Discussions with Michael Cremo and correspondents

Questions on Human Devolution
Comment on Human Devolution and Intelligent Design 11-16-03
Michael on Peer Review 6-7-04
Debate with a Skeptic on The Lou Gentile Show
Concerning our Fallen Condition  10-5-04
DNA Revisited  12-19-04
More about Vedic Cosmology 12-22-04

A Question about the Devolution concept

Dear Mr. Cremo,

My name is ______ and I'm writing a short article about your last book, Human Devolution,
that will very likely be published in Gea magazine (it covers topics sort of like National
but not so orthodox).  I come from Slovenia and as you know, you have lectured
there.  I hope you will also come back to lecture about the Human Devolution.  Will you?

I have bought and also read Forbidden Archeology.  I have a very high opinion of your work
and want to express my respect and deepest sympathy.  Just keep going on.  If only there
would be more researchers like you.  I think your work is so valuable because it offers a rare
and scientific argumented body of data aimed at those who expect scientific proofs for
spiritual claims.

Still, I have just one problem in your devolution concept, that I don't understand.  First, I must
tell you about my previous studies.  My personal spiritual view has been shaped by the works
of [Y]ogananda, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Ramacharaka and Sri Aurobindo.  At the
beginning of my readings I remember I also read the book of your teacher, His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.  I also have the booklet on reincarnation from
Theosophian society.

Now, I believe (based on the knowledge I gathered) that saints, yogis...can attain knowledge
not by scientific means but directly from the higher source during meditation...so they can in
fact be regarded as authorities (of course, one should see for himself by his own experiences).
Ultimately, science, we can hope, will attain knowledge that saints already know.  If saints have
sort of a direct access to wisdom and true nature of reality, then their accounts should be more
or less the same, in harmony with each other.

Now, of course, there can be differences when you translate the transcendental experiences into
writing or speech.  These result from differences in culture, place, time and also level of samadhi
or some other similar experience, I imagine.

But there is one big difference between your school and these other yogis (at least as far as I can
remember - correct me if I am wrong).  I'm talking about reincarnation process.  Your opinion is
that reincarnation is bidirectional.  A soul that is currently enclosed in a human body can in fact
devolve to lower bodies (animal, plant, fungi, mineral) as a result of its desires.

This goes in contrast with the view held by others I have mentioned, who say that reincarnation is
progressive.  Once you achieve human form, there is nothing that can bring you to the state of
lower life forms.  Reincarnation is therefore a tool for a spiritual evolution of every soul, who after
many reincarnations gets re-united with the creator from which everything emanated.

I would understand that souls would want to live out desires in human form (our body enables a
sense of self), but why would any soul want to be enclosed in plant [or] fungi form?  Or in the form
of a single cell life form?

I agree that devolution concept is very logical, and definitely we devolved at the beginning of this
process.  Also, the bodies were probably designed at the beginning of this cycle as the
archeological data suggest.  But what if the first human bodies were occupied by souls who, at
previous cycle, have achieved appropriate level of consciousness?  What if (once you for the
first time devolve down to material universe) you must always start as a single cell organism and
then progress to human form and further?  Well, this may seem to you as some evolutionary thinking
projected onto devolution concept, but in reality I would just like to be more sure which worldview is
more closer to the truth.  It is not a matter of believing to this or that school.  It's a matter of why is
devolution concept of reincarnation different from the view expressed, for example, by Sri Aurobindo?
Isn't he one of the most reliable sources?  He is one of the most advanced yogis ever to inhabit our
planet (at least as far as I understood his story).  Also, the theosophians refute bidirectional
reincarnation, saying that this concept is a classic mistake of some Oriental religions who teach that
such animal incarnation is punishment for certain sins.  (Reincarnation, Wright, 1975).  Once a man,
always a man, say the theosophians.  Well, I agree it is our free will that would cause that kind of
incarnation, but still, how can you respond to this view?

Wouldn't you agree that if only human body enables salvation (at least on this planet), that all souls
enclosed in lower bodies must spiritually evolve and use different ever-more complex bodies along
the way?  Is not this the scenario we (human souls) all went through?  I think bidirectional reincarnation
is a lot more unpleasant concept - you can never be sure not to be again driven by desires to lower
states of being....Maybe that's why I can't just yet put it in the structure of my worldview.

I really would appreciate if you can answer my questions or point me to some article where this is
presented in detail.  I would really like to shed a light on this issue before I write my review - it is a big
dilemma for me.  Hope to receive an answer.

Yours sincerely

(big sorry for mistakes - English is not my native language)

Michael Cremo responds:

If my book Human Devolution is published in Slovenia, then I would be happy to come
there and lecture about it.  A friend of mine there is investigating the possibilities, but until
now I have heard nothing definite about it.

About the reincarnation question, I get my information about that from the ancient Sanskrit
writings of India.  For example, in the Shrimad Bhagavatam we find the story of King Bharata,
who became too much attracted to a deer, and entered the body of a deer in his next life.  Also,
in the Bhagavad Gita, it is said,

adho gacchanti tamasah

those in the mode of ignorance go down in their next life

There is another text in the Bhagavatam (sometimes called the Bhagavata Purana) that
makes this quite explicit:

sattva-sangad rsin devan
tamasa bhuta tiryaktvam
bhramito yati karmabhih

sattva-sangat—by association with the mode of goodness; rsin—to the sages; devan—to the demigods;
rajasa—by the mode of passion; asura—to the demons; manusan—and to human beings; tamasa—by
the mode of ignorance; bhuta—to the ghostly spirits; tiryaktvam—or the animal kingdom; bhramitah—
made to wander; yati—he goes; karmabhih—because of his fruitive activities.

Made to wander because of his fruitive work, the conditioned soul, by contact with the mode of
goodness, takes birth among the sages or demigods.  By contact with the mode of passion he
becomes a demon or human being, and by association with the mode of ignorance he take birth
as a ghost or in the animal kingdom.
[Srimad Bhagavatam 11.22.52]

In the Vedic system of epistemology, one should support one's statements by statements from
the various Vedic literatures, which include the four Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, and others.
One's own mind and senses are imperfect, and therefore one's speculations might also be imperfect.
But the Vedic literatures are said to be apaurusheya, which means they are not written by ordinary
people, but come from the Parambrahman, the supreme conscious being, and are therefore beyond
the limits of ordinary knowledge, which can be imperfect.

Now, if one does go down from the human form of life into the plant or animal forms of life, it is true that
one makes gradual progress upward until one again comes to the human form of life.  But in the human
form of life, one must accept the reactions of one's activities.  And if the activities warrant, one may be
placed again in the plant or animal forms of life.

It is not that the soul necessarily desires to receive the body of a plant or an animal, but that it deserves
to receive the body of a plant or an animal, and this is something that is determined by higher
intelligences in the universe who analyze one's attraction to particular modes of nature.

As for one's first birth, my understanding is that the first birth is as a human or demigod, and if one
misuses that position and becomes attracted to the lower modes of nature, then one goes down into
other forms of life.  It would be hard to see why one would be put into the lowest forms of life right at
the start, which involves a lot of suffering, for no good reason.

Anyways, although I do have some disagreements with some Theosophists, we have in general good
relations.  Earlier this year, I lectured on Human Devolution at the Theosophical Society in
Edinburgh, Scotland, and other theosophical societies have also invited me.  I suppose what we
have in common is more important than our differences.

If you have more questions, let me know.  Also, if you could send me a copy of your article if and
when it is published, I would be grateful.