First edition published 1907; third edition, 1912.
Chapter 1. Elementary Theosophy
Chapter 2. Who is the Man?
Chapter 3. Body and Soul
Chapter 4. Body, Soul and Spirit
Chapter 5. Reincarnation
Chapter 6. Karma
Chapter 7. The Seven in Man and Nature
Chapter 8. The Meaning of Death
Theosophical Manual Menu
Every one knows that the great religions of the world differ from each other; and also that in respect to the path of life in which they tell men to walk, they resemble each other. They present also many other resemblances and identities. It has not yet occurred to our scholars that there may be one great religion of which all these are parts.
Nations have always differed in their characteristics, the difference being sometimes due to the region in which they dwelt, sometimes to other causes. One people would be imaginative, another philosophical, another simple; one pastoral, another nomadic; one peaceful, another active and warlike. One dwells amid smiling plains, another by the rock-ribbed sea.
If we were to tell some story of science, say about atoms and molecules, to the classes of a school, we should not use the same language to the little children as to the elders. To every class we should tell the story differently. If we were wise we should illustrate it from the games and stories that the children already knew. To the very little ones we might make the atoms talk and play, and so we might teach chemistry in the guise of a fairy tale. To the children that were older we might picture the atoms as marbles and balls; to artistic children we might dwell most on the colors and sounds resulting from the movements and groupings of atoms and molecules. And to the higher classes we should begin to introduce some of the abstruse mathematics which are concerned in these questions. We might put the case so differently to the highest and lowest classes that anyone who heard us talking to both might not guess that we were talking about the same things. Yet we should be. And if the children, on going home, tried to tell their parents in their own words what they had heard, the unlikeness would become still greater, for they would be adding and leaving out.
The word theosophy is a blend of two Greek words. Together they mean "divine wisdom," and also wisdom concerning divine things. There is a similar Sanskrit compound, Brahmavidya, properly meaning the same things.
Theosophy itself is that complete story of the world and man, of which a part has been told to every people, a part suited to their needs and development and peculiarities, and told in language appropriate to their understanding.
But however simply it had to be told, there were always some among every people whose comprehension ran beyond that of their fellows, and who had prepared themselves to follow the path of life more steadfastly. To such, more was told. And so we find everywhere this fact of two doctrines, one for the multitude and one for the few -- that latter, for certain reasons mentioned elsewhere, always told under pledge of secrecy. Jesus Christ, for example, said that to the multitude he spoke in simple parables like the fairy stories of our illustration; but that to the elect he spoke fully the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven like the abstruse mathematics of our illustration.
Sometime in the near future, scholars will be compelled by the force of their own facts to recognize the common container and source of the world's religions. Their researches would immediately be easier and more fruitful if they would but take its existence as a hypothesis only. Prosecuting their studies in its light they would soon be rewarded by seeing emerge from the confusion the majestic outlines of the religion-philosophy now known as theosophy. But those who wish to understand it need not wait till then, nor need they proceed by that method.
The first question answered by theosophy, a question upon which all else depends, is: Who am I? If the answer: You are yourself, seems silly, that is only at first glance.
Nearly every one thinks of himself as identical with the body. Is this the case? If it is, any talk about the soul, or immortality, is necessarily absurd.
We use the body; command it; work with it and train it, all as we will. With it we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell, employing each sense just as we choose. It is obviously an instrument at our disposal, a wonderfully complicated tool. Can it then be the man? Can a player be identical with his instrument, a carpenter with his hammer? Yet we habitually blind ourselves to the difference by saying I am ill, or growing old, forgetting that so far as we know, it is the body only, not the man, which is subject to these changes.
If then the man, the soul, is not identical with the body, it will be natural to ask what becomes of him when, as we say, he is unconscious, or asleep, or dead, when in old age his memory is gone, his mind childish once more, his limbs stiff or paralyzed. Surely we must admit that in these cases the man himself must have changed.
From this point of view it does look as if the man and his body were one and the same, since he seems to change with its changes. Let us go a step or two further and then come back.
All the waking hours we are conscious of a stream of thoughts. We cannot stop the stream, but we can generally direct it where we will. We can cause our thought to occupy itself with whatever we choose. We can stop thinking of any one thing and think of any other. It is not always easy, for the mind seems to be a living thing with wishes of its own; but it is always possible.
So for two reasons it seems clear that the mind is not the man. First because, like a restive horse it often opposes the wishes of its owner; and secondly, because the man can, if he uses will enough, turn it where he will as a carpenter turns a chisel. Yet again we must ask what becomes of the man when his mind becomes delirious in fever or childish in old age?
And then there are the feelings, emotions. These too go on all day. We are by turns happy or miserable, hopeful or despairing, irritated or calm, compassionate or resentful. But these too we can control, especially if we have practiced doing so. We can refuse to be miserable or ruffled; we can compel ourselves to be hopeful, compassionate, considerate. Feelings also have a life and persistency of their own and may object to being controlled. But as, with practice, we can do it, it seems that they also cannot be the man.
Having thus noted that mind and emotion are, or ought to be, both under the control of the soul, through his will, we note next that there is a limit to this control. Both need a healthy body for their perfect health, and if the body is fevered or very old, mind and feeling are likely to be dim and feeble, or even quite distorted, despite every effort of the will. We have no warrant for saying that the man necessarily varies with variations in his body; but we must say that to a very great extent the mind and emotions do. So far as they do not, it is because they are sustained and guided by the will.
This leads to the next point. However ill or old the body may be, however unresponsive to the man's will, and however dimmed may be the mind and feelings, the will itself and the man who uses it may be quite unchanged. We sometimes see that up to the very moment of death, the man may be using his will in its full strength. The results may be small; the stiffening lips may refuse to utter more than a few words, perhaps of love and encouragement to those about; but it is evident that whatever else is dying, the man and the will are not. Even at the very moment of death the eye may still be speaking its message. The man, the soul, and its will, are passing on in full consciousness. And the last gleam we get of that consciousness is often one of unchanged, unlessened love for those remaining behind.
So we have arrived at some answer to our question: What, or who, am I? Let us call I the soul, and read our answer thus: The soul, the I, the self, is that conscious power which dwells during life in the body, amidst the bodily feelings, amidst the emotions, capable of dominating them; using the mind and capable of dominating it; having for its instrument of control the will. So far as we can see, neither the soul, nor its will, nor its degree of love for those it leaves behind, are necessarily affected by illness or by death.
If we now turn to Paul's description of man as a compound of body, soul, and spirit, we can more easily understand what he meant.
By soul he seems to have meant the same as we do the man himself with his will and power of choice; by body, not only the casement of flesh, but all the impulses arising from it which tend to pull the man downward; and by spirit, the divine part.
The body made up of millions of little living cells congregated into various organs, which should all work harmoniously together is an animal, the highest of all the animals. It is the highest because of the development of its brain; and because of that it is a fit tenement for the soul, the man himself. Thus the soul contacts, in the body, the highest sort of matter-life. In order that it may do that, that it may have that experience, is, according to theosophy, one of the reasons why it enters the body and shares the body's life from birth to death.
In order to understand its entry, let us imagine a countryman suddenly set down for the first time in the midst of a thronging city. People are hurrying in every direction; there are a thousand sounds at once, voices, the feet of horses, the roar of vehicles.
Accustomed to the quiet of the country, the man would be dazed by so much activity; he would hardly know himself. His usual current of thoughts would be broken up. It would seem to him as if he would never find his way through the maze of streets. Altogether it would be a sort of new birth for him, the confused beginning of a new life.
In the eyes of a new-born infant we can sometimes see signs of a similar bewilderment. The soul is just then beginning to enter the little body. The body is alive with the intense life of all its millions of active cells and organs. Besides all the growth and activity that is going on in the body itself, the senses are opening and stirring and bringing in all the new sights and sounds of the outer world. Is it not natural that in all this rush of new experiences, the soul should forget itself and the world it has just left?
To return to the illustration. After a while, beginning to understand his new surroundings, the man would begin to take pleasure in them and be absorbed in them. Laying aside all his old country habits and thoughts, he would enter thoroughly into the new life of the city. He would become accommodated to its ways and dive into the rushing stream of its business and activities. His nature might seem to change altogether and in a few years he might have lost all trace and almost all memory of having lived the quiet life of the country. And so again with the soul. During the first few years of its new life, after the first confusion has worn away, it becomes thoroughly absorbed in the life of the body. Its pleasures are those of the body; its aims are mostly to get more of these pleasures; its thoughts and feelings are all occupied with the world of which its body is a part. It thinks of the body as itself and of itself as the body. The higher life it had before birth is quite forgotten. And as it grows older into manhood or womanhood and the strain of our modern competitive life begins to be felt, its absorption into the world becomes completer. All its ambitions may be directed to getting things for the body's comfort and luxury. Its forgetfulness of the other life may be so complete as to lead to disbelief in it altogether, to materialism. At best, the memory of the other life is so vague that there are no details, no clear picture. It is so vague that we do not know that it is memory and call it faith. And for a reason which the man therefore cannot give to himself, but which is really this faith-memory, he accepts the accounts of the higher life which some one of the various religious creeds gives him. But curiously enough, though all the creeds speak of the soul entering a higher life after death, some of them say nothing of the soul leaving the same higher life at birth.
We can see now why the body is sometimes spoken of as the enemy of the soul. It tends to drown the soul's memories, the soul's knowledge of itself. It often paralyzes the will, substituting for the will some passion of its own -- for example, to get money or position. Such people are really slaves, not masters; though they only know their slavery when they try to free themselves, when they try to use their will to conquer the master passion. We must remember that though the body is an animal, it is an animal which has become humanized through the presence of a human soul in its midst. The soul lights up in it a higher intelligence than it could ever have gotten as a simple animal. And so it has thoughts and aims which are not possible to any of the simpler creatures below man. If the soul yields to it constantly, never asserting its will, letting itself be carried upon every wind of passion, the man may reach a point at which he gives not a single sign of being a soul at all. Some of these people are mere sensualists, the utter slaves of some degrading passion. But they may be highly intelligent, cruel, selfish and ambitious, without the slightest care for the welfare of any other person. The animal has won the battle of that life, and after death the soul's key to its own proper world is too rusty for use.
It is by resisting passions, by resisting selfishness, and cultivating compassion and brotherliness, by constant aspirations, and by trying to live the life of the higher nature, that the soul comes while in the body to a knowledge of itself and its immortality.
Why, then, if entry into the body means so much loss to the soul, even if only temporary, does it come there at all? The answer given by theosophy is that it may gain higher life, and that it may give higher life. It is divine, but it has to recognize that while in the flesh; and there is always a fuller divinity possible to the very highest man.
Theosophy sees life everywhere; nowhere anything dead. It may at once be asked: is not a human body dead when the soul has left it for another world? If we had eyes that could see, we should find that the body was as much alive as ever, but with a different kind of life. The little busy souls of the millions of cells -- which, while the man was present, served him -- left the body with him, or very soon after. Their place is taken by throngs of lower lives, germs, in their way just as busy. Part of each cell goes to form their minute living bodies; the rest separates into molecules of water, various gases, and salts. But the molecules too are alive. They behave like a drill corps when the sergeant dismisses it. The men no longer make a corps, and each goes his own way. One will perhaps join a party going swimming; another may go to a music class. When the bath and the class are over, the men again separate and group together in new combinations. At the end of the day they may seem just the same as at the beginning. But as a matter of fact they are not. Each has profited a little by the drill, the music, and the swim.
So with the living particles of nature's vast life, the particles that we call molecules of water, air, salt, iron, and so on. They pass from one combination to another, sometimes forming part of a plant, sometimes of an animal, sometimes of a human body, the ocean, or a stone. Age after age they are awakening to fuller consciousness, learning, even though if we watch them for ages we might not notice any change.
What are they learning? The power to combine into higher groups. Science knows that from the birth of our planet until now, life has been rising. The orders and species have been progressing to higher forms. This was because the molecules were learning how to combine. At last they could combine and recombine so as to make the body of man; and then man, the soul, came and dwelt among them. It was at last a fit tabernacle.
So, however completely at death the molecules scatter, they can now always be brought together again to make a human form. What nature has been teaching them is the power to combine into higher and more perfectly harmonious forms, forms of which all the parts work together to a higher end.
And that very same thing she is teaching man. Man, according to theosophy, reincarnates again and again on earth, living life after life, not one only. We are grouped again and again in all kinds of ways. Among primitive peoples there are small groups, the family and the tribe. Tribes make nations; nations disappear, and others come up onto the stage of history. A nation is like a body; the various groups, made of men who follow various occupations, who are joined for various ends, or who live together in towns and cities, are the organs of the body. Each man is a separate cell. Men leave one nation at death and perhaps enter another, making part of all sorts of families and groups as they go along.
What we are slowly learning is the power to hold together, the power to work for each other and for the whole of which we are a part, whether a guild, a family, a city, or a nation; the power of divine comradeship of individuals and groups and nations to make one vast harmonious organization, the body of humanity. Then a further avenue of progress, leading to heights we cannot conceive of, will be open before us.
Behind us are the animals, moving manward, getting the human touch age after age, to be the humanity that shall follow us when we have learned our lesson and gone on -- perhaps to another planet, the child of this one, says theosophy. Behind them, the plants, some of them -- like the sensitive plant, for instance -- already showing the tendency upward to the animal.
So we can see that we are in the body for several purposes.
In a preceding chapter we have considered incarnation. It now remains to say little of re-incarnation. Is one life enough to learn all that there is to do and to learn on earth? Are we perfect characters? Have we made life on earth all it might be, learned to live in harmony with each other, developed all the faculties possible to us, learned all about the life of the matter of which the planet is composed? If not, does it not seem likely that the causes which brought us here once may bring us again, and again, until we have done these things? Law and inclination will work together and supplement each other. For those who die hating, there is the law that they shall return in order to learn to love. Those who die loving, will wish to return to those they love. Would one who loves all humanity and pities it in its pains and struggles onward, willingly leave it for ever while he knew there was help he could render?
What right have we earned to some other heaven while we have not made this life the heaven it might be? Nearly all of us have done injuries and given pain at some time. If we consider that, should we not wish to come again to pour at least as much good into the stream of human life as we poured evil; to meet those that we once pained, and by loving deed take away the pain -- even if time should have covered it over and hidden the wound? Sudden unexplained impulses to do kind actions to people we have never met (in this life) before, may sometimes be unconscious desire to pay some debt of old unkindness.
We are not without other suggestions of previous life. Some people we seem to recognize at once, liking or disliking, as we say by instinct. May it not be the mere resuming of an old like or dislike? In that sense it is a real memory of a past life, though all details are forgotten. We have many more of such memories, memories that in such cases are forces, not details. We are born with marked characters, tastes, aptitudes, powers, in this or that direction. Where did we get them? Where did the infant Mozart learn music? Is it heredity? But how when these things have no counterpart in the parents? They are surely a species of memory. Clearer memory we have not because we have not the old brain. The brain, the first fact-storer, is new. The soul, the real and final fact-storer, has its memory overlaid by the throng of impressions and sensations that life and the living body bring. At death we have often heard -- and theosophy teaches -- that every detail of the closing or closed life comes up from the brain before the gaze of the departing soul. It registers in its own memory all that are of value to it and they become eternal. But at its birth it does not fill the new brain with them. The tablets of the brain are wanted for other things. It merely brings into the brain and body the general effect, some general memories, as we have noted.
When we have grown stronger in life, when birth does not bring bewilderment, when we shall have learned not to be the prey of the body but its strong and quiet master, then we shall have also learned to bring back to our own attention, at need, whatever clear memories of the past will be useful. But so far, the presence of such detailed memories would be confusing and painful, diverting our attention from more important work. Whatever we acquired in the past life, of unselfishness, of will, of power of concentration, of power of thought and observation, of power of self-control, that we bring undiminished for use in this life; and it is enough. Anything more, if in part useful, would have its usefulness outweighed by its painfulness and confusion. We should be tempted to dwell with bygone memories instead of present duties.
It will be natural to say: Have I then to be an infant and an old man again and again, with childish faculties and pleasure in the one case, and fading faculties and second childishness in the other?
Are we entitled to promotion to another lesson till we have learned well the one in hand? We have not yet learned to be an infant properly, or an old man or woman properly. These are lessons of life still unlearned. The soul of each of us has yet to learn, at and after birth, to stand apart from the infant body in which it will incarnate; and, while watching and protecting and guiding and developing that, to keep up its own work and self-conscious being. For the soul has work of its own. As the infant body and mind pass to childhood and manhood, the soul will consciously blend itself more and more; until at last, still holding itself as a soul, it will have wholly incarnated. But at present it cannot do that in the case of ordinary humanity. As it detaches itself from its own world, from its Father in Secret, it loses itself in the body. With most of us it remains almost lost till death again frees it, without ever having recognized itself as a soul.
But when we have learned infancy, we shall find one of our joys in overshadowing and training the young life with which in due course we shall blend our soul-life to make the perfect man; and in helping the vivid little lives that make up the infant body, to move a step onward in their progress. Those that enter and compose the body later are less plastic.
And so with old age. We have not learned it. There should be no loss of faculty; the mind should become deeper and wiser with the gathering years. Certainly faculties whose use applies mainly to the earlier years and the life-work of middle age, will be voluntarily left in disuse to make way for others, just as when a man becomes the head of a business he spends no more time in, say, book-keeping or typewriting. He attends to higher matters.
Life should of course be spiritual all through, but old age should be specially so. Genius and wisdom should go on ripening to the very end. (Genius belongs of course to the spiritual nature, and the word spiritual is here throughout used in a sense much wider than the ordinary. It applies to all of man's highest faculties.) A clearer vision of truth is possible to old age than to the years when physical activities run high.
At last comes a moment when the body as a whole is worn out; the lives that compose it have to return to nature to be re-energized. Without disease, without failure of any special organ in advance of any of the rest, the body should be laid aside. Death in that ideal form will be without pain, perfectly peaceful, rapid, and not attended by any break in the consciousness of the soul.
And in due course the soul will begin once more to give its attention to birth. No more than death, will birth mean any break in the thread of consciousness. Gradually the soul will pour all its acquired wisdom and thought-stores into the new brain and proceed with it growth and work absolutely unhindered.
But this ideal program, which we have to realize and which will mean such rapid growth, is not achieved yet. We have much to learn. Nevertheless now, if we give our bodies right exercise daily, and if we keep a spiritual ideal of conduct and thought always in view, we need fear neither old age nor death. The one will not mean second childhood nor the other any wrench of pain.
"A man's deeds come back to him," "that which a man sows, that shall he also reap," "cast thy bread upon the waters and it shall come back after many days," are three sayings which contain a law belonging as sister to reincarnation, known as karma. The punishment aspect of it the Greeks called Nemesis; but that is only half of it. It belongs to reincarnation because there is not time in any one life for all the deeds a man does therein to come back to him. They come back to him because they are his.
Whenever we do anything at all, purposefully, we do three things, though we ordinarily think of one only. Consider, for example, theft. (a) The thing visibly done is the taking of some one else's property. (b) Invisibly, a change of character for the worse is made; this shows itself in the fact that whatever is done once is easier to do the second time. (c) The third thing, also invisible, is that the world's atmosphere, in which we all share, in which our minds live as our bodies live in the common air, is poisoned. An evil wave has been sent into it. This wave, in however slight degree, does act on and affect the minds of all other men. The world is hard enough, cold enough, selfish enough as it is; this wave worsens it. The minds of men become by it, in however slight degree, more suspicious, more grasping, harder. They feel, though without noticing it, an increase in what we might call the thief element. Of course the wave sent out by one single act of theft is very slight. But when we multiply it by millions every year, we can understand why the world is as it is. Each of the millions has broken the harmony that should have been, the harmony between men in act and thought, which must some time come about.
A whole life may be spent in undetected and unpunished theft. But it was all registered; the successive acts were written deeper and deeper on the man's character; and they sent successive waves into the world's atmosphere. To that atmosphere, which he helped to make, with that character, which he entirely made, the man comes back. The echo of his own past deeds returns to him, finding an exactly answering echo in his nature. All the world tendencies, the effects of all the deeds ever done by man, come flooding in upon him, as they do on all of us. Some find no echo in his character -- he may, for example, have no tendency to murder. He will be tempted only by those that do have their echo in his character.
All is now ready for the opportunity. When that comes, what will happen? What is likely to happen? He falls under the load of impulse he built into himself.
The luck not to be found out (if it can be called luck) which he enjoyed before, some time or other now fails -- perhaps on the very first occasion. Then there is a calamity, disgrace. By that he may learn to reform, or many such may be necessary, extending perhaps over more than one life. They go on happening until at last he is strong enough to receive out of the world's atmosphere his own current, find its echo in his own nature, and yet refuse to yield. When there is no longer that echo, the battle is finally won there. The man has fought and neutralized that much evil; he has cleared the world's atmosphere of that much of the stain which he made in his thefts.
This is one aspect of karma, the coming back of evil deeds. The law cannot forgive anything, for that would be to leave our characters still weak. True forgiveness is done by man himself when he turns so strongly to his higher nature that he becomes at one with it. After that he can face the echoes of his own deeds without fear; they find no answer in his own nature.
There are many other aspects, for the law is really an explanation of life. Good deeds come back as certainly as bad ones. He who does a good deed sweetens the world's atmosphere and his own character. The current comes back as an urge to repeat them, finds an echo in his character, and goes back to others with the benediction of some new good deed. The world is bettered, its burdens eased a little. The man has the inner joy and peace of harmony with his divine nature; just as, by the other kind of action, he has unrest within and without. Ill deeds bring inner unrest and outer pain; good deeds, inner peace and outer harmony. With both hands this law helps us on to our greater destiny, to the real life to come.
But karma goes even deeper; it replies to defects of character which are not seen to injure others. We shall understand if we remember that its aim is to develop, to restore us to our proper and highest nature. It meets our weaknesses with tonics, and tonics are sometimes bitter. Wiser eyes than those of ordinary men are needed to follow its work in individual cases; but the general principles are easy enough for a child to grasp. Some men meet seemingly unmerited disgrace. Where is the justice of it? Others close their lives in the prolonged pain of some slow malady. Where here is justice? In man's own former thoughts and deeds. It is nature's response to character.
We must try to take nature's long view if we would understand her work in its beneficence. In such cases as we have supposed, there must be a failure somewhere needing correction, some flaw in character needing strengthening. Some characters only bring forth their finest flower after great pain. The pain is transient, the flower eternal; and it was the flower that nature wanted to secure. Perhaps there was a latent love of others' good opinion, which, uncured, remained a weakness and might have led on to all kinds of evil, hypocrisy, ambition, vanity. The weed is now uprooted. But in the last life it may have been very luxuriant -- leading, it may be, to some marked sin or crime. Karma carried that over to the next page of her ledger, the next life. But the possibilities in details are endless.
Physical pain, again, often calls forth the most magnificent endurance, strengthening the will in some cases as nothing else can. In such a case it could be crudely described as punishment for the lack of endurance and patience; or, more correctly, as a difficult bit of nature's beneficent training. A good deal of the work of karma is to call our attention to failings of which we were before unconscious, and give us the opportunity to correct them.
So the theosophist sees in the workings of karma a law which is wholly beneficent, which punishes and rewards for one sole purpose: the evocation of the soul. It works behind and through every event of our lives. Nor are its ways inscrutable. If we watched all that happened to us from day to day and from year to year, noted what duties came up to be done, what pains and pleasures came into our path, what accidents befell us -- if we watched instead of complaining, we should find that at every turn we were being offered opportunity for growth of will, of mind, of character. If outer life is monotonous, there is the opportunity to light up the outer life with the radiance of the inner life, with the companionship of the divine. If outer life is painful, it is the opportunity to develop will and endurance. And if we stop the fierce wish to escape pain and procure pleasure, putting that much force into compassionate deed and thought, we should find our minds grow steadily clearer in comprehension of this law and its purpose. There are no accidents. Whatever happens we have ourselves brought about in this or some other life. We have done, or left undone, and the effects of both constitute our environment and the stream of events.
Our deeds of yesterday are the parents of the events of today, and events are the mask of opportunity. They press on us from without, as our divine will does from within both in the same direction. Karma waits at our side and when we have acted or not acted, she adjusts the effect so as to teach and train us. We have freewill; the future is absolutely in our hands. Karma, if we so choose, will show us her face as friend; it is always inner peace for those who walk with her. She is always the friend of those who make themselves the friends of humanity, who develop every faculty and talent and strength of their nature that they may serve humanity the better.
When, as children, we begin our study of science, we are told that matter exists in three states: solid, liquid and gaseous. That does very well as a first step. In the same way the student of theosophy will begin by Paul's division of human nature into body, soul and spirit.
But in both cases, as soon as we come close to the subject, we find that the three will not do, will not carry us far beyond the threshold of our study. Human nature, and nature without, are alike sevenfold. The number seven runs across the pattern in every direction. Science knows of many sevens, but she has not yet learned to regard seven as a sort of abstract map by means of which she could walk much faster in every field of investigation. For ages, theosophy has known it to be one of the keys to which the universe is tuned. Let us study it first in the nature which is outside us.
The finest particles of ordinary matter are called molecules. Sometimes these fly free from each other; that we call the gaseous state of matter.
But short of that entire freedom there is the liquid state, where the molecules move readily around each other, but remain in closer contact.
And thirdly there is the solid state. But of this there are two divisions, the crystalline and the colloid or gelatinous. And again, of the colloid there are two conditions, living and not living. The flesh of man and animals and the growing tissues of plants are composed of living colloid.
In all these states matter is molecular, exists as molecules. But under certain conditions the molecules break up into the still smaller particles called atoms. We then have atomic matter, said to constitute one of the sets of rays emitted by radium.
And again, the atoms themselves may break up into the still finer particles called corpuscles or electrons. These constitute still another set of rays.
So from this point of view the seven states of matter are:
with numbers 3 through 7 being molecular.
But the seven runs across nature in another way. A famous Russian chemist found that if all the elements known to chemistry were arranged one after another in the order of their atomic weights, beginning with the lightest, the eighth, fifteenth, twenty-second, and so on, had similar properties to the first; the ninth, sixteenth, and so on, to the second. Thus it became clear that there was a natural arrangement of all the chemical elements into seven great families.
The seven notes of the musical scale, and the seven colors of the prismatic scale, are of course familiar to every one.
In respect to motion, the American mathematician Southwell, dealing with the nebular theory, has also worked out a natural seven which he thus states:
If two masses are moving in the same plane and at the same mean distance from the sun and are situated at an angular distance greater than 60° and less than 180° from each other, as viewed from the sun, their mutual perturbations will cause them to approach each other until the distance becomes equal to 60°.
But if they are nearer than 60° to each other,
their mutual perturbations will cause them to recede from each other until their distance apart becomes equal to 60°; and they will always remain in a condition of stable equilibrium at that distance apart, and will revolve around the sun forever free from mutual disturbance.
Sixty degrees is of course a sixth of a circle, which with the controlling center occupied by the sun, gives the seven.
Theosophy goes further than any of this. To the higher students it is shown that that one form of matter which, as we have seen, exists in seven states, is itself the seventh of a greater series. And that that white light (white to our vision) which breaks up into our seven colors, is itself a member of a set of seven lights, none really white, but standing to ultimate light as one of our spectrum colors stands to the light we call white.
But here we are of course far beyond the realm of present human senses. Yet in the course of special training, and much more slowly, yet inevitably, for us all in the normal course of our evolution, all these scales will become evident to us.
Theosophy also concurs with the proverb which gives man seven senses, two of which in most people are almost inactive, dealing with finer forms and essences. Some idea of the sixth of these may be gained from a study of the life of the woman known as the Seeress of Prevorst. In her, however, it was abnormally and prematurely unveiled by a peculiar form of ill-health.
Man as a part of greater nature must of course exhibit the seven in many ways. Most obvious of the seven is of course one's body, called in theosophy by the Sanskrit word sthula-sarira. But within it is another, made of altogether subtler matter, the astral model-body or linga-sarira. And it is because of the presence of this other, which is, as it were, a sort of architect's plan, that the millions of separate cells are able to arrange themselves in harmony, to form coherent organs, and to assume separate forms for the discharge of separate kinds of work. It is this which translates latent life, omnipresent in space, into life or prana, adapted for the use of the cells. Shortly after death its remains are occasionally visible as the spook of so many ghost stories.
Here then we have three of the human principles the visible body, the subtler architect's plan body, and the vital force. The last theosophy, disagreeing on this point with current physiology, teaches to be a form of energy peculiar to itself.
Let us note now, for the fourth principle, that by body Paul meant the animal desires of the body or kama-rupa. These, in too many cases, dominate the man. But if he would be really man, would really show himself to be a soul, he must reverse that. It is through thought that he begins to establish himself as a man. Mind or manas is the fifth of the human principles. Animals show the first traces of it, but they cannot even begin that inquiry which seeks an answer to the question, What am I? They are living units, and inwardly indestructible; but they are not yet self-conscious souls.
The sixth principle or buddhi, is the crown of mind, that department of man's conscious nature from which come the inspirations of genius. Towards it ascend in their highest moments the musician, the poet, the artist. It is the soul in its own essentially spiritual nature. What it knows and feels when it is there, what it sees of divine truth, it must as far as possible bring down to the mind for expression on earth. Much is necessarily lost on the way. We all know that there are things which we feel but to which we can give no expression.
Lastly, the highest of the seven is spirit or atma, that which sustains all the rest and is their life; that which may be felt and known in the heart, but whose being is inexpressible in any kind of language. All the religious wars and quarrels that have ever rent mankind have come from attempts to dogmatize in words and terms about this indescribable presence and sustainer. Theosophy as a whole, says H. P. Blavatsky, is based absolutely on the ubiquitous presence of God, the Absolute Deity; and if it itself is not speculated upon, as being too sacred and yet incomprehensible as a unit to the finite intellect, yet the entire philosophy is based upon its divine powers as being the source of all that lives and breathes and has its existence. Man, however, is not limited to his finite intellect, the fifth of his seventh. He can know with another faculty which to intellect is unknowable, that which by language is inexpressible.
The path to this knowledge lies through aspiration renewed from day to day, meditation, duty, compassion towards all that lives, self-mastery, and study.
What then is death according to theosophy? It is not at all the horror that the world has made it. It is the passing of the soul into its own nature, for rest. In life it has permitted itself to become, as it were, of the nature of the body. If it has had joys, it has had pains that far outweigh, pains of body and pains of mind. It needs rest from all these and from struggle. Though it came from the Divine and is divine, in the case of the great majority it has never yet recognized that. It goes to the temporary rest and sleep of death with all its purer earth memories clustering around it. And of these it fashions its unclouded and beautiful dream. The divine law shows itself at its tenderest to the dead.
But the sleep does not come at once. After the eyes have closed for the last time, after pulse and breath have stopped, life lingers long. And in those first hours, while the brain is yielding up its stores, and the soul is watching every detail of the now closed life pass again before it, there should be silence and peace in the death chamber. Loving thought -- yes, that helps. But passionately expressed and selfish grief is felt by the soul as a disturbance, hindering its work. For as memory is unpicked to its last fiber, the soul is learning, noting in the clear light where it failed, where it sinned, where it achieved victory in the hard life-battle with the thronging lower impulses. Not till this is done, till the wheat has been garnered, is that life really over. But at last there is the change. A sleep begins whose dreams are unclouded by anything evil, anything painful. The soul is no longer conjoined with the source of evil; it rests in the pure divine light.
That is why death is in nature's program that the soul may rest and progress. And whilst it rests it is out of touch, mercifully, with life on earth. It can neither be reached by word or thought. Nor can it break its rest to communicate with those on earth.
Nevertheless there is one line of communication both ways. The pure current of love from those on earth does reach it, touches and enters the dream and makes it more living. And in return its love for those it left behind touches them, strengthens them in the battle of life, helps them in their highest efforts for right, purifies them. Except for this current, which is deeper than thought, deeper than word, there is no communication possible. How otherwise could the soul rest?
But the rest is over at last; the divine light has given new energy for another life. The dream fades; the soul is drawn again to earth to take up its work. It comes once more among those with whom in other lives it has been associated. We pass from birth to birth, resuming old ties, making new ones, suffering, rejoicing, and through all growing. This great human family is ever getting closer and closer. As a man will find some old acquaintance unexpectedly in passing through some foreign city, so, it may be, there is already hardly a spot on earth where any one of us could incarnate and not find some he had known in other lives. There are many hates still to wear out between man and man; every one of us has much to overcome in our own nature. But we move. We can see that life will not always be as now. Sometime there will be comradeship universal and all men will have awakened to their divinity. They will feel in their hearts the constant presence of that Light to which they have given so many names, to which they have ascribed such diverse qualities, which sometimes they have figured as but a man, a personality drawn large; sometimes as a blind force, sometimes, alas! as an avenging fiend. It will be the more really a presence to them, the more really an ever active inspiration, the more they understand that in its fullness it is beyond human imagining and description. They will be content to worship at the point where thought ceases, from that worship gaining perception of the reason and goal of human life. From it came man's soul; to it returns that soul, yet never more to lose in it the individuality that is the thread of each man's series of existences. Once a living soul, always a living soul. Once we were omniscient because we were parts of its omniscience. It called us forth, to win each for himself omniscience. Yet the very word omniscience, for us, is forever relative. When we have learned one nature, which is its robe, and tasted to the full the beauty of that knowledge, another and higher and richer will be ready before our eyes.
Unhappiness and pain were no part of the program. We made them; unbrotherhood of each to each made them. It is only we that can end them. When man has learned to turn to his fellow man with friendliness and compassion, with the will to give instead of to take, unhappiness is ended. And when he has learned himself, unwisdom and darkness are ended.
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