yogi
I was born into a Tibetan family of moderate wealth. I was intelligent and skilled at overseeing the household and caring for the family and servants. For that reason, my parents gave my sisters away in marriage, but kept me at home to supervise my youngest brother.
Lamas and spiritual masters taught me the karmic law of cause and effect and other spiritual subjects. I became eager to practice virtue. On every full Moon, new Moon, and on the eighth day of each month, I observed eight special vows for twenty-four hours, from dawn to dawn:
nonviolence towards all forms of life
Refrain from taking what is not given
abstinence from alcohol
Refrain from dancing, wearing garlands, perfumes, and playing worldly music
No sleeping on a high, ornamented bed
No eating after midday
I took delight in the Dharma and eventually completed 100,000 praises to the Goddess Tara and 1,000,000,000 prostrations.
I became pregnant following a series of wondrous dreams. The village chief presented me with a holy statue in one dream. He advised, “Keep this image in your home for a while. But you won’t keep it forever, for someday it is destined to be placed upon everyone’s head.” In another dream, I found a white lotus flower with which I adorned my hair, and a white conch shell that I blew.
I encountered the most powerful dream once I became pregnant, A resplendent image of Avalokiteshvara, the Deity of Compassion, about an inch in size, entered the crown of my head and dissolved into me. At that moment, my son entered my womb, filling my mind and body with boundless bliss.
I gave birth to a special son, Shabkar. From early childhood, he preferred to recite prayers, sing the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, and beat a drum or play other temple instruments.
At night, my son lay on my lap and looked into darkness. He told me, “Mother, when I look into the air, I see different colored things, rainbow lights, circles, and images of deities like the paintings in temples. I answered, "Don’t tell fibs – how can anyone see such things in complete darkness? Just quiet down.”
A few days later, he told me he saw the same things again. I asked, “You are not making it up, are you?” He replied, “Really, I’m not lying.” I told Ngaktruk, the village chief. “It could be true,” he said. “You must keep this child clean and guard him from defilements. If he is an incarnation of a good practitioner and practices the Dharma, he will benefit himself and others.”
My son grew up to become a great yogi, Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol (1781-1851). He gained enlightenment in one lifetime. As a wandering mendicant, he taught via spiritual songs revealing his world of intense self-discipline, humor, vision and joy.
Tibetan Buddhism and Pregnancy
Conception takes place in the mother’s womb when the egg and sperm unite with the consciousness of the being in the after-death state.
Conception represents the final outcome of the urge possessing the disembodied consciousness of the being in the si pa bardo to inhabit the human realm.
Robert A. F. Thurman
Now Buddhists stupidly run around saying there is no soul and there is no self. The Buddha’s famous doctrine of selflessness had to do with the metaphysical status of the essence of the person. His whole point was that there is no fixed, rigid self – no absolutely unchanging, independent, sovereign self with your name and serial number engraved on it, which never changes and which is plopped from one existence to another. What the Buddha constantly maintained, however, was that there is a relative, constantly living, constantly changing self. So for the Buddhist the soul is the most subtle level of that self. It is the extremely subtle body and mind that exists in the centre of the heart chakra, like a tiny little drop. At conception the heart chakra (situated at a mid point between the breasts) forms around it.
They say that when you’re in the extremely subtle body/mind state of the between it’s like being in a dream where your embodiment, because it is only created by imagery, is very unstable. So if you have these unconscious images that helplessly emerge where you might suddenly like the idea of being, say, a tarantuala, you’re in danger.
During the between-state, the consciousness is embodied in a ghostlike between-body, made of subtle energies structured by the imagery in the mind, similar to the subtle embodiment we experience in dreams.
The soul (the very subtle mind-body) in the between state has temporarily an immensely heightened intelligence, extraordinary powers of concentration, special abilities of clairvoyance and teleportation, flexibility to become whatever can be imagined, and the openness to be radically transformed by a thought or a vision or an instruction.
If a clairvoyant were forced to perceive all between-beings around, she would have no time to see anything else. Infinite numbers of being of all species are dying and traversing the between all the time, and their subtle embodiments penetrate solid objects, or coexist in the same coarse space with other things.
… . when the individual leaves it [the ghostlike between-body] to enter a gross body at conception in a womb, she dissolves out of it in a kind of minideath process.
When it is time to assume a physical body, a vision appears signalling the continent the soul is destined to be reborn in.
Now signs and marks will arise about which continent you will be reborn in – recognize them! Now you should explore where to be reborn, you should choose a continent. If you are reborn in eastern Videha [Oceania, including Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, New Zealand and Australia], you will see lakes and waters adorned with male and female geese. think of renunciation and do not go there. If you are born there, your situation will be comfortable; but you should not go there as the Dharma is not available three.
If you are going to be reborn in southern Jambudvipa [Asia], you will see beautiful and comfortable houses. If you can go there, do so. If you are to be reborn in western Godaniya [Middle East, Europe, and Africa], you will see lakes adorned with male and female horses. Turn back and do not go there. Although it is very enjoyable the Dharma has not spread three, so do not go there. If you are going to be reborn in northern Kuru [the ancient Americas], you see lakes adorned with cattle or with evergreen trees. Recognize these as signs of being reborn there. do not go there! though you will have long life and much fortune there, the Dharma is not available there. Do no go there!
Tibetan Buddhism encourages the soul to choose Asia, the best place for spiritual progress: “If you can go there do so.” The Dharma has not spread to the other three continents. They only offer material comforts and enjoyments.
The soul feels an attraction to a couple whose union can produce an embryo capable of providing the sought-for-karmic continuity. Fertilization thus occurs only when certain conditions are met: the woman is fertile and a soul is seeking the karmic situation that will be provided by her pregnancy.
Tibetan Buddhism advises the seeking consciousness:
Using your clairvoyance, enter a womb in a place where the Dharma has spread. Caution is required, for even if you were to be reborn magically in a heap of dung, you would get the notion that the impure mass smelled delicious and you would be reborn in it by the force of your attraction. Therefore you should not adhere to whatever appearance occurs, and you must discount any signs that trigger attachment or aversion. Then choose a good womb. And here the willed intention is important; so you must create it as follows: “Hey! for the sake of all beings, I will be reborn as a world-ruling emperor, or of the priestly class, sheltering all beings like a great shade tree, or as the child of a holy man, an adept, or of a clan with an impeccable Dharma lineage, or in a family where the parents have great faith. I must succeed in this coming life, by adopting a body that has great merit, to enable me to accomplish the aims of all beings! Aiming your will in this way you should enter the womb. At that time, the womb you have entered should appear to you as if magically transformed into a divine palace. You should pray to the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas of the ten directions, the Archetype Deities, and especially to the Lord of Great Compassion. And you should visualize that they are all anointing you in consecration as you enter the womb.
Buddha always taught a soul is what reincarnates, as a selfless continuum of relative, changing, causally engaged awareness.
Every living being is this indestructible drop at the extremely subtle level. This is the living soul of every being. This indestructible drop is the energy-mind indivisible of clear light transparency. This subtlest, most essential state of an individual being is beyond body-mind duality; it consists of the finest, most sensitive, alive, and intelligent energy in the universe. It is a being’s deepest state of pure soul, where the being is intelligent light, alive and singular, continuous yet changing, aware of its infinite interconnection with everything. It is what is referred to by Buddha nature.
Soul Enters during First Trimester
Baoule (Ivory Coast, Africa) – the soul of the child (the wawe, a "double”) enters the fetus by the second or third month of the pregnancy. The Baoule compare the double to the shadow that accompanies someone when he walks in the Sun. Together, the physical body and the “double” make a whole person.
During pregnancy, the double can detach from the fetus, and take journeys to the landscape. If a baby does not move or cry at the time of birth, the parents know that the child’s spirit is travelling. They invoke the child’s spirit by loudly striking the mortar with the pestle, or rubbing the baby with the pulp of yam: “Spirit of the baby, if you are in the field or at the brook, come back quickly.” The baby sneezes: his “double” has returned to the body.
Rudolf Steiner – The ego enters the womb two to three weeks following fertilization, around the seventeenth day.
Corinne Heline – The Ego enters the mother’s womb twenty-one days after conception. Both the mother and child need “the benefit of the utmost peace and quiet” at this sacred time. Any disharmony, especially between the parents, may create serious consequences for the child’s development, sometimes even of a fatal nature.
Joan Salter – Mothers-to-be often report a vivid, unforgettable dream around the seventeenth day following fertilization when the child’s “ego” enters the womb. A perceptive woman becomes aware of the child’s presence hovering around for some days and then she dreams of “a white bird or a shaft of light raying down upon her.” She soon discovers that she is pregnant.
Mohave – “Souls spring from the state of 'aliveness’ after conception has taken place.”
Soul inhabits Fetus at Quickening
England – English common law held that life began at the moment of quickening. It was not until 1803 that abortion before quickening became a crime in England, and then it was punished to a lesser degree than abortion after quickening.
Ungarinyin Aborigines, Northwestern Australia – The husband sees a spirit-child in a dream and hands it over to his wife. The spirit-child will not enter the wife’s womb until the moment of quickening.
Trobriander Islanders – A maternal ancestor brings the pregnant woman a spirit-child in a dream at the end of the first trimester. The ancestor places the reincarnating spirit-child on the woman’s head and it enters her body. The spirit-child “is like the wind, or such stuff as are dreamed of in other dreams.”
Malaysia – The fetus grows in the mother’s womb by the grace of God and shares in the mother’s soul until the fifth month of pregnancy when it becomes independent.
Aborigines – The child’s spirit fully conjoins with the fetus once the fetus reaches a certain stage of development, usually seventy days after conception.
Miscellaneous Soul Reports
Other traditions and cultures are less specific about when the soul joins its earthly body.
Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram – Developed souls prepare for human birth with great care. When exactly such a conscious being enters into the earth atmosphere differs from case to case. At times it enters into the atmosphere of the parents before conception, especially if there is an aspiration, a call in them for a high birth. At other times it enters at conception and directs the formation of the body according to its requirements. Or it may enter at birth of the physical body.
If the soul is of a very high order, it may send an emanation of itself which hovers around its chosen body and closely follows its physical growth. Only after the body has attained sufficient maturity of development does the soul descend into the body. Until that time, the soul remains in the higher mental region or the vital or subtle-physical world, watching and governing the growth of its chosen embodiment.
Christianity – “Within Western culture the attitude towards when the fertilized ovum becomes 'human’ has differed markedly with the passage of time. Early Catholic writers argued about the stage at which the soul began inhabiting the fetus, although modern Catholic writers tend to assume that killing a human being can occur any time after conception.” (Margaret Mead )
Siberia (Yukaghir) – The soul of a deceased relative enters the unborn child long before birth. The child’s name and sex are determined by the ancestor’s name and sex. The child announces his name and relates memories of well-known events of his former life as soon as he begins speaking.
Ojibway – The manitou who dwell on the other side of the world deliver souls to babies before their births.
Yakut – A goddess, the protectoress of women, leads the soul into the child’s body when the mother is in labor.
Island of Truk (Micronesia) – A fetus is not considered fully human until after the mother’s morning sickness ends.
Murshida Vera Justin Corda – In my experience, the soul, when perceived, manifests as a tiny, electric blue, whirling light, glowing cloudlike over the mother’s navel. This light grows in strength and size as pregnancy advances, and begins to spin after quickening. The huge transformation in the soul’s energy field is due to a separate will and movement of the fetus, independent from the mother, to which she must submit.
Another set of traditions believe the soul locks in only when the child draws its first breath after birth. The soul waits until the house is built.
Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov – During the period of gestation, the soul is close to the mother, collaborating with her in the work of building its different bodies, (physical, astral and mental), but it does not enter until the first breath.
Arctic – The soul comes in at time of birth, at some time during pregnancy, “how or when she does not know.”
Haisla – The soul enters the unborn child before birth and is often the spirit of an ancestor.
Shawnee – “A soul goes to earth and jumps through the mother’s vagina and into the body of the child through the fontanelle just before birth.”
Plains Cree – The soul or life force in man enters the body at birth.
Oglala – All the souls of the Indian are allotted to him at birth.
Navajo – A fetus has no mind, the Holy People send the mind into it after birth, or as it grows older.
Karen Hill Tribe (Thailand) – A baby has thirty-three souls that dwell in different parts of the body. The most important souls come into the baby at birth and reside in the eyes, nose, tongue and ears. They are firmly attached within the baby when the umbilical cord falls off without effort.
India – A soul can even change its mind three months after the child’s birth and another soul can take its place.
India – Balaram was in Devaki’s womb and switched wombs with another baby.
Druse – Souls of the dying person go to the body of a baby born at that instant.
Passage to Birth: Anthroposophy
The soul’s status develops in stages according to Anthroposophy.
The pregnant woman’s connection with a higher world develops gradually. She is not so open to the spiritual shift during the first trimester when she first begins to strongly feel changes in her body. The expectant mother has grown accustomed to living as an individual and feels forced to provide a living space within her body for a child for nine months. The child to some degree dislodges the soul and spirit of the woman from her physical body. She feels a physical conflict with the developing embryo and suffers from it. This is why up to the end of first trimester, the embryo is exposed to the risk of miscarriage.
As the child descends from the spiritual world and gradually shapes an earthly body, the pregnant mother’s body and soul must come to the right degree of selflessness in order to make way for the child. Typically this happens after the first trimester. Once the transition occurs, a woman has much to gain spiritually during pregnancy. She enters the most blessed stage of pregnancy. She becomes transparent to the light the child brings down from the higher realm.
“She has more connection now with the heavenly forces than before pregnancy because her mind has become slightly detached from her body. So she has the possibility of soul-experiences of a higher order than in her life apart from pregnancy. She should try to listen more and more to what speaks to her inwardly. In this way she comes to a closer connection with the child, and realizes how far away it still is in the supersensible world. "The mother thus gains a growing relationship to, and a closer understanding of the realms from which her child is coming down. This is the reason for the great change that can be observed in the pregnant woman: she can become wiser and gain in knowledge. She should recognize how she is lifted up from the ordinary course of life, and is thereby given the possibility of devoting herself to the new task.” (Norbert Glas)
The pregnant woman enters the last and most difficult stage towards the seventh month. Her child is becoming more earthly and reaching the final stage of physical development. Consequently, the mother feels her own heaviness. She tires easily and her legs become unsteady. It requires effort to walk and carry her body upright. The baby runs the risk of a premature birth during this delicate time. For that reason, the mother must hold to all that she gained from the middle period.
Layers of the Soul
The soul appears to be composed of different layers like an onion. So the soul’s entry into the womb is a step-by-step process.
The fetus becomes mature enough to house one or more dimensions of the soul before others. The incarnating soul who is coming from a spiritual realm where it lived free of time and space apparently requires time to adapt to the physical world. The soul therefore gradually enters into physical form. Early in pregnancy the soul may be 30% in the fetal body. When the fetus is mature enough to survive on its own and takes its first breath, the fetus houses all the soul’s dimensions and the soul is 100% in the body.
A variety of sources support this theoretical model of the soul.
Torkom Saraydarian – The baby’s soul floats in the mother’s aura for three or four months prior to conception. During this pre-conception period, the baby’s higher bodies (mental, astral, etheric bodies) are beginning to develop. By the time the embryo is only one or two days old, these subtle personality vehicles are already in formation and condensation.
Conception causes an anchor of a blue light to go from the heart center of the incoming soul to the embryo in the womb.
Bambara (Africa) – The fetus receives a series of spiritual forces coming from his father’s side of the family during the first month of conception. An unborn child inherits all of the paternal taboos, which the mother must respect in pregnancy. Not until his naming ceremony following birth does a child receive the spiritual forces from his mother’s side.
Geoffrey Hodson – Human birth is complex for the soul must not only incarnate into a physical body, but also into a mental, emotional and etheric body. Angels construct the different bodies and induce into them the reincarnation Ego.
At quickening, the nervous system of the unborn child is sufficiently developed to allow a certain small measure of the consciousness of the Ego to manifest. After the quickening, the Ego in the embryo is dimly, drowsily aware of warmth, protection, seclusion and safety.
Annie Besant – The embryo is unconscious of his future and only dimly conscious of his mother’s hopes, fears, thoughts and desires. The child will be seven years old before the Ego can fully ensoul it.
Up until the age of seven, the child’s consciousness is more upon the astral plane than upon the physical. This explains why young children see invisible comrades and fairy landscapes, hear voices inaudible to their elders. These phenomena disappear as the child begins to work effectively through the physical body, and the dreamy child becomes the commonplace boy or girl.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – Now imagine a house in darkness and you have to feel around every door and every bedroom and bathroom … just all in darkness, darkness. That is how terribly miserable will that state be, until you have located everything that there may be, and then you start living it. All that period of tremendous ignorance and trying to establish in that darkness, this is what happens when one enters the body.
Then the faint fragile almost incomplete structure is there, the eyes are there but they don’t open, the ears are there but they don’t . .. nothing. And then the sense of sight must enter this dwelling house and find its place and proper … sense of hearing and sense of smell and the breath begins to flow and the lungs… . Every aspect of the subjective personality must feel its way and establish its new home in that lump of flesh.
Egypt – A conversation in Hermes Trismegistus between Hermes and his son: “Look at the soul of a child, my son, a soul that has not yet come to accept its separation from its source, for its body is still small, and has not yet grown to its full bulk. How beautiful throughout is such a soul as that! It is not yet fouled by the bodily passions; it is still hardly detached from the soul of the Cosmos. But when the body has increased in bulk, and has drawn the soul down into its material mass, it generates oblivion, and so the soul separates itself from the Beautiful and Good, and no longer partakes of that.”
A variety of sources speak about different levels of the soul. In this case, some aspects of the soul enter the fetus before others.
Baoule – The wawe, a kind of spiritual “double,” enters the fetus in the second or third month of pregnancy. This wawe is but a shadow; the same word is used for the shadow accompanying someone when he walks in the Sun, or for the image he reflects when leaning over a pool of water.
Aranda Aborigines – Everyone possesses two souls: 1) the mortal souls comes into being with the fetus as a result of sexual intercourse; 2) the particle of the Ancestor’s “life” comes into the fetus during the embryonic period.
Yakut – Everyone has three souls: 1) life or breath soul, 2) physical soul and (3) psychic soul. The deity Ulu-Toyon sends the child’s psychic soul to the mother by way of her temples at the moment she conceives her child.
The child receives the three elements comprising the physical soul at various stages: 1) The earth-soul – soul composed of earthy elements – is communicated to the infant from the Earth at birth when a woman delivers her child. 2) The child receives the air-soul – composed of air – shortly afterwards. 3) The child’s mother-soul – the maternal element – comes from the mother.
Naskapi – Each individual receives his “Great Man” during the embryonic stage of life.
Sanpoil – The unitary soul enters the fetus in the embryonic stage.
Fox – The life-soul enters the fetus during embryonic development whereas the free-soul remains outside the mother until birth.
Plains Cree – The free-soul takes up its abode in the baby at birth.
Wind River Shoshoni – A child is born with a free-soul and a life-soul.