This article first appeared in the series H. P. Blavatsky: The Mystery in The Theosophical Path in 1930.
It is customary in Western lands in speaking of the 'human race,' to think only of the physical bodies which the host of Monads inhabits. This extraspective method of viewing Man is entirely owing to centuries of miseducation along religious and philosophical lines, and to the great development during the last three hundred years of European science in its physical aspects. But to look upon the outstanding figure, Man, earth's noblest inhabitants after this manner, is obviously taking a very restricted and imperfect view, for it leaves imperfectly and improperly considered the real faculties which make Man Man -- his spiritual, intellectual, moral, and psychical characteristics.
It is of course perfectly proper to look upon man's physical body as an entity, for it is one; and for physical science to study that physical body is most excellent for it is indeed a very wonderful natural product -- wonderful and mysterious indeed.
But man's physical body is something more than the mere product of physical nature, for it is due to the co-operation of the higher faculties with the forces of matter which have made that physical body even what it is, and it is these higher faculties which have thus, by their co-operation, distinguished it so markedly from the physical bodies of the lower entities such as the beasts and the various ranges of plant-life.
Man has a physical body in and through which he works, because he cannot avoid having one, for it is simply the outermost or physical expression of the very complex bundle of energies which in their aggregate make Man what he is. This bundle of energies self-express themselves through the physical body of Man exactly in proportion as that body has been raised through evolutional development to become a more or less fit and adequate transmitter of this bundle of energies existent in the invisible worlds. Strictly speaking, therefore, when a Theosophist refers to Man he speaks of necessity more particularly of this bundle of energies.
Thus we must come to view Man as a composite entity: a fact upon which we necessarily lay great emphasis. And it is the variations in the functioning of the composite factors of this bundle of energies which produce not merely the different varieties of physical man, but the far larger and greater differences which exist as between individual men in their spiritual, intellectual, psychic, and moral attributes.
Now, the essential root of man, as we have already made clear, is a monadic center, a consciousness-life-center, a center of permanent and enduring character; for the Monad lasts with undiminished consciousness and energy throughout the vastly long cycle of the cosmic Period of Manifestation in which the various worlds and planes and spheres of the solar system are at present evolving.
This period of cosmic manifestation, when calculated in human years, runs into a figure which may be represented by some fifteen digits. When such a period of cosmic manifestation comes to its necessary and karmic end, not only are all physical and intermediate planes of existence withdrawn into the vast spiritual fields of being -- or into what the ancient Pythagoreans call the Cosmic Monad -- but likewise all the individual Monads which are the roots of individually manifested entities and things are themselves of course withdrawn into the same greater or cosmic Monad, and therein pass their period of aeons-long rest. From this they reissue into manifestation again for a new cycle of activity, but on planes and in worlds and on spheres superior to those which presently exist, which future worlds and planes and spheres will be the necessary karmic or effectual product of the presently existing ones.
It is thus seen that the life-cycle of the solar system is in the Great what Man, in his series of reincarnations, is in the Small. This of course is only what is to be expected, because, the Cosmic Organism is ruled by one general system of 'laws' working in one general organization of substance existing in various degrees of ethereality or materiality; and it is therefore a logical necessity that any individual part or portion of this vast cosmic aggregate is subordinate to and subject to the cosmic bundle of energies which compose and rule the mighty Whole. Man, therefore, does not exist unto himself alone, but is merely one Atom, one Particle, of the almost incomprehensibly great aggregate of which we have just spoken.
Precisely as the Universe has its series of principles or substances from the very spiritual or super-spiritual (Divine) down to the physical, so has Man. It is customary in our Theosophical philosophy to divide these principles and substances of Man into seven conveniently distinct parts. When we say that any one of them is 'distinct', however, we do not mean that it is radically separate from the other six: we mean merely distinct for purposes of enumeration, much as the modern scientific physicists will speak of gravitation and of the phenomena of electromagnetism as distinct, although these scientists now know that electromagnetism and gravity are fundamentally or essentially one.
These seven substance-principles of which man is composed are usually enumerated as follows, beginning with the highest and ending with the lowest:
1. Atman -- Self: Pure Consciousness per se. The essential and radical power or faculty in us which gives to us, and indeed to every other entity or thing, its knowledge of or sentient consciousness of Selfhood. This is not the Ego.
2. Buddhi -- The faculty in Man which manifests as understanding, judgment, discrimination, etc., and which is an inseparable veil or garment of the Atman.
3. Manas -- The center of the ego-consciousness in man and in any other quasi-self-conscious entity.
4. Karma -- The driving force, the seat of the living electric impulses, desires, aspirations, considered in their energic aspect.
5. Prana -- Usually translated 'Life,' but rather the electrical veil or 'electrical field' manifesting in the individual as vitality.
6. Linga-sarira -- The Model-Body, popularly called 'astral body,' because it is but slightly more ethereal than the physical body, and is in fact the model or framework around which the physical body is builded, and from which, in a sense, the physical body flows or from which the physical body develops as growth proceeds.
7. Sthula-sarira -- The physical body.
One point about this classification is of extreme importance. These various principles, excepting Nos. 7 and 6, and also in a degree No. 5, are more truly what should be characterized as cosmical principles. In other words, they are the general substance-principles which are derivatives from the life-forces of the surrounding Universe. Man of course has them all, and they in their totality make Man all he is, and thus in their aggregate and interworkings and interlockings and interblendings, make him the bundle of energies which we have alluded to before.
But there is another method of dividing the human principles, which is perhaps somewhat easier of comprehension and which we give in the schematic diagram hereunder.
UPPER DUAD -- Atman Buddhi } Spirit: The Self. Perpetually enduring throughout the Kosmic Period. This is the Monad, unconditionally immortal.
INTERMEDIATE DUAD -- Manas Kama } Soul: Seat of the Ego. Dual: part aspiring upwards, which is the Reincarnating Ego; and part attracted below, which is the ordinary Human Ego. Immortal in Reincarnating Ego; mortal in Human Ego.
LOWER TRIAD -- Prana, Linga-sarira, Sthula-sarira } Body: Mortal throughout. The physical human frame and its invisible forces and substances.
Here we see that the seven principles of man are divisible into two Duads and one Triad. The uppermost Duad is the immortal and perpetually enduring Self, the seat of the selfhood in man and indeed in all beings and things: in other words, the seat of the characteristic individuality of the entity, called in Sanskrit Swabhava. This is unconditionally immortal.
The second Duad, or the intermediate nature, is the ordinary seat of human consciousness, and is composed of two parts: an upper or aspiring part, which is commonly called the Reincarnating Ego, or the Higher Manas; and of a lower part attracted to material things, which is the focus of what expresses itself in the average man as the Human Ego, his everyday ordinary seat of consciousness.
The three principles forming the lower Triad are unconditionally mortal considered as an aggregate, although of course the respective seed-elements of them being drawn from Nature's cosmic reservoirs, are in themselves and considered as cosmic principles, immortal per se. This will be clearly perceptible when the reader recollects that the Sthula-sarira or physical hierarchy of the human body is builded up of cosmic elements, in their turn formed of atomic entities, which although subject individually to bewilderingly rapid changes and reimbodiments, nevertheless are more enduring in themselves as entities than is the physical body which they temporarily compose.
It is the interconnection and interblending and interlocking of all these substance-principles which make Man what he is. All these principles in the last analysis are cosmic principles; and what makes the Man is the particular gathering together of them in human form around the monadic individuality. It is the teaching of Theosophy that every entity and thing is septenary in constitution, even as Man is, for he is no exception at all in the Universe, as regards his inner constitution.
Evolution, then, consists in the constantly increasing degree in which the higher substance-principles, the two upper Duads in the diagram, are enabled to manifest themselves. When they do so through the lower Triad more easily than before, this denotes an advance in evolutionary progress; and when they manifest themselves but feebly, we see the effect in the lower races of mankind, or in the entities below the human, such as the Beasts and the Plants.
Even in the case of one human individual as he grows from infancy to maturity, we see exactly the same thing. The infant can manifest but very imperfectly the transcendent powers within him, or more accurately 'above' him, simply because the physical vehicle has not yet grown or evolved into becoming a capable and adequate channel for these powers; but as the child grows through youth to maturity, we see day by day these transcendent powers showing themselves with greater fullness, and reaching a limit in any one life which is set or determined by the karmic causes or seeds of development lying latent in the growing child, and unfolding as growth proceeds.
From all this the meaning of H. P. Blavatsky's words in The Secret Doctrine (I, 224) become clearer. "Collectively," she writes, "men are the handiwork of hosts of various spirits; distributively, the tabernacles of those hosts; and occasionally and singly, the vehicles of some of them."
Man is indeed, collectively speaking, the handiwork of the hosts of various cosmic spirits, of the multitudes of Monads existing in the hierarchical construction of the universe surrounding us, which give to man his respective various substance-principles. He is also, distributively, the tabernacle of these hosts of monadic entities or cosmic spirits, because he himself as a human host is but the manifestation on earth of one such corporate aggregate. And, most interesting perhaps of all, most wonderful perhaps of all, is the fact that occasionally individual men are the chosen vehicles of some transcendent intelligence, of some highly evolved superhuman being which (or who) manifests through him.
Now such a superhuman being -- and the word superhuman should not be stressed too strongly -- is one of the great World-Teachers; for each one of the great Sages and Seers is in very truth the more or less perfect or complete representation on earth in human shape of the spiritual and transcendent Being which each such great Sage and Seer is in his own higher parts.
We see therefore the meaning of the statement that man is a god manifesting through a temple or tabernacle of flesh -- in other words, an incarnate god. The meaning here is obviously not the superficial one, that such a god has no intermediate links of connection with the physical body through which its splendor streams. On the contrary, it is precisely these intermediate links, the intermediate nature of the individual -- his various garments or veils enshrouding the monadic splendor -- which have been evolved up to a point of being able to 'step down' the glorious energies of the spiritual and super-spiritual parts of man's being.
In connection with the two diagrams above set forth, it should also be stated that man is rooted in the cosmos surrounding him by three principles. These can hardly be said to be above the first or Atman, but are, so to say, that same Atman's highest and most glorious parts. They could be represented above the second schematic diagram by the symbol of a sun or a globe radiating light, and containing a dotted triangle. Thus it can be seen that man is a child of the Universe in all senses of the word, and that his innermost or highest principles are universal in scope, because radically a part of the Spiritual Universe.
Let us now ask ourselves what is 'death'? In the second of our schematic diagrams the human constitution is divided into seven principles, sub-divided again into a superior Duad, an intermediate Duad, and a lower Triad. Death occurs when a general break-up of this constitution takes place. Nor is this break-up a matter of sudden occurrence, with the exceptions of course of such unusual cases as mortal accidents or suicides, which form a subject beside the present discussion. Death is always preceded, varying in each individual case, by a certain time spent in the withdrawal of the monadic individuality from an incarnation, and this withdrawal takes place coincidentally with a decay of the seven-principled being which man in physical incarnation is. This withdrawal process precedes physical dissolution, and is a preparation of and by the consciousness-center for the forthcoming existence in the invisible realms.
This withdrawal actually is a preparation for the life to come in invisible realms, and as the septenary entity on this earth so decays, it may truly be said to be approaching rebirth in the next sphere. Death occurs, physically speaking, with the cessation of activity of the pulsating heart. There is the last beat, and this is followed by immediate, instantaneous unconsciousness, for Nature is very merciful in these things.
But death is not yet complete, for the brain is the last organ of the physical body really to die, and for some time after the heart has ceased beating, the brain still remains active and the memory, although unconsciously so to the Human Ego, for this short length of time, passes in review, every event of the preceding life. This great or small panoramic picture of the past, is purely automatic, yet the soul-consciousness of the Reincarnating ego watches this wonderful review incident by incident, a review which includes the entire course of thought and action of the life just closed. The entity is, for the time being, entirely unconscious of everything else except this. Temporarily it lives in the past, and memory dislodges from the akasic record, event after event, to the smallest detail, passes them all in review, and in regular order from the beginning to the end, and thus sees all its past life as an all-inclusive panorama of picture succeeding picture.
There are very definite ethical and psychological reasons inhering in this process, for it forms all together a reconstruction of both the good and the evil done in the past life, and imprints this strongly on the fabric of the spiritual memory of the passing being. Then the mortal and material portions sink into oblivion; whilst the Reincarnating Ego carries the best and noblest parts of these memories into the Devachan or heaven-world of postmortem rest and recuperation.
Meanwhile the end called death has come, and unconsciousness, complete, and undisturbed, succeeds until there occurs what the Ancients called the 'second death.'
The lower Triad is now definitely cast off and the remaining quaternary is free. The physical body of the lower Triad follows the course of natural decay, and its various hosts of life-atoms proceed whither their natural attractions call them. The Linga-sarira or Model-Body remains in the astral realms, and finally fades out. It should be remembered that these astral realms are not one single plane, but a series of planes growing gradually more ethereal or spiritual as they approach the inward spheres of Nature's constitution or structure. The life-atoms of the prana, or 'electrical field,' fly instantly back at the moment of physical dissolution, to the natural pranic reservoirs of the planet.
This leaves man, therefore, no longer a heptad or septenary entity, but a Quaternary consisting of the two Duads already spoken of.
The 'second death' now takes place when the lower or intermediate Duad in its turn separates from, or rather is cast off by, the upper Duad or monadic essence. But preceding this event the monadic essence gathers unto itself from this lower Duad what is called the Reincarnating Ego, which is all the best of the entity that was, all its purest and most spiritual and noblest aspirations and hopes and dreams for betterment and for beauty and harmony. It is this that the monadic essence gathers into itself, where it remains as the egoic center in the state called Devachan. In this devachanic condition the Reincarnating Ego remains in the bosom of the Monad (or of the monadic essence) in the state of the most perfect and utter bliss and peace, reviewing and constantly reviewing and improving upon its own blissful imagination, all the unfulfilled possibilities of the life just closed that its naturally creative faculties automatically suggest to this devachanic entity.
Man at this point is no longer a Quaternary of substance-principles, but is now reduced to the Monad with the Reinarnating Ego sleeping in its bosom, and is therefore a spiritual Triad.
When the 'second death,' or dissolution of this second or intermediate Duad, has finally taken place, the lower portions of this second or intermediate Duad remain in the etheric or higher astral spheres which are intermediate between the devachanic and the earthly, as the Kama-rupa. In time this Kama-rupa gradually fades out in its turn, its life-atoms at such dissolution passing to their respective reservoirs. It is this Kama-rupa which legend in the various ancient world-religions speaks of as the 'Shade,' and which it has been customary in the Occident to call the 'spook.' It is, in short, all the mortal elements of the Human Ego that was, which Human Ego is now disintegrated.
This, then, is the process of death so far as the individual ego is concerned, but it should not be supposed for a moment that the perpetually spiritual Monad itself is in a state of passive negativity. Very much to the contrary; it is always active, always sending forth from itself a new ray or stream of spiritual activity, which, in these invisible realms or worlds, makes its various veils or garments or bodies. And these various bodies form the living entities in which it manifests in the invisible spheres and which are in a very true sense living beings.
The Monad therefore passes from sphere to sphere on its upward journey from earth, carrying with it the Reincarnating Ego, or what we may for simplicity of expression call the Earth-Child, in its bosom. (Plutarch in his very esoteric essay 'On the Apparent Face in the Orb of the Moon,' speaks in rather veiled but yet to the Theosophist plainly understandable language of this 'second death'.)
The intermediate worlds or spheres or planes are very many, ranging from the lowest or the merely etheric or astral worlds, up to the highest or the spiritual worlds, and it is in these invisible realms that the monadic individuality lives for a time in each, during the course of its gradual ascent.
The time comes when, having passed through all these invisible realms connected by chains of causation with our own planet, it -- this monadic essence or individuality -- passes on to higher planetary spheres, and in each such planetary sphere continues manifesting or evolving its various sheaths or garments or vehicles or bodies of shape and character appropriate to and fit for each sphere. This continues until the ascending cycle of the interplanetary pilgrimage is concluded, and then its return journey on the descending cycle earthwards begins.
As it slowly 'descends' again through these higher intermediate spheres earthwards, coincidentally does the Reincarnating Ego, hitherto sleeping in devachanic bliss in the bosom of the monadic individuality, slowly begin to reawaken to activity. Just as a man will lay himself down on his bed, tired, and enjoy a blissful sleep of repose and recuperation, and awake in the morning ready for the duties of the new day, so does the Reincarnating Ego act. Gradually it feels, at first unconsciously to itself, the attraction earthwards, arising out of the karmic seeds of thought and emotion and impulse sown in the preceding life on earth, and as these attractions grow stronger, it finds itself under the domination of a strong psycho-magnetic attraction driving it to the earth-sphere.
The time finally comes when it is drawn to the family on earth whose karmic attractions are the nearest to its own characteristics, and it then enters, or attaches itself to, by reason of the psycho-magnetic attraction previously spoken of, the human seed which will grow into the body of the human being to be. Thus reincarnation takes place, and the Reincarnating Ego reawakens to life on earth in the body of a little child.
All these processes are governed strictly by natural law, and to a large extent, so far as the entity implicated in the process is concerned, are automatic, as all natural laws are more or less. This automatism, however, is in no sense the unguided or unmotivated workings of inert or dead matter, but is the fruitage of seeds of activity sown by the reincarnating entity itself in the former life, which thus provides for itself the fabric of the body in which it will next manifest itself on earth, as well as the circumstances and environment in which it will find itself involved. Justice rules it all, a justice arising out of the nature and actions of the reincarnating entity itself and in no sense depending upon the activity of any god or gods outside of the human being, or on any merely mechanistic principles of brute matter.
As regards the destiny followed by that portion of man's constitution which pursues its wonderful pilgrimage through the spheres, the ideas involved are for the average man so abstruse and intricate that it would be practically impossible to give a clear outline in a few paragraphs; but the following may be said. Closely connected with the earth and its six invisible but companion-spheres, which with the earth form its Planetary Chain, there are seven other planets of our solar system with which all Monads at any time manifesting on earth have relations as close and as intimate as they do with our own Planetary Chain. Each one of these seven other planetary spheres is itself a Planetary Chain consisting of the visible planet and six companion-spheres, and in each one of these seven Planetary Chains the monadic entity pursues a karmic evolutionary course of Rounds, similar on all general grounds to the evolutionary course which it pursues in and through our own Planetary Chain.
These seven other spheres therefore are what the ancients called the Seven Sacred Planets, called 'sacred' on account of their intimate evolutionary relation with our own earth. The earth and they are inseparably bound together with bonds of destiny originating in the very origin of the solar system, and coming over from the preceding solar system of which our present one is the karmic consequence.
H. P. Blavatsky in her The Secret Doctrine speaks of "the adventures of an atom," referring not solely to the physical atom of chemistry, but also to the Spiritual Atom which the Monad in a sense is, and says that no romance ever written or imagined could be more wonderful than are in fact such Adventures of an Atom, were one able to trace them in full. This is very true indeed, and such Adventures are the journeys and pilgrimages of any Monad whatsoever belonging to our solar system.
From what we have outlined it must be perfectly clear that Man when moving on earth is a heptad or septenary entity, and that within a very short while after the death of the physical body, after the dissolution of the lowest Triad, he no longer is in any strict sense of the word a 'man' at all, but a psycho-spiritual quaternary entity. But when the second death occurs, he then no longer is a quaternary entity or an entity formed of four substance-principles, but strictly speaking is withdrawn into the highest Duad in the shape of the Reincarnating Ego.
All this may seem like a gradual process of deprivation of faculty and power, to those who are not accustomed to philosophical thinking or who imagine that Man as a complete heptad or septenary entity as he is on earth is the standard or representative type. The exact contrary, however, is the real truth. Every increase in number of the substance-principles composing an entity means a corresponding decrease in freedom of spiritual faculty and power, and therefore of life, because each such substance-principle added as a veil or sheath, by so much the more beclouds and dims the transcendent Light always streaming forth from the heart of the Monad.
Death means freedom, it means release, it means the rupturing of the veils and sheaths or garments which becloud or enshroud this inner Transcendent Spiritual Sun. Man's destiny in the far distant future is to become ever more and more alike unto his monadic essence, more akin in faculty and power to his Transcendent Self, until the time shall come when he shall have become a god on earth. And although even in those times, so long as an earth-incarnation lasts, he will be a septenary entity, nevertheless all the lower veils and garments or sheaths will have become so etherealized and spiritualized that the dimming of the splendor of the Inner God will be vastly less than it is at present.
It has been said that man is a composite entity, like everything else, and this is strictly true. It has been said also that every entity whatsoever, and wheresoever it may exist, is but one of the smaller entities composing the being of an Entity still more vast. This means, therefore, following the ancient law of analogical reasoning, that Man himself in all his vehicles or bodies is composed of such entities smaller than he, and each one of these, whether we call it a life-atom of his lowest Triad, or the Human Soul of the intermediate Duad, or the Reincarnating Ego of the upper part of the intermediate Duad, is a learning thing, an evolving being. Each one such has an individuality of its own rooted in a monadic life-consciousness-center; and all these are bound together as a host of evolving entities, and in their turn are rooted in the over-ruling or supreme Monad of any such host or multitude.
From this we may deduce that the self-conscious entity whom we popularly call man, is, strictly speaking, not his monadic essence, which is his Inner God, but the Reincarnating Ego, or the higher part of the intermediate Duad, as man's constitution exists during life in incarnation on earth.
There is also the Human Ego, which is the more human expression of this Reincarnating Ego, and this Human Ego, strange as it may sound, is only a part of man's consciousness which is himself, for his Reincarnating Ego partakes of the Monadic essence in which it lives and moves and has its spiritual being; and yet is different from it. We may liken the idea to a tree formed of a trunk producing many branches, these developing into minor branches, these again into branchlets, these into twigs, and each twig into a leaf. The combined multitude of parts thus form a host indeed in themselves, and yet each member of this host has an individual personality of its own.
This rough illustration of the tree is a very old one, but it is suggestive, and the application of the rule of this interlocking and interblending series of consciousnesses is as strictly followed in Nature in the higher realms as it is in the lower realms.
The idea, therefore, is that the Human Ego is a developing and learning thing, growing out of something nobler, tending to become a Reincarnating Ego; and the Reincarnating Ego is constantly evolving or tending to become something nobler than what it was before, to become what the core of its own particular individuality is -- a monadic essence. And the monadic essence, including these others, and which is our higher or spiritual Self, is in its turn evolving onwards to become something still greater than itself -- a Divine Thing.
Thus also the very atoms of which man's lower Triad is composed, are each one of them a learning and growing entity, each with its own particular individual monadic essence, yet rooted in the general monadic essence of the septenary structure which man in earth-life is.
How true, therefore, the old Theosophical saying is, that no one can live unto himself alone, because every entity everywhere is merely a part of a larger entity, and is itself composed of a host of minor entities. This is the philosophical rationale of the doctrine of "Universal Brotherhood as a fact in Nature."
We see, then, that so far as life-consciousness is concerned, Man is composed of a Self, of which the instinctual feeling in the septenary entity is 'I am.' Furthermore, he is composed of an individual Ego, his reincarnating aspect, of which the instinctual recognition in the men living on earth is not only 'I am' -- which is the stream of consciousness from the essential Self -- but also 'I am I'. This latter is the egoic consciousness, as contrasted with the spiritual consciousness of abstract selfhood expressing itself in the two words 'I am.'
Very wonderful indeed are the Theosophical teachings, and very wonderful indeed are the ideas and reflections which flow forth from these teachings, when the earnest and truth-loving and truth-searching student ponders over them. How consoling it is, this sheer consciousness of selfhood! It assures one of the deathlessness of his own inmost being, and of the utter impossibility of termination of the consciousness of this essential selfhood, although the egoic selfhood or egoic consciousness of the growing and evolving reincarnating entity, or of its child the Human Ego, is interrupted by the process called reincarnation, a process arising out of the necessities of natural law.
When man thus feels his utter oneness with the Universe, which these thoughts lead him to feel and to understand; when he realizes that he is not alone in infinitude, but is one of numberless hosts of other similar beings, all interblending from a life-consciousness standpoint, there comes into his heart such a sense of rest and peace that this alone is a treasury of blessing beyond all appraisement.
Occidental folk are so unused to thoughts of this kind, and so miseducated to think that a distinct individuality utterly separate in life and consciousness from all other individualities is the summum bonum of being, that it requires some effort of the imagination to throw off this fantasy of falsity.
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