The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
July 2000 Vol. 3 Issue 5
Who is man? If we knew who we are, from the divine core of our being to the outermost vehicle, the physical body, we would have solved the mystery of life – in all its phases.
If we were to say that man is part atom, part galaxy, we might come as close to the truth as St. Paul did when he told the Corinthians that in man there is a "natural body" (psyche) and a "spiritual body" (pneuma). We speak of ourselves as being composed of body, soul, and spirit, but we do not really know what this means. Actually we are far more than this; mind, intuition, desire, all sorts of qualities, make up man.
Man is truly part atom, part galaxy; but there is more to the story of creation than the blending of the atomic and the galactic. From the mysterious interaction of spirit and matter there comes forth a "soul-vehicle" in which every living being finds its natural field of action. Thus in reality all things – from the atomic worlds and sub-worlds, through the mineral, vegetable, animal, and human kingdoms, right on out to the galaxies in space – have at least a threefold expression: "body," their material form, whether electron or star; "soul," their vehicle of consciousness or self-expression, however rudimentary or unaware from the human standpoint this may appear; and "spirit," their essential root in Deity.
God or Deity, or a portion of the Divine Intelligence, is our root-essence. Were it not for that we would not be here, suffering and enjoying incarnation on this planet in our solar system, and traveling along within the larger destinies of the galaxies which make up the metagalaxy in which we, and the tiniest sub-electron, do live and move and have our very life.
What makes man different from the atom or the rose? What gives him that sense of awareness of himself, that quality of self-consciousness that separates him from the lower kingdoms, and which makes him at once the despair of himself and the glory of creation? Mind – active, dominant, creative. The mind of man was touched into the flame of awareness by the Promethean ember – itself a spark from the central fire of the cosmic mind – and the knowledge of right and wrong came into being; and, most important, the recognition of moral responsibility to choose wisely and in harmony with nature.
Who then is man? Man can rightly be called a spectrum of radiating energies, held together by the dominating essence of his divine core, the Father within, which in turn is rooted in the cosmic Divine Intelligence which pervades every living unit in space. – James A. Long
The soul is made aware of her divine nature by every act of self-control. Philosophy may affirm, reason may argue the supremacy of the soul, but I know it only when I exercise it. When my higher nature is active it is self-conscious. When it is dormant it is unconscious, and no mere argument can reach and wake it. In moments of divine awakening, I know that I am not this brain, this heart, these nerves, with all their thoughts, passions, sensations. I am a spectator in the mind's arena, watching the games and conflicts of life. I am not conquered in the body's downfall, wounded in the body's hurt, affected in the pains or pleasures of the mind. I am present, but not a part of these busy scenes. Out of Silence I came, out of mystic Darkness, to view these games of life.
The vast realm out of which I came to play these games upon the shore of Time is unknown only to the mind of flesh. The soul was born not, nor can ever die. She cometh not, nor goeth; but forever and forever doth remain. Fixed at the center of the universe, which lives and moves from her, she changeth not, through all the centuries. Time fadeth, starry systems pass away, sound gives place to silence, light to darkness, life to seeming death; but ever doth the soul remain, unmoved, unchanged. She visiteth the shores of many worlds, and sporteth mid the waves of life. She knoweth all the lives that rise in beauteous order out of Time. The seashell's tints, the wild joy of the sea bird, the savage beasts that leap and prowl, the eagle's soaring joy – all these the great soul knoweth, for she lives them all. – Solon Lauer
Monthly Discussion Group
"What is the Essence of Man?" is our subject. We will discuss such questions as: Who are we, and how can we discover our true nature? Are human beings simply by-products of their physical bodies? Or are they beings with spiritual, intellectual, and psychological aspects not originating in matter? What is the difference between "soul" and "spirit"? What is the root or essence of our being, and how does it relate to the other life forms, and to the earth, solar system, and cosmos? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
August 10 – Mysteries of Humanity's Past
September – What Is Theosophy?
Man is a composite being, a blending of spirit, soul, and matter, consisting of inner, ethereal bodies and an outer body of physical matter. Theosophical literature defines man most often in terms of seven principles or elements. These principles are a mirror of the seven principles upon which the entire cosmos is built. The elements are interpenetrating, each element evolving from the one above it, and giving source to the one below it.
The seven principles are described below, giving the most spiritual, element first, and the most material element last. The three higher principles (atman, buddhi, and manas) are immortal. The lower four evolve out of ourselves, so are only temporary vehicles, and are thus mortal.
1. Atman – Pure consciousness. The Sanskrit word atman means "self." This principle lies at the root of every living entity. It is the I AM, the Self, the sense of existence, of being alive. Every being anywhere, great and small, is a Self. All these selves, from the self of the universe to the selves of the atoms and electrons, are derived from the cosmic self or universal atman.
2. Buddhi – Spiritual consciousness. This is the spiritual soul, the vehicle or carrier of the highest principle of all, the atman. Buddhi "steps down" the energies of atman so that those energies can influence the other lower principles. Buddhi gives us spiritual consciousness and allows us to be spiritually awakened. It manifests itself in human beings as intuition, understanding, judgement, and discrimination. It is the seat of impersonal, divine love and the origin of our conscience. It is also the source of inspiration for musicians, artist, and poets.
3. Manas – Mind. Manas is the intellectual power, the root of thought. It is the ego, the spark of self-consciousness. The manas is also, like buddhi, used to step down or transfer the energies of the principles above it to those below it. Mind can be thought of as the link between the two higher principles above and the four principles below, and is influenced by these principles. The mind thus has two aspects. The higher aspect is susceptible to the influences of the higher principles of atma and buddhi. It is thus intuitional and does not depend on reason. The lower aspect is purely intellectual and logical and can be cold if not influenced by atma and buddhi.
4. Kama – Desire. Kama is the organ or seat of the vital psycho-electric impulses, desires, and aspirations in our constitution. This principle gives us the impetus to act and do things. It is neither good nor bad, but is what the mind and soul direct it to be. Desires can range from the selfish personal interests of the common man to the lofty desires of a Christ or a Buddha.
5. Prana – Life-principle. Prana is the electromagnetic veil or "electrical field" manifesting in the human individual as vitality. This force keeps the astral-physical organisms of all creatures alive and growing. It permeates the astral body and the physical body from birth to death with ever-renewing currents of vital-magnetic energies. Prana also accounts for death, since one of the causes of death is the prolonged wearing down of an organism by streams of pranic energy which at last bring it to the point of dissolution.
6. Linga-sarira – Astral model-body. Slightly more ethereal than the physical body, it is the model or framework around which the physical body is built, and out of which the physical body develops as growth proceeds. The astral body also houses the outer sense organs of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.
7. Sthula-sarira – Physical body. Sthula-sarira literally means "gross form." This is a paradox, since in reality our body, as all material objects, is very porous or full of holes. The grosser a substance appears, the more porous or foamy it actually is. Our bodies appear solid because they are formed of particles of matter that move so inconceivably fast that to our senses they seem to be solid. Sometimes we consider the body as just a spiritual drag. But when controlled and intelligently used, the body, as all of the other six principles, has its own basic part to play in our evolution.