Originally published 1907.
Chapter 1. The Septenate in Nature
Chapter 2. The Septenary Division
Chapter 3. The Lower Quaternary:
Chapter 4. The Higher Triad: Atma-Buddhi-Manas
Chapter 5. Divine Magic
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Human Being Menu
The teaching of the seven principles of man is a most sacred tenet of the ancient wisdom-religion, and should be approached with the seriousness of mind with which one enters upon a serious question. For this is no attempt to offer interesting speculations for the edification of intellectual curiosity. It is a reverent effort to present an outline of teachings which have behind them the sanction of the accumulated wisdom of the ages. It must be borne in mind that a teaching like this cannot be presented in the complete and systematic form of a scientific treatise. Any attempt to reduce it to such a form would result in depriving it of its vital essence and converting it into a dogma. True knowledge can come only in proportion as we progress on the path of self-development. Theosophical teachings cover such a vast domain that, for the most part, all that can be done is to indicate a number of starting points from which the intuition and further study of the inquirer may set out; and far-reaching side issues are contacted at every turn, which would be impossible to follow up within any reasonable limits of time and space.
If asked, "Why seven?" the answer is that seven is one of the key numbers by which the mysteries that underlie all nature are revealed and explained. The wisdom-religion teaches that number and numbers underlie all the processes of creation. This numerical key is at once most important and profound. There is nothing arbitrary about the use of the number seven as applied to the study of man's nature. The septenate is universal throughout nature; it would be possible to illustrate this fact by a large number of instances, but for the present we must be content to assume the fact, and to refer the inquirer elsewhere for further information. No school of modern thought has anything more definite and reasonable to offer as a substitute. In some Eastern books one may meet with other divisions than the septenary one -- fivefold, fourfold, or threefold, for instance, but these are merely convenient abbreviations for special purposes.
The analysis of man's nature in our modern conceptions is represented roughly by a threefold division -- body, mind, and soul or spirit; but our notions about these are extremely hazy. Science has made an elaborate study of the structure and functions of the body, but is much handicapped in its understanding thereof by a lack of knowledge of the principles which come next in order to the body. As to the mind, this word denotes roughly the personal thinking ego and its thoughts, emotions, and volitions. There are various systems of psychology which deal with this, but here again the want of knowledge concerning the other principles has caused great confusion. The soul or spirit is an even more vague conception. It stands for what in religion is regarded as the immortal part of man. Very little is known of its nature, and it is for the most part supposed to function after the death of the body. Dogmatic religion discouraged the intellectual study of such questions; and science, having been introduced in a spirit of reaction against dogmatic religion, has scrupulously avoided pushing its investigations any further than the material world. Consequently we have been left without any adequate conceptions of the nature of man; and the most important parts of human nature are investigated neither by religion nor by science.
But in the past, before the wave of materialism swept over the world, bringing with it the destruction of the ancient mystic teachings and their replacement by religious dogmatism, there was a sacred science which embraced all that we now call science and religion and much more besides. Our present religions, philosophies, and sciences are but detached fragments of that great knowledge, or new growths arising from its remains. This ancient system, which is referred to in theosophical works as the wisdom-religion, the secret doctrine, and the esoteric philosophy, was once known all over the world. H. P. Blavatsky tells us, referring to the pages of history for her proofs, that at the close of the Classical period most virulent and determined efforts were made to stamp out all traces of this ancient wisdom and to place in its stead dogmatic religion. But in spite of these efforts there have remained enough proofs, in the numerous monumental and documentary records of antiquity, to prove the truth of what is claimed about the wisdom-religion. In addition to these archaeological proofs, there have always been in the world initiates who have made it their care to preserve the sacred knowledge; and although, in the dark cycle spoken of, these Adepts withdrew from their public teaching, yet they have always preserved the knowledge in secret, ready to be brought again out when humanity shall have passed through the dark valley of materialism and be upon the ascending arc towards spirituality. One of the ancient teachings thus outlined is that of the seven principles of man.
In order to make our explanations clearer, it will be necessary to touch briefly upon the question of evolution as dealt with by theosophy. (A fuller account may be found elsewhere in theosophical literature.) Evolution means the growth and gradual perfecting of forms through the agency of the universal life-spirit which is striving to manifest itself through them. Everything in the universe, from the smallest mineral atom up to man, is thus evolving; for everything is, in one degree or another, a manifestation of the eternal spirit. The modern evolutionists have glimpsed a small part of this truth, but their theories are imperfect and misleading. In the first place they have merely studied the effects of evolution, tracing throughout the kingdoms of nature a sequence and progression of organisms; but they have neglected to tell us anything about the cause of evolution -- that is, about the intelligence and will that are working in these forms to bring about their growth. Those who deny that there is any such indwelling spirit are guilty of a logical absurdity which it is impossible to account for by any other hypothesis than that their thinking faculties have been impaired. There are others who see the absurdity of saying that an inert substance can raise itself to perfection without there being, inside or outside of it, some life or mind or spirit to work upon it; and who say that "God" is the agency who performs this function. They are much nearer the truth; but there is no need thus to leap at one bound from visible matter to the supreme deity. God, in their explanation, stands for a vast host of powers and beings and worlds unknown to science, which nevertheless have to be studied. Further, as is shown elsewhere, the word "God" introduces all sorts of theological dogmas with which theosophy has nothing to do.
Again, modern evolutionists have confined their studies to the visible planes of nature; but, as will be shown, not only the bodies, but the minds and souls of creatures are subject to evolution.
In every physical atom there is a spark of the eternal life imprisoned, and this causes physical matter to become gradually perfected through long ages until it becomes sufficiently plastic and efficient to fit it for the reception of higher forms of life. In the vegetable kingdom also there is the vegetable "monad" striving to perfect vegetable forms; and so in the mineral kingdom.
Man himself is the product of several different lines of evolution. The matter in his physical body has been perfected through incalculable ages of evolution in lower forms. His physical body itself is the culminating point (so far) of a long line of evolution in the animal kingdom. But it is a great error to suppose that an animal can evolve into a man, or thinker, as some evolutionists say.
There comes a point in the evolution of the animal kingdom when progress can go no further in that cycle without the entry of something else. The animal soul is unable to develop the self-consciousness and power of choice that are characteristic of man. This "something else" is the manasaputra. Manasaputra means the "son of mind" or "mind-born son"; it is a name given to our higher egos before they incarnated in mankind. They incarnated in what theosophy refers to as the third root-race. All our egos are thinking and rational entities who had lived in the precedent cosmic life cycle, and whose destiny it was to incarnate in the humanity of this life cycle. As H. P. Blavatsky says:
Try to imagine a "Spirit," a celestial Being . . . divine in its essential nature, yet not pure enough to be one with the ALL, and consequently having to purify its nature so that it may finally reach that goal. . . . In its very essence it is THOUGHT, and is therefore called in its plurality Manasaputras, or "Sons of the (Universal) mind," This individualized "Thought" is what we Theosophists call the real human Ego, the thinking Entity imprisoned in a case of flesh and bones. This is surely a Spiritual Entity, not Matter, and such Entities are the incarnating Egos, informing the bundle of animal matter called mankind, and whose names are manasa, or "Minds."
This is a most important point. It disposes of the doctrine of the descent of man from anthropoid apes. Anthropoid apes were no more able to evolve unaided in the past than they are now. They are degenerate descendants of one of the early human races who sinned against nature, as explained elsewhere in theosophical writings. It puts a gulf between the simple animal and man. It shows that, in addition to the evolution of forms upwards, there was a descent of something from above; and that we have a divine heredity as well as a terrestrial one. It throws light on scriptural passages about the inbreathing of the divine spirit.
The septenary division may be given as follows:
THE LOWER QUATERNARY
THE HIGHER TRIAD
The names emphasized above are Sanskrit terms. In the impoverished state of our language, so far as a vocabulary to express this class of ideas is concerned, theosophists may surely claim the privilege accorded to other systems, of adopting a special terminology; but as little tax as possible will be laid on the reader in this respect.
To simplify now the comprehension of this scheme, it will be best to consider man first as a trinity. It is impossible to consider human beings as being any less than threefold. There is a conscious chooser, oscillating between good and evil. This familiar fact is expressed in theosophy by saying that the soul is threefold; the three divisions are called:
This analysis sums up the views of the greatest philosophers and teachers; it is a cardinal tenet of the wisdom-religion, as is shown by H. P. Blavatsky -- who quotes the teachings of Plato, of the Neoplatonists, and of the Egyptians, on this point. The soul was, according to them, triple, and esoterically sevenfold. One part was divine and immortal, another mortal, animal, and passional; and between the two stood another which hovered between good and evil, and possessed the power of choice. These are denominated respectively the spiritual soul, the animal soul, and the human soul. The human soul is our personality, and represents the pivotal point in our nature. It is destined to ally itself finally with its divine counterpart, the spiritual soul, and thus to overcome the animal soul and turn it into an obedient servant. But first it has to pass through a long process of error and delusion, lasting through many incarnations, during which it is enslaved by the passions and gradually learns and masters them. This process is symbolized the world over by the allegories and myths that tell of the hero passing through numerous adventures in quest of the truth, or seeking his true bride and being deceived by enchantresses, rescuing princesses and killing dragons, having tasks set him; and so on. This threefold nature of the human character is matter of familiar experience to everyone; does it not constitute the great drama of life, full of the awful and the sublime? Whence our aspirations that impel us to noble unselfish actions and yearning for the beautiful, the true, and the right? Whence again our impulses to selfishness, anger, and indifference? These two incentives must spring from some source within us, and there must also be a chooser who chooses between the two. Any philosophy which tries to explain things with any less than these three can lead only to confusion. Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:40 et seq.) explains the distinction between the divine and the mortal natures of man, but his terms have, partly by translation and partly by use, acquired other meanings. In James 3:15, the same thing is described.
Neither theology nor science reverences the immortal part of man. For theology confines its activity solely to the afterlife and does not represent it as having any particular part to play during earth-life; and as to its nature and attributes, we are left entirely in the dark. Among scientists, there are those who are content merely to admit their complete ignorance on the subject, and those who deny their own immortality.
The seven principles may be divided into two parts:
It may be mentioned in passing that the number four prevails in the material world, and the number three in the spiritual; a subject which is included in the study of the symbology of the ancient wisdom-religion. The higher triad is atma, buddhi, and manas, and it alone is immortal; the lower quaternary, consisting of the remaining principles, constitutes the mortal part of our nature.
FOUR is the number which rules in the lower or terrestrial world, as three is the number of spirit. The four elements are a well known conception of ancient and medieval science and philosophy. These elements were designated by the names fire, air, water, and earth.
These words were not used in their present sense however. They answer to some extent to our notions of solidity, liquidity, gaseity, and heat or luminosity; but they have a more extended range of meaning than that. The quadrangular shape, the four cardinal points of the compass, the four seasons, the cross, are some of the quaternaries. It would be too much of a digression to enter more fully into this branch here. Suffice it to say that the phenomena of nature cannot be rationally explained unless we postulate these four principles.
In man these are: physical body, astral double, life-principle and animal soul. The life-principle builds up the physical atoms according to the pattern of the astral body, guided and impelled by the instinctual mind of the animal soul. Science has studied the visible form and visible functions of mineral, plant, animal, and man; but has suffered from a lack of knowledge of the other principles. These will now be treated of separately.
Since the theosophical teachings were first given out, science has made considerable progress in the direction of regarding the physical body as theosophy does. That is, the idea of its being an inert mechanism, set in motion by some vital force, or by mechanical and chemical forces, has given place to the idea that the body is composed of an immense number of individual "lives," each of which has an independent existence in addition to its corporate existence as part of the body, and which are similar to the microorganisms found in water and other places. A minute study of the bodily structures reveals this fact; for these structures are seen to be composed of minute units which science calls "cells"; and each cell is endowed with a nucleus, protoplasm, and other parts and functions which make it an independent living organism. In disease some of the cells set up an activity which is hostile to the general harmony of the whole body, and diseased tissue results. An extreme case of this is death.
In theosophy less importance is given to the body. To begin with, it is not regarded as the producer of life or thought, but as the result of them. Life is a universal principle, and the body is built up by its operation. It is impossible to explain much about the body without referring to the other principles; for to do so would be to deal with effects only, leaving the causes unexplained. For instance, the "cell" is not a permanent thing. Every atom in the cell is constantly on the move, some leaving it and other new ones coming in; so that the composition of the cell is never the same, and in the space of a few years the matter of the entire body has completely changed. Hence the form of the body and its component structures can not inhere in the atoms themselves, but must be preserved elsewhere. (See under "ASTRAL BODY.")
It would be erroneous to say that the minute lives of which the body is composed make up, in their totality, the greater life of the body as a whole. For the body, if left to itself, begins to fall to pieces. In sleep, when the greater part of the controlling influence is withdrawn, there is much more rapid degeneration. The elements of the body are kept in order by the life-principle directed by the intelligence. The body of itself is like an irresponsible automaton. During sleep it assumes attitudes and makes movements that we do not permit when awake.
The term "astral body" is somewhat vague in meaning for two reasons. First, the poverty of the English language in terms adequate to convey such unfamiliar ideas obliged early writers on theosophy to use the term in more than one sense. Secondly, pseudo-theosophists have dragged this, as also other terms, in the mud by using it to express their own peculiar delusions. This latter reason has caused the term "astral body" to have rather a quack sound. But it is one of the objects of the present writing to restore some of these misused words to their original dignity.
While there is no word which can adequately express the nature of this second principle, perhaps the one that expresses it best is "model-body." This compound word answers to the Sanskrit term linga-sarira. Other words are "double" and "design-body."
When we describe the nature and properties of the astral double, it will be seen that it fills a gap in modern speculation, and supplies a missing link for the lack of which science has been much at fault.
The model-body must here be considered chiefly in connection with man; but it is of universal application, and every organism in the universe, whether animal, vegetable, or mineral, has its own.
It is material, yet the matter of which it is composed is not the matter with which we are familiar in the physical world. It cannot be perceived by the gross physical senses, and has none of the attributes by which matter is defined as such in physics. But it can be perceived by finer senses, and is therefore matter according to an extended but similar definition. It is an older and more evolved kind of matter, having undergone a longer process of evolution and being therefore more highly endowed with properties. For even matter is composed of life-atoms which enshrine a spark of the universal spirit and mind. Just as physical forms are made of physical matter so the astral forms are made of this astral matter.
There is an astral world corresponding with the physical world and interrelated with it in a peculiar manner; but to discuss that would lead us too far from the present object. It is however extremely interesting to note that, since the Founders of the Theosophical Society wrote, science has been compelled to admit the existence of finer grades of matter answering exactly to what was described. For instance, in view of the recent discoveries in electro-atomic physics, the statements of W. Q. Judge, made in 1893, are interesting. He says:
The astral body is made of matter of very fine texture as compared with the visible body, and has a great tensile strength, . . . And not only has it this immense strength, but it at the same time possesses an elasticity permitting its extension to a considerable distance. It is flexible, plastic, extensible and strong. The matter of which it is composed is electrical and magnetic in its essence.
The model-body forms the link between mind and body. Its most characteristic properties are its extreme adaptability, elasticity, and plasticity, which causes it to take any shape which is impressed upon it by thought. It is prior to physical matter, as mind is prior to it. Everything in the physical world exists beforehand in the astral world, in plan. This explains the phenomena of growth, reproduction, and all the organic processes by which organisms are created with certain forms and adapted to certain purposes. The acorn contains the future oak tree modeled entire in astral matter, and the life-atoms merely build up the physical tree on the already existing model. This it is that determines whether a seed shall yield an oak or a rose. For want of this knowledge, science has resorted to many strange hypotheses which will not stand the test of logic. Without the astral model, we must attribute all its properties to the physical atoms themselves, thus seeking for causes among the effects. But a logical mind will see that an organism cannot grow according to a plan unless the plan previously exists somewhere.
In man the model-body exists closely blended with the physical body, which it sustains. It is this that keeps the physical body in shape. The vitality has an energic power, and the astral body has a formative power. Both of these factors are essential. Without the model-body there would be nothing to keep the life-forces in place or to prevent them from producing monstrous and excessive growths. It may be compared to a piece of cloth having a design traced on it, which is afterwards worked in colored silks, or to an invisible photographic impression afterwards brought out by chemicals. The body grows from the embryo upwards according to the design of the model.
The astral body explains the fact of birthmarks due to sudden shock received by the mother. Such a shock affects powerfully the imagination of the mother, and the astral double of the future child is impressed with the picture in her imagination. In the case of amputations, the patient often feels sensations apparently emanating from the severed limb; for in this case the astral double has not been severed. In some animals the severed limb can grow again on the old model.
The astral body cannot, in the case of ordinary people, go more than a few feet from the physical body, which it does during sleep or reverie. But those who have passed through long and arduous processes of development, involving a purification of the whole nature, moral as well as physical, and far beyond the reach of the ordinary man, can project the astral body to a distance and use it as a means of acting consciously apart from the body. Needless to say this has nothing to do with the ridiculous claims of the so-called occultists, who talk too glibly about the astral body and their own pretended powers.
It is in the double that the real organs of the outer sense organs are located. It has also nerves, arteries, etc., corresponding to those in the physical man. The physical eye, ear, and nerve papillae contain only the outer mechanism of the senses, by which the impressions are conveyed to the double. In it are also stored up the subconscious perception and latent memory which afford such a problem to hypnotists.
On the death of the physical body, the astral double is released. The immortal man, the higher triad, passes to the state known as devachan, and the astral double continues for a time to survive the physical man and to exist as a "shell." It is this shell that is attracted to the medium at spiritualistic seances. As it contains all the memories connected with personal existence which were stored up during life, it can repeat these like a parrot.
It remains near the deserted physical body nearly all the time until that is completely dissipated, for it has to go through its own process of dying. It may become visible under certain conditions. It is the spook of the spiritualistic seance-rooms, and is there made to masquerade as the real spirit of this or that individual. Attracted by the thoughts of the medium and the sitters, it vaguely flutters where they are, and then is galvanized into a factitious life by a whole host of elemental forces and by the active astral body of the medium who is holding the seance or of any other medium in the audience. From it (as from a photograph) are then reflected into the medium's brain all the boasted evidences which spiritualists claim go to prove identity of deceased friend or relative. These evidences are accepted as proof that the spirit of the deceased is present, because neither mediums nor sitters are acquainted with the laws governing their own nature, nor with the constitution, power and function of astral matter and astral man.
This quotation is from W. Q. Judge, who then goes on to explain the phenomena of materialization. This may be caused by the astral body of the medium, which detaches itself during trance and assumes the form of the thought-images impressed upon it by the sitters. This explains how it is that sometimes, when the materialized form has been handled by unbelievers, the physical body of the medium has been found similarly affected. Such an occurrence does not prove fraud, as any injury or mark inflicted on the medium's astral body would be reproduced afterwards on the physical body. Again the materialization may be the actual shell of the departed, made visible and tangible by an alteration of the conditions of the matter of which it is composed. Again the spook may be due to the fact that an unseen mass of electrical and magnetic matter is collected, and upon it is reflected out of the astral light a picture of any required dead or living person.
Thus the phenomenal practices of Spiritualism are a most rash and ignorant dabbling in matters not understood. The spook is entirely devoid of conscience, since it is at best but the shadow of the animal man, minus his intelligent and moral part. It obtains a prolongation of its ghoulish life at the expense of medium and sitters, whom it gradually but surely contaminates by its contact. These seances are in fact a species of necromancy (divination by corpses). That such practices were well known to past sages is proved by the fact that Iamblichus and others of his school warn their disciples most strongly against these spooks.
Many phenomena will occur to the reader which can be readily explained by the astral body; but it will not be profitable to go into these here, the present object being to aid people in understanding their own nature. The importance of guarding our thoughts is emphasized when we consider that every thought produces an instant impress upon the plastic double, and that thoughts habitually repeated will in time mold the physical body. We also see that, through the agency of the double, the mind is enabled to act on the body purposively. But here the caution must be added, that as our ordinary intelligence is by no means competent to judge what is best for the body, any attempt to interfere with natural processes, along the lines of self-healing or self-culture (so-called) is sure to result harmfully. The selfishness of the motive would blind our eyes to our true interests and cause us to bungle the experiment, producing disease or some physical infirmity in the end. We should let our body alone, except so far as the ordinary rules of medicine and hygiene are concerned, and use our will for purifying our minds from selfishness and passion. Then the astral body and the physical body can be trusted to take care of themselves.
Life has been spoken of as a force. But what is meant by a force? We cannot know anything of forces except through their manifestation. We can perceive living or moving matter, and we can say that force or life is present there. But if we try to separate the force from all matter, or even to imagine it as so separated, we must fail. The truth is that our mind, by its very nature as a mind, can conceive of nothing so elementary as force without matter, or matter without force. No philosophy has been able to resolve things into less than a trinity of fundamentals, called by various names into which we need not enter. What, therefore, life may be in its ultimate essence we cannot say, further than to predicate that it is a ray of the eternal and universal existence. All the life which we can know or conceive must be embodied in some form or other, whether in physical matter or one of the higher grades of matter. Thus the question whether life is a force or matter really involves a distinction without a difference, since we can discover nowhere any matter that is not alive, nor any force that is not embodied. Similarly the question whether light is a body or not, is equally vague. We can reduce it to something which is neither force nor matter in one sense, and yet in another sense is both. If light is a vibration in a medium, then what is the vibration without the medium, or the medium without the vibration? The most we can say of light, electricity, the vital force, and so on, is that they appear to our cognition as matter in motion. All the universe is pervaded with this mysterious spirit-matter, which is the manifestation of the one Unknowable.
In considering the life principle in man, therefore, we are considering only a particular manifestation of a universal principle.
The life principle is not produced by the body. It is prior to the body; it fashions the body. Life is everywhere, and we live in an ocean of it. Our body is but a special organ for dealing with it.
Science in examining the bacilli, bacteria, and other minute organisms in the body, which have been thought to be the causes of disease, is beginning to realize that some of these organisms are essential to the health of the body, and further that the whole body is actually made up of them. Some of these microorganisms are constructive, building up tissues, and others are destructive, destroying tissues. Theosophy adds that these microorganisms are in their turn composed of still minuter lives. So it is also with the vegetable kingdom, and even with the mineral kingdom. Every smallest rudiment of matter must be made up of living atoms; for the "dead" atom is a figment of the scientific imagination, and has been shown by not a few logical critics of current scientific philosophy to be a logical absurdity. But what distinguishes the animal from the vegetable, and the vegetable from the mineral, is the higher overshadowing life which governs and regulates the smaller life-atoms that compose the body. Without this overshadowing life, the body decays, for the separate life-atoms then begin to fall apart and build themselves into lower orders of existence, until finally they are absorbed into the air and the soil, or built up into other living organisms. Thus, in addition to the life of the matter composing his body, man has a life-principle peculiar to his own particular order of being. It acts in conjunction with the linga-sarira to keep the integrity of his human shape.
The real ultimate source of life is atma, the universal spirit; and it streams down through our being, like sunlight, reflecting itself in various vehicles or bodies. Thus, in the higher mind it manifests itself as direct knowledge or intuition, and as enthusiasm for the noble and true; in the ordinary mind it manifests itself as reason or ratiocinative thought; lower still it is animal energy. Everywhere it gives force and activity. The Sanskrit term for this universal life is jiva; in its lower manifestation as the life principle it is called prana.
Kama, "desire," is in its fullest sense a universal principle; and, though both the Sanskrit word and its English equivalent are usually identified only with their lowest aspect, yet abstract desire is really the great impelling force in the universe. But desire can be anything, from the most impersonal unselfish aspiration for harmony and the good of all, down to the basest animal lust. In its higher sense, it would be better rendered "aspiration" or "devotion."
Desire, like life, manifests itself on all planes; and when it manifests itself in the lower nature of man, it takes the form of selfish passion. This is what is usually meant in speaking of kama or desire. The word rupa means "body"; and the principle of kama, acting in conjunction with the linga-sarira, forms a desire-body or animal soul -- the fourth principle in our list.
Hence the desires of the incarnated man are located, for the most part, in his animal nature and tend to pull him down and promote the selfish and destructive instincts. These instincts he possesses in common with the other kingdoms of nature. They are clearly manifest in the beast, and even the plant and the stone have them in lesser degrees, where they appear as instinct, preference, attraction, affinity, or by whatever name we may choose to designate what is essentially one and the same force.
But in man there is the mind, which comes as the messenger of a higher life, linking him with the immortal and spiritual part of his nature. This at once intensifies and (eventually) purifies desire. Insofar as the mind becomes the slave of passion, so does it become intensified; until what was, in the unreflecting animal, a harmless instinct, becomes a calculated selfishness. This is why human desires are so destructive; they contain the vivifying force of mind, which renders them insatiable. It has often been asked, "Why has man the power to enjoy to his own detriment?" The answer is that, misusing the divine power of mind, he exalts his passions into a god, thus worshipping his own enemy.
It is the destiny of man to have his passions purified by their association in his mind with the higher ideals and aspirations. The contrast produced between the baseness, narrowness, and destructiveness of his lower nature, and the beauty and nobility of the higher, causes him to feel revulsion and to purge out the baser elements.
The forces of passion, if manfully resisted, turn themselves into stepping stones by which we mount to greater heights; but, if indulged, they drag us still further down. There is no worse delusion than that we can do any good by indulging our passions, or that we can tire out desire by satiating it. Desire, like fire, grows ever fiercer the more it is fed; and though there may be periods of satiety produced by temporary exhaustion, these are but the preludes to a still fiercer outbreak. Desire is overcome by turning our minds from it and fixing our interests on work which is unselfish and impersonal. The holiest desire, if such it can be called, is the aspiration to lose the sense of separateness in the common life of humanity; and this is destined ultimately to survive all lesser desires, since it alone is immortal.
In the mass of people, who are still drifting along in the middle ways between the higher and the lower, unawakened, ignorant of their nature and destiny, the desires and the better aspirations are both fostered and the life is a more or less unsatisfactory compromise. Perhaps they reach the gates of death without ever meeting a serious crisis or being called on to choose definitely between two paths. But, as birth succeeds birth, the desires grow stronger and stronger, as do also the aspirations towards good; until there comes a time when it is no longer possible to make a compromise. Many people have reached this stage; and they find themselves unable to rest content with the ordinary life of the world, but must either plunge into excess or make a final break with the selfish nature. The eternal life in them has waxed so strong that it can only be fed by vivid experience. Before them lie the way of desire, leading straight down to destruction, and the way of renunciation of desire, leading to eternal life. After much affliction and self-questioning, they realize that the path of personal gratification leads nowhere; that desires grow the more they are fed, and can never be satiated; and that to follow them means a degrading bondage in a cage that goes round and round like a squirrel's wheel. What is the permanent center in life, around which all these changing scenes revolve? It is not in the personal self. It is in the immortal self. Desire has to be replaced by love -- using this word in the highest sense as meaning a dispassionate solicitude for the welfare of all. This is simply the gospel of Christ and of all other great teachers and philosophers; there is a higher life for those who overcome the delusions of selfishness. But the original teachings of Christ have been lost sight of, and we have little more than exhortations without the explanations. Theosophy recalls the ancient knowledge about man's nature which makes these exhortations clear and shows their rationale.
After death, the linga-sarira and the principle of desire leave the physical body in company and coalesce. This makes a shape which survives the body for a greater or lesser period, according to the strength of the desires; but finally it also disintegrates and dies. It is this which is attracted to seance-rooms, where it is mistaken for the "spirit" of the departed. But it is entirely devoid of conscience, as the higher triad has departed to devachan. It receives vitality at the expense of the medium and sitters, and so its existence is prolonged. Such spooks are shunned by all reasonable people and very much dreaded by many races, who have rites and processes for driving them away. They are known as devils, evil-spirits, bhuts, etc. To have dealings with them is sorcery -- a very desperate expedient indeed on the part of those who desire peculiar powers, as such commerce must end disastrously for the sorcerer. Only Western nations have, in their ignorance, encouraged these spooks in good faith.
The immense importance of this subject in connection with funerary customs cannot be exaggerated. We find that all ancient peoples and the degenerate descendants of ancient races have recognized and do recognize the necessity for some sort of what we might call "psychical sanitation" at the time of death. Always there are rites for the "laying" of the spook. Ancient science knew that this kama-rupa would be liberated at the death of the body, and that it should be let alone and allowed to die out. The process of dying is a very solemn and sacred one. There should be perfect stillness and harmony around the corpse while the soul is slowly liberating itself from the inmost recesses of the body; and the body needs protection against the attacks of any kama-rupic entity that might seek to enter its open gates. As W. Q. Judge says:
This Kama Rupa spook is also the enemy of our civilization . . . our civilization which permits us to execute men for crimes committed, and thus throw out into the ether the mass of passion and desire free from the weight of the body and liable at any moment to be attracted to any sensitive person. Being thus attracted the deplorable images of crimes committed, and also the picture of the execution and all the accompanying curses and wishes for revenge are implanted in living persons, who, not seeing the evil, are unable to throw it off. Thus crimes and new ideas of crimes are willfully propagated every day by those countries where capital punishment prevails.
As the nervous system of people grows more sensitive, under the influence of our civilization, the fact of such obsessions becomes more apparent. We frequently hear of crimes done under sudden impulse by persons whose usual character is the very opposite. There is a whole realm of sanitary science here left untouched. We have rules of hygiene and sanitation, but they do not touch this burning question of contamination by the desire-forces that are floating about in the atmosphere.
Anyone giving way to anger, lust, and other passions, habitually, is opening a doorway for the entrance of he knows not what, and is liable to a loss of control and balance.
These three principles together constitute the real, immortal man. Atma is, strictly speaking, not a human principle.
It is no individual property of any man, but is the divine essence which has no body, no form, which is imponderable, invisible, and indivisible. . . . It only overshadows the mortal; that which enters into him and pervades the whole body being but its omnipresent rays or light, radiated through Buddhi, its vehicle and direct emanation. -- H. P. Blavatsky.
It is only in conjunction with buddhi that it becomes the higher self of man; otherwise it is universal spirit.
Atma is neither your Spirit nor mine, but like sunlight shines on all. It is the universally diffused Divine Principle, and is inseparable from its one and absolute Meta-spirit, as the sunbeam is inseparable from sunlight. -- H. P. Blavatsky.
The spirit of St. Paul may be taken for our purposes to be the Sanskrit Atma. Spirit is universal, indivisible, and common to all. In other words, there are not many spirits, one for each man, but solely one spirit which shines upon all men alike, finding as many souls -- roughly speaking -- as there are beings in the world. In man the spirit has a more complete instrument or assemblage of tools with which to work. This spiritual identity is the basis of the philosophy. -- W. Q. Judge
This universal spirit or atma is the source of all life. What is its nature, as a unit or one, prior to the manifestation of the worlds, is a question that transcends our utmost powers of conception. But, when the worlds are manifested, the one spirit becomes a duality -- spirit and matter -- and the interaction of these two causes life and creation and multiplication. In the higher nature of man, the first vehicle of atma is buddhi or the spiritual soul, and these two together constitute the embodied spiritual life of man. They are like the rays of the sun, buddhi corresponding to the rays and atma to the invisible essence of light which these rays manifest or carry. Hence, when buddhi is spoken of, we must understand that it means buddhi and atma together.
Atma-buddhi is the human spiritual "monad" -- that which was linked to the animal nature by the incoming of the manasaputras or sons of mind, who endowed mankind with manas, thus enabling the monad to manifest itself in them, and rendering them omniscient, omnipotent, and immortal. This same monad is also present in all the forms of nature, but imprisoned and unable to manifest itself. In them it is merely a latent spark -- the source of life, but with most of its potentialities still unrevealed. It is through the possession of manas that the monad can manifest itself fully in man. This can only happen when he reaches perfection; but meanwhile the monad endows man with faculties higher than those of the other kingdoms. and more and more grand in proportion as the nature becomes purer and more elevated.
The most interesting of all the seven principles is manas, because it is the critical or turning point in our nature, and that which marks the superiority of man over the lower orders. The word manas is best translated as the "thinker." It is the real man.
There is but one real man, enduring through the cycle of life and immortal in essence if not in form, and this is Manas, the Mind-man or embodied Consciousness. -- H. P. Blavatsky
Manas is a differentiation from mahat, the universal mind; mahat, the universal principle, is the source of manas, the human principle.
The most important fact about manas is that its nature is dual. As H. P. Blavatsky says, speaking of the incarnating egos:
Once imprisoned, or incarnate, their essence becomes dual; that is to say, the rays of the eternal divine Mind, considered as individual entities, assume a twofold attribute, (a) their essential inherent characteristic, heaven-aspiring mind or higher Manas, and (b) the human quality of thinking, or animal cogitation, rationalized owing to the superiority of the human brain, the kama-tending or lower Manas. One gravitates toward Buddhi, the other tends downward, to the seat of passions and animal desires.
We thus see that there are in man two selves, so to say: the lower self, an illusion produced by the union of manas with kama, the passions; the higher self, the real self, formed from the union of manas with buddhi, the spiritual soul. Yet even the lower mind is superior to that of animals, because the human brain has been perfected by its contact with manas. But above this mind there is a still higher mind -- the manas illuminated by buddhi.
In studying theosophy, one must dismiss from the mind any tinge of that modern way of thinking by which it is sought to derive mind from matter and make mental action a result of physiological processes. Apart from the fact that the mind is capable of functions which could not be represented by any mechanical formula, such a theory reduces mind to a mere abstraction. But mind is an entity and it is prior to matter. It is capable of existing independently of matter (at least of anything we call matter). But it is equally incorrect to say that the mind is immaterial, which would be reducing it to a mere abstraction. All we can say about mind is that it is some very refined kind of conscious matter in motion, and the moving is what we know as "thought." We are aware of the presence of this entity about us, around the head, all over the body. The body is a result of it; the body obeys and can be changed by it. We can also feel that this mind may have various tinges or degrees of refinement, from gross and animal up to refined and spiritual, according as we direct it towards the low or the high.
Manas is the knower, thinker, perceiver.
The course of evolution had developed the lower principles and produced at last the form of a man with a brain of better and deeper capacity than that of any other animal. But this man in form was not man in mind, and needed the fifth principle, the thinking perceiving one, to differentiate him from the animal kingdom and to confer the power of becoming self-conscious. -- W. Q. Judge
Manas acts as the link between the divine and the animal nature. Through it the course of evolution is enabled to proceed. "It was given to the mindless monads by others who had gone through all this process ages upon ages before."
Following are some quotations from H. P. Blavatsky on this subject.
What is it that reincarnates in your belief?
The spiritual thinking Ego, the permanent principle in man, or that which is the seat of Manas. It is not Atma, or even Atma-Buddhi, regarded as the dual monad, which is the individual or divine man, but Manas; for Atman is the Universal ALL, and becomes the Higher Self of man only in conjunction with Buddhi, its vehicle, which links IT to the individuality or divine man.
MAHAT, or the "Universal Mind," is the source of Manas. The latter is Mahat, that is, mind, in man. . . . It is, according to our philosophy, the Manasa-putras, or "Sons of the Universal Mind," who created, or rather produced, the thinking man, "manu," by incarnating in the third Race mankind in our Round. It is manas, therefore, which is the real incarnating and permanent Spiritual Ego, the INDIVIDUALITY, and our various and numberless personalities only its external masks.
Manas when inseparably united to the first two, is called the SPIRITUAL EGO. . . . This is the real Individuality, or the divine man. It is this Ego which -- having originally incarnated in the senseless human form animated by, but unconscious of, the presence in itself of the dual monad, since it had no consciousness -- made of that humanlike form a real man. It is this Ego, this "Causal Body," which overshadows every personality -- the evanescent marks which hide the true individual through the long series of rebirths.
Thus manas not only endows the lower mind, making it far superior to that of even the highest animals, but it connects it directly with the highest planes of cosmic intelligence and renders mankind's future possibilities infinitely greater than its present attainments.
Manas is the reincarnating being who carries the fruition of all the different lives lived. In manas is stored the memory of all this experience, together with the results and values thereof. From this it follows that anyone who has the manas fully developed remembers all this; and also that, as most of us do not remember it, we have not the manas fully developed. Memory is a faculty which can exist in very varying degrees of cultivation, as we all know. Most people do not trouble to cultivate the memory, particularly in these days of universal reading and writing. We allow things to pass from the mind and make few efforts to recall them. But it should be borne in mind that the word "memory" includes two functions -- that of storing up, and that of bringing back or recollecting; and an inability to recollect does not necessarily imply that the memory is not there. It may be there, and we unable to bring it back; the muscles of the mind are too weak. It would be possible to train the memory so as to preserve an accessible record of all the ordinary events of life. It is possible to go still further and train the memory until it shows us the events of past lives. But it will be readily understood that this latter feat involves a vast amount of other kinds of training also. Those more distant memories were recorded by a mind that did not function through our present brain. Those memories are associated with the lives of personalities entirely different from our present personality. Those memories were imprinted in stretches of time from which we are separated by the gulf of one or more physical deaths. Nevertheless the memories are there. (We are not concerned here with discussing the reasonableness or justice of this fact; that is dealt with in the manual on reincarnation.) Thus the real character of the immortal man is recorded in the higher aspect of the manas.
The manas perceives the impressions presented to it by the senses. If the connection between the manas and the brain is broken, there is no such perception, unless with a person who can separate his astral body from the physical. The senses alone cannot cognize objects, and the mind can be made to perceive objects without the aid of the senses, as happens when a hypnotist gives a suggestion to his subject; what the subject perceives is only a thought in the mind of the operator. This illustrates, by the way, the idea that matter is not in itself solid or dense, but that these qualities are impressions produced on the mind, impressions which can also be produced by the hypnotist.
Ancient divine magic is concerned with the knowledge of the right use of human faculties for the purpose of attaining wisdom and emancipation from the delusions caused by his union with the flesh. The original gospel of the Christ, which was replaced by dogma in the early centuries, taught the most sacred mysteries regarding the true nature of man. There were and always have been teachings for the public, veiled in allegory, and teachings for those admitted to the schools of the Mysteries. The "Christos" is the buddhi-manas. Manas is the "Son of God," who sacrifices himself and descends on earth in order to raise up the lower principles.
He takes on the "sins" of the personalities which are formed by the successive incarnations, and suffers for those sins. Finally he is reunited to atma-buddhi -- his "Father" -- and redeems the man.
The mystic union of manas with buddhi is the theme of many a misunderstood allegory and such has been the profanation to which such allegories have been subjected that one can scarcely speak of them at all.
In thought man possesses a power of unlimited scope. It is a divine power and its possession makes man a god, capable of any height of attainment. Yet how he neglects and abuses his power! For the most part he allows his mind to be the playground of wandering ideas and fancies that drift in from he knows not where, and of passions and emotions that rise up from his lower nature. Even worse is happening in our day, for there have arisen attempts to use the powers of will and thought for the purpose of "self-development" -- that is, development of the personality. With this kind of thing which represents a revival of a feeble kind of black magic, the science of divine magic so reverently spoken of by H. P. Blavatsky can have nothing to do. For in divine magic the first necessity is an entire subordination of self-interest and a determination to live only for the truth and for the welfare of humanity. The presence of a selfish desire, even of the kind often regarded as innocent, is enough to bring into play the lower forces of our nature and to exclude the spiritual forces. We cannot approach the higher self except by relegating the lower self to its place of subordination. We may at best succeed in degrading a few of our powers, to our own undoing, but we cannot drag down the god and harness it to our chariot of selfishness. The powers of manas are great indeed -- for those pure enough to be able to avail themselves of them.
As it was in consequence of the growing selfishness and violence of the world that the sacred Mysteries were withdrawn, so it can only be by the spread of a new spirit or brotherhood that they can be restored. Hence this is the first object of the Theosophical Society.
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