Although often used synomymously with reincarnation, the term "transmigration" is sometimes used to specifically include the teaching that humans can reincarnate into animal bodies. This concept gets lumped in with human reincarnation, and when people who are trying to take reincarnation seriously encounter this mix they intuitively feel it isn't right and "throw the baby out with the bathwater," dismissing the entire concept.
From all the information I've read on reincarnation in my 30-year study, humans do not reincarnate into animal bodies. Conceivably there could be very rare exceptions, as there is to almost anything, but in terms of the natural and normal process of reincarnation, once the level of incarnating as a human being is reached, there is only forward progress and human incarnations continue from that point on.
However, there is a process of evolution wherein souls from the lower kingdoms take on increasingly complex bodies, moving up through the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms respectively. The materialistic conception of evolution is just the tip of the iceberg, because the physical aspect of the universe is just the tip of the iceberg.
For a comprehensive explanation of the spiritual side of evolution, see "God Speaks" by Meher Baba, available through the Sheriar Foundation, or online through the Avatar Meher Baba Trust website. For a second source which addresses this subject, see "The Problem of Rebirth" by Sri Aurobindo. See also this charming online presentation for children of the main principles set forth in "God Speaks," entitled "Atma Speaks."
I died as a mineral and became a plant,
Buddhism does not believe in anything resembling a passage backwards and forwards between animal and human forms, which most people conceive to be meant by the principle of transmigration....Buddhist writings certainly contain allusions to former births, in which even the Buddha himself was now one and now another kind of animal. But these had reference to the remote course of pre-human evolution, of which his fully-opened vision gave him a retrospect. Never in any authentic Buddhist writings will any support be found for the notion that any human creature, once having attained manhood, falls back into the animal kingdom.
A.P. Sinnett, "Esoteric Buddhism", as quoted in "The Ring of Return", compiled by Eva Martin
For my own part, I am convinced that at one period in the earth's history there was a definite act of creation, that from that moment evolution has been at work, guidance has been exercised. The more deeply men reflect upon what they are able to observe, the more they will be brought to see that Materialism is a most gigantic foolishness. And I think it will soon pass from the mind. At first there was some excuse. Into the authoritative nonsense and superstitions of Clericalism, evolution threw a bomb of the most deadly power. Those whose intelligence had been outraged and irritated by this absurd priestcraft rushed to the conclusion that religion was destroyed, that a little chain of reasoning had explained the whole infinite universe, that in mud was the origin of mind, and in dust its end. That was an opinion which could not last. Materialism is as dead as priestcraft for all intelligent minds. There are laws of nature but they are purposeful. Everywhere we look we are confronted by power and intelligence. The future will be full of wonder, reverence, and a calm faith worthy of our place in the scheme of things.
Alfred Russel Wallace, a Spiritualist and scientist who developed the theory of evolution parallel with Charles Darwin, but who has been all but forgotten by history
Check out this quote from Jesus in the New Testament:
"And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to [our] father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham."
Jesus, Mat 3:9
If my hunch is correct, someday scholars will find that the original quote went:
"And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God raises up of these stones children unto Abraham."
I presume that the usual interpretation of this passage is that Jesus was indulging in some sort of hyperbole, or even "miracle-boasting." But this is inconsistent with the pattern of Jesus's speech and character as it has come to us from the New Testament record. He didn't engage in hyperbole; and he didn't make boasts about miracles, even God's miracles. He clearly had a sense of humor, but he didn't brag and he didn't mix fact with fantasy, especially where God was concerned. So the interpretation that he was just saying something like the equivalent of, "Don't brag about your lineage, God is so great he could wup you with one hand tied behind His back" is almost surely erroneous. That leaves my intepretation, that he was speaking literally about what actually happens, and that the passage has been ever-so-slightly, but significantly, edited to remove a clear reference to the perennial philosophy/Gnostic understanding. This is a clue, the tip of the iceberg--like the 75-cent accounting error that led to the international hackers--suggesting that, as Meher Baba indicated, Jesus taught Vedanta.
Music opening this page: "Evolution,"
Ronnie Lane appearing on Pete Townshend's album
"Who Came First," dedicated to Meher Baba.