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THEOSOPHY WORLD ------------------------------------ October, 2006
An Internet Magazine Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy
And its Practical Application in the Modern World
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(Please note that the materials presented in THEOSOPHY WORLD are
the intellectual property of their respective authors and may not
be reposted or otherwise republished without prior permission.)
"Let Us Regenerate Ourselves," by B.P. Wadia
"On Looking for Results," by A. Trevor Barker
"Thoughts on Death," by H.T. Edge
"The Doctrine of Reincarnation in Persian Thought,"
by Margaret Smith
"What is Death," by G. de Purucker
"Karma and Justice Versus Punishment," by Gertrude W. van Pelt
"Jungian Psychology and the Vedanta," by Edward Thornton
"Human Consciousness," by G. de Purucker
"Man's Threefold Nature," by Henry T. Edge
> You will observe, Ladies and Gentlemen, from what precedes, that
> the Library we are now founding is neither meant to be a mere
> repository of books, nor a training school for human parrots who,
> like some modern Pandits, mechanically learn their thousands of
> verses and lacs of lines without being able to explain, or
> perhaps ever understand, the meaning; nor an agency to promote
> the particular interests of some one faith or sectarian
> subdivision of the same; or as a vehicle for the vain display of
> literary proficiency. Its object is to help to revive Oriental
> literature; to reestablish the dignity of the true Pandit, Mobed,
> Bhikshu, and Maulvi; to win the regard of educated men,
> especially that of the rising generation for the sages of old,
> their teachings, their wisdom, their noble example; to assist, as
> far as may be, in bring about a more intimate relation, a better
> mutual appreciation, between the literary workers of the two
> -- Henry S. Olcott, OLD DIARY LEAVES, III, page 409 (speaking
> about the founding of the Adyar Library)
LET US REGENERATE OURSELVES
By B.P. Wadia
[From LIVING THE LIFE, pages 123-29.]
The Theosophical neophyte values THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE as a
book of divine discipline. What type of discipline is divine
discipline? It may be defined as archetypal discipline. It
includes the discipline of the body and the sensorium, of the
mind and the heart. It is the discipline of the whole of the
personal man: of what he should eat and how he should study, of
when he should put his body to sleep, of the why of dreams, of
the way of waking, and of the how of doing things. This
discipline affects his motives as well as his methods.
Who is the Disciplinarian?
(a) The Inner Self beyond the personal man.
(b) The Esoteric Philosophy or the Science of Occultism.
(c) The Instructor, representing the Guruparampara.
The Inner Self is divine in essence as well as in substance. The
Esoteric Philosophy is also divine in origin and content. The
real Chain of Teachers is made up of links, each a possessor of
Divine Wisdom, whose realization of the truths of the World of
the Spirit is genuine and deep enough to enable him to pour out
Compassion in the shape of instruction for the benefit of others.
There are worldly, ambitious, and moneymaking gurus. There is
worldly and false knowledge. But there are many good and earnest
men who desire to learn, to grow in power. The shadow of divine
discipline is mundane discipline.
In THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE, there are two golden precepts --
sounds enshrined in words -- whose reverberations must be heard
if their real meaning and import are to be osmosed:
> O Disciple, unless the flesh is passive, head cool, the Soul as
> firm and pure as flaming diamond, the radiance will not reach the
> CHAMBER, its sunlight will not warm the heart, nor will the
> mystic sounds of the Akasic heights reach the ear, however eager,
> at the initial stage.
> Both action and inaction may find room in thee; thy body
> agitated, thy mind tranquil, thy Soul as limpid as a mountain
The radiance of the Spiritual Sun, the Light of the Logos, warms
not the hearts of men; it reaches not the chamber or cave of the
heart; and naturally, therefore, its radiance and voice are of no
avail to the man of the world. The divine discipline is the
training of the personal man so that the Hidden Light and the
Soundless Sound are known. For this, a prescription is given in
the two verses quoted above.
However, something more than eagerness is demanded to attain
divine discipline. Both action and inaction must find room in
the learner; he must learn to act without caring for the fruits
of action; he must act and yet feel within himself that he is not
acting, i.e., that he is not the actor.
"The path of action is obscure," says the Gita (IV, 17). "Even
sages have been deluded as to what is action and what inaction."
He who learns to see "inaction in action and action in inaction"
is described as a wise man.
The neophyte finds himself fettered by self-made fate; these
fetters cannot be broken or done away with; they have to be faced
and transmuted. Each and every fetter represents an effect, and
care and knowledge are required in handling it. The right
technique consists in examining our duties. The so-called
conflict of duties can and should be resolved by every neophyte
at the initial stage. Duty spells necessity; that which is
necessary must be done; on the other hand, that which is
unnecessary should not be done. Practice of this rule of divine
discipline takes us a long step towards freeing ourselves from
the fetters of fate.
In deciding what is necessary and what unnecessary, we must not
succumb to the demanding or persuasive voice of desires, or to
the machinating and plausible pleading of the mind; we must seek
guidance from that in us which is unaffected by the desires
arising from the sensorium and from the mind. Within us is the
Guide, Philosopher, and Friend called the Higher Manas. But he
is far distant from Kama-Manas that is ever busy with the senses
and the organs, with the flesh and the devil. Therefore, we must
seek aid from without, from the Divine Teachings we can obtain
help readily and easily.
No one can become a neophyte without aspirations; no one can
become an aspirant without knowledge. To become a learner, study
is the first step; knowledge purifies and elevates spiritual
aspirations; Soul aspirations lead to the actual living of the
higher life, and thus the neophyte is born.
The performance of necessary duties and the strict avoidance of
all unnecessary actions develop both discrimination and
detachment. Soon the neophyte is led to perceive that his new
knowledge points to a higher necessity -- the doing of deeds that
are not only personal duties or karmas. The Divine Virtues of
Charity and Sacrifice call for deeds and not only for words, for
actions and not only for thoughts and feelings. Divine
discipline requires that ideation and imagination be used in
speech and deeds, and harmony be established between words and
acts so that no further room is left for Karmic action.
Bearing all this in mind, let us return to the prescriptions
offered in the verses quoted above about the discipline of body,
mind, and Soul.
(a) The flesh to be passive; the body to be agitated.
(b) The head to be cool; the mind to be tranquil.
(c) The Soul to be firm and pure as a flaming diamond; the Soul
to be as limpid as a mountain lake.
The flesh represents sensuous cravings, e.g., gluttony. The
worldly indulge the bodily appetites. The activity of the flesh
and the titillation of the senses produce bodily ailments, and
even the signal of disease is not heeded. Bodily health is
necessary for discipleship. Therefore, the neophyte has to learn
to distinguish between two types of corporeal agitation. Even
modern science recognizes that the body may be thrown into
agitation under a wave of strong feeling. Thus, attractions of
personal affection that make people cling to life in the body,
aversion to or fear of death, and all other likes and dislikes
agitate the brain and the body.
However, desires of the sensuous nature and aspirations of the
Soul produce two distinct kinds of agitation. Agitation in and
of the body can be engendered (a) by the without -- by the
cravings aroused by the sights, sounds, etc., of the world of
objects; and ( b) by the response of our higher nature to our
aspirations which are built around our ideation and imagination.
The first type of agitation of the body is a great hindrance in
the living of the higher life. Therefore the neophyte is told to
make the flesh passive -- i.e., inactive, to prepare it to be
receptive. The corpus must be made ready to be a receptacle.
The second type of agitation has to be inducted into the brain
and thus into the whole sensorium. It is this second type of
bodily agitation that is referred to when we are asked to make
our "body agitated."
Next: Hot heads can never succeed in the neophyte's life. In
page 106 of LETTERS THAT HAVE HELPED ME, Mr. Judge makes pointed
reference to the heating and cooling influences and to the
excitement and calmness of the mind and of the body. In the
neophyte's discipline, the mind plays the most important part.
The starting point is the handling of the desire-mind. The head
in the human body is the organ par excellence of the lower mind,
and the mind made tranquil becomes the channel of the Soul.
The complexities of the lower mind or Kama-Manas are many. THE
SECRET DOCTRINE points out that "Mind is a name given to the sum
of the states of Consciousness grouped under Thought, Will, and
Feeling." (I, 38) The part played by ideation and by memory is
also referred to. THE SECRET DOCTRINE contains also an important
statement of practical significance to the neophyte: "The
ordinary man has no experience of any state of consciousness
other than that to which the physical senses link him." (II, 701)
The neophyte must come out from among them who are "cabin'd,
cribb'd, confin'd, bound in" by their senses. He must recognize
the Manasic nature of his being and perceive the necessity of
disciplining the senses for which a prior disciplining of the
mind is essential. A quiet reflection on the two statements of
THE SECRET DOCTRINE will bring him to the realization that
"matter, after all, is nothing else than the sequence of our own
states of consciousness, and Spirit an idea of psychic intuition"
(I, 542). Kama-Manas, Manas freed from Kama, and lower mind
influenced and guided by the human Soul, the Higher Mind, are
three distinct states of consciousness, in each of which thought,
will, and feeling function.
The mind cannot become tranquil when swayed by doubts and fears,
attractions and aversions. Our disposition must be free from the
taint of sensuousness, agreeably inclined to pure reason based on
philosophical principles, and the will must be steadfastly
resolute to follow the dictates of our divine conscience. A
tranquil mind is not a passive mind; it is concentrated and is
receptive to the influences and impresses of the Human Soul, the
Ego, the Inner Ruler -- a ray of the Divine Mind.
Theosophy teaches that the intimacy between the Divine Ego and
the human personality is not established in the man of flesh
until the neophyte learns to evoke by purity, sacrifice, and
control the power and the radiance of that Divinity.
When the mind is freed from desire and then is trained to unfold
its inherent latent powers, it becomes firm and pure under the
benign influence of the Divine Man; it reflects the firmness of
the diamond and sparkles steadily with the colors of the Akashic
heights. The second image shows that the personal soul becomes
like unto a mountain lake, limpid and translucent.
In the calm of the Soul lies real knowledge. Experience of holy,
celestial Joy is the real sign of true spiritual life.
The mountain symbolizes the far-sightedness of Prometheus himself
reflected in the purified waters of the astral personality that
is capable of responding to the Wisdom of the Great Lord who
dwells on the high altitude of the plane of Spirit.
Just as the worldly man reflects in his deeds and words worldly
illusions and delusions, so the neophyte begins to reflect, in
his actions and speech, the sacrifices and wisdom of the Divine
Man. The goal of the neophyte is to become divine here, in his
present embodied state, purified of the dross and dregs of Kama,
and shining with the Power of the Immortal and the Eternal.
ON LOOKING FOR RESULTS
By A. Trevor Barker
[From THE HILL OF DISCERNMENT, pages 61-64.]
You have just heard it stated that our philosophy teaches us not
to look for results, an idea that is very much laid down in the
Bhagavad-Gita. Nevertheless, like all good things, there is
sometimes a hidden danger if we do not understand the import of
what is there written. I do think that as Theosophists we have
the duty to recognize that we are not looking for results or
fruit of a personal kind, or for personal advantage, or good
results to our own karma.
Nevertheless, as agents, unconscious, semi-conscious, or fully
conscious of that great Brotherhood of holy men who stand behind
the work of the Theosophical Society, we have to recognize that
if we want to achieve the objective that is set before us as
workers in the great Theosophical field, we must learn how to
calculate and use the forces, the instruments, and our tools of
work in such a way that we get the results for which we strive.
No mere philosophical reasoning to the effect that "we are not
looking for results" will compensate for our lack of choosing
those methods that will get results.
One of the great Masters once wrote these words:
> The degrees of success or failure are the landmarks we shall have
> to follow, as they will constitute the barriers placed with your
> own hands between yourselves and those whom you have asked to be
> your teachers. The nearer you approach to the goal contemplated,
> the shorter the distance between the student and the Master.
In other words, they judge by results.
Whilst there is truth in the other statement, let us not have it
in the back of our minds as a justification to ourselves that
after all, we have done what we could, and if nothing has come of
it, well, we must not "look for results." I do not believe that
is the highest Theosophical philosophy. It is rather to take the
view that if we have not got results, we must accept the
responsibility for it ourselves, and recognize that there must be
something that we have not learned, perhaps don't know how to do.
Remember that the last and final key, and the first key to any
successful work, is something in our own hearts and minds. If we
are not successful, anyone of us individually, in presenting
Theosophy to the public in such a way that it attracts them,
holds their interest, and leads them in their turn to go to work
to dig in the mines of the Archaic Teaching so that they can win
the treasure that therein lies, win it, and incorporate it into
the very fabric of their being, and then give it out to others --
we have done nothing, indeed less than nothing! It is not just
coming to listen to a speaker or a lecturer that is the beginning
and end-all of being a member of the Theosophical Society. No.
To quote the Leader's own words, "Every one of us militant
Theosophists has got to become a Leader himself," in the sense
that we must find the key within our own hearts that will
literally make us leaders of the thought-life of our age.
I have often thought of the illustration of the man who was
compelled by a peculiar will of a deceased relative to go down on
to the Thames Embankment in London, without a penny in his
pocket, and not having eaten anything for a long number of hours.
He was struck with his total inability to relieve the dire
distress and misery that he found on that riverbank. Any
individual who wants to labor in the illimitably vast field of
the Theosophical Movement to bring spiritual light to men is in
the position of that man, if he has not himself made a certain
amount at least of the Theosophical truths and principles a part
of his life and a part of his being. He can relieve the
suffering of others with that spiritual gold.
Therefore, it is our first job, and not our last, to go into the
workshop of our own Nature, and take up the tools that belong to
our craft. You know what they are: the material in which we have
to labor is the sevenfold constitution of man and of nature of
which he is a part, and the tools of his craft are placed in his
hands by the Great Teachers of the human race. They are the
sublime teachings of the archaic Wisdom-Religion of humanity, the
rules of life and conduct.
We have to take up these things, and not merely gaze on them from
afar like a famished man gazing upon a spread banquet that he
dare not eat. But we must walk to the feast that is laid upon
the Masters' table and ourselves partake of it; go to work on the
battlefield of our own being, like Arjuna on the field of
Kurukshetra. First, we must slay the armies and hosts of those
lower forces that course through our own lower nature; for each
of us has to learn to vanquish himself, however many times we
ourselves may be vanquished in the process.
The Theosophist takes as his shield and buckler the saying of the
great Buddha: "Greater than the conqueror of armies is the
disciple (the man, the student, and the neophyte), the aspirant,
in every age, who learns to conquer himself." After all, that is
the entrance door into the Theosophical life.
The Theosophical Movement, Brothers and Friends, means nothing at
all if it has not the power to awaken the divine fire in our own
hearts, and in the hearts of all who come into the Movement. Why
is it that the Theosophical Movement right down the ages has had
and does have today the power to change men's lives? Have you
ever reflected upon it? Why is it? It is a fundamental that lies
right at the basis of the whole of our work, and it is something
that, alas, is very little understood even among the ranks of
Theosophists. Many people believe that a mere concourse of
students, all more or less of the same level of development,
makes a Theosophical Society, and the truth is that it does not.
Why? This is the reason, as I understand it: The Theosophical
Society itself is the outer court of the inner circles, the
esoteric circles, of the human race; the outer court-way, through
which we may enter into direct touch and communion with the Great
The point that I want to make at this moment is that in order for
us to leave the ranks of what in old times they called "the
profane," the living dead, the spiritually unawakened portion of
humanity, we need the help of CONSCIOUS beings. I mean fully
conscious in comparison with us -- ordinary men and women -- who
are most of the time semi-conscious or unconscious because of the
mechanical way in which our consciousness works. It is nothing
but that spiritual stream of conscious energy that flows into the
world through the Theosophical Movement itself, through
individual envoys, agents, and messengers, conscious envoys who
are capable of becoming the channels of that spiritual power,
which has the capacity to awaken the sleeping germ in the hearts
of those who have it only potentially. As HPB once herself said
> "If Sun thou canst not be, then be the humble Planet," says the
> BOOK OF THE GOLDEN PRECEPTS. And if even that is beyond our
> reach, then let us at least endeavor to keep within the ray of
> some lesser star, so that its silvery light may penetrate the
> murky darkness, through which the stony path of life trends
> onward; for without this divine radiance we risk losing more than
> we imagine.
She meant just that. If you enter into a Fellowship in which the
very life-blood flows in a stream from the ashrams of the holy
Masters, then you will have something that if you yourselves work
in the right way will help you to change your whole nature from
the ground up, and make you leaders of men in your turn.
THOUGHTS ON DEATH
By H.T. Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, May 1916, pages 417-23.]
The vast death roll of the war has turned our minds with unwonted
seriousness to thoughts of death, the meaning of life, and the
question of immortality; and there are arguments between deists
and agnostics as to the present status of religion and belief in
God. We need not go over these arguments; it is sufficient to
see what Theosophy can contribute.
The point is this: that Theosophy makes man's immortality a thing
of the HERE AND NOW. Conventional views represent immortality as
something belonging to after-death and try to tack eternity on to
the end of time and immortality on to the end of mortality.
Theosophy declares that we are immortal NOW and that the Soul
"never was not, never shall cease to be."
Our nature is dual -- part mortal, part immortal. In addition to
consciousness, which the animals have, we have
self-consciousness. This latter is not a product of the upward
evolution from the lower kingdoms of nature; it is the special
characteristic of man. The existence of this divine spark causes
the horror when we try to imagine ourselves as coming utterly to
an end at death, for the Soul is aware of its own immortality.
Our lower mind rebels against our intuition, because we have
failed to distinguish sufficiently between the mortal and the
immortal parts of our nature. That which, in Theosophy, is
called the "personality" consists of what has been put together
during the years since birth -- a mass of memories and habits
that did not exist before birth and cannot survive death.
Nevertheless, this statement must be qualified, because that
personality is built up around a central kernel that is
imperishable and that existed before birth.
THE PRACTICAL PART OF THIS QUESTION is that we must endeavor to
reach to the immortal part of our nature here and now and not
wait until death. That is the road to knowledge. Our horror and
affliction over death are the measure of our ignorance, but they
are the measure of our knowledge because if we had not the
intuition of immortality, we should be no more afflicted or
puzzled over the question than the animals are.
The greater part of our make-up is subject to continual death and
rebirth throughout the years of our life; but a personal identity
survives throughout life. In the same way, there is a still
deeper Self, called in Theosophy the Individuality, which
survives death. That Individuality is with us now, back of our
mind; we are immortal now.
Mankind is ACTUALLY one and united, as far as the Immortal part
is concerned; and our APPARENT separateness lies in our external
nature. Brotherhood and solidarity mean much more than an
agreement of mutual toleration; they mean the recognition of the
fact that we actually are one and united. Brotherhood can only
be truly realized by people who rise to the level where they are
aware of their non-separateness.
People are everywhere trying to plan schemes for social
betterment after the war. But suppose a number of musicians were
to pass a law that every instrumentalist should be allowed full
freedom to play what he liked, so long as he did not interfere
with the liberty of others to play what they liked. Would this
constitute an orchestra? The illustration shows that more than
legislation and agreements are required. Some agnostic educators
hope they will be able to inculcate virtues in the young by
argument, but this will not suffice, for we should then have the
passions arrayed on one side against mere argument on the other.
The virtues need a better sanction; they need to be based on
knowledge of the laws of nature.
The vital center of man's being is his HIGHER nature; and this is
the fact that has to be recognized by the true scientist of life.
If we make the personality the center of man's being, we pave the
way for conflicting interests.
Man is immortal, and mankind is one; these are the two truths of
Theosophy competent to shed light on the problems of life and
Death is the rest of the Soul, a greater sleep. The coming of
death is as much more welcome than the coming of sleep as death
is greater than sleep. There is no need to fear death. It is
the most familiar event in life, and comes to all; it is a thing
of which no one can deprive us. Bereavement is hard to bear; but
has to be borne, whatever theory we may hold. It is a fact, and
the best we can do is to try to understand it. Our lost ones
have passed through the initiation of death; and though they can
frame no language that our mortal ears can hear, their true Love
and their Spirit is with us, urging us on towards the Light
wherein they dwell. We cannot drag them down to where we are,
but we can aspire to where they dwell. The bereaved seek
consolation in high resolve. In achievement, they find it, for
thus do they enter into sacred interior communion with great
Souls. Thus, they honor the departed.
Theosophy has a great mission to prevent the decay of faith,
hope, and charity from the world amid a chaos of despair and
cynical doubt; and deeply do Theosophists feel the urgency of the
duty. Skeptics and materialists seize hold of the weaknesses and
fallacies in religious ideas and seem to make out a case for
their own dark doubting.
> Listen to the song of life. Look for it and listen to it first
> in your own heart. At first, you may say it is not there; when I
> search, I find only discord. Look deeper. If again you are
> disappointed, pause and look deeper again. There is a natural
> melody, an obscure fount in every human heart. It may be hidden
> over and utterly concealed and silenced, but it is there. At the
> very base of your nature, you will find faith, hope, and love
> ... Underneath all life is the strong current that cannot be
> checked; the great waters are there in reality. Find them, and
> you will perceive that none, not the most wretched of creatures,
> but is a part of it, however he blind himself to the fact and
> build up for himself a phantasmal outer form of horror.
> -- LIGHT ON THE PATH
Theosophy means wisdom concerning the divine nature of man, and a
way of life whereby knowledge of that divine nature may be
attained. A nucleus of believers has been established, right in
the heart of occidental materialism, helping to keep faith alive
in the human heart. To it men are turning, as wanderers towards
a beacon. They feel something REAL that emanates from that body
of people. These people believe that in duty and service can be
found the road to knowledge and peace; and that the meaning of
life can be realized, and its mysteries solved thereby.
The great truth of reincarnation calls for mention here; it tells
us that we have lived before. Not the personal "I," for that is
a thing that was built up during this life; it has no
recollection of having lived before because it has not lived
before. Nevertheless something in us has lived before, though it
seems wrong to use such terms as "before" and "after" in this
connection. Who knows what would become of that which we call
"time," if our personal consciousness were blotted out?
Reincarnation also means that the Self in us will live again.
Life would seem absurd and useless if we really believed that
this brief span of seventy years or less is the whole. True,
humanity goes on existing in any case; that is not destroyed; but
then why should I have my consciousness? For what purpose is
that? It is impossible to think of a human Ego being created at a
point in time and disappearing at another point. "Life is a
dream," says an ancient adage; then who is the dreamer? The
analogy is very useful, and indeed, it is much more than a mere
analogy. It is possible for man to reach a stage where death and
life will be but alternating phases in his existence. This it is
to conquer death.
In thinking about future life, we must not forget to think also
about past life; the two are essentially connected. The fact
that we cannot bring to recollection anything preceding this life
helps to explain our ignorance about what follows death. It is
as hard to imagine that you never existed in the past as that you
will not exist in the future. In reading the account of events
that happened in the middle of last century, it may suddenly
occur to you: "When that happened, I did not exist!" A curious
thought; and yet the world wagged as usual.
It is inconceivable that the world can continue to wag and you
have nor part nor lot in it; the mind rebels from the thought,
and the soul shudders. The mere ability to pose the question
seems to imply an affirmative answer. If I have enough
self-consciousness to ask such a question, then I must surely
have enough self-consciousness to persist beyond the gates of
death. Is not human consciousness ESSENTIALLY immortal --
NECESSARILY immortal? Does it not contain, in addition to its
temporal qualities, an eternal quality, such that, regarding it,
we are entitled to say -- nay, MUST say -- "This is deathless?"
And about the one that is gone from us: had we been able, while
he was with us, to recognize the deathless essence in him,
perchance we should not miss it now that the presence that we
knew is withdrawn. This is a difficult subject to touch on,
because of the delusions of fantasy, leading to morbid
self-deceptions in the minds of those so predisposed.
The state of the liberated Soul after death is one of unalloyed
happiness, from which all recollection of the woes of earth is
banished, and wherein all the unfulfilled ideals and hopes are
realized. Pure love is a power that lives beyond the grave and
can bless the living; and it can lead to reunion in other lives.
The horror of this war is with the living and not with the dead;
THEY are at rest; theirs is the bliss of the liberated Soul. But
the effect of the carnage on the world and those who still dwell
therein is terrible.
A well-known philosopher has recently written a book in which he
says that nothing enters so deeply into our souls as the sudden
changes from life to death; daily long lists of dead confront us,
and from thousands of tongues questions are asked about the value
and meaning of human life, about eternity, and about the
immortality of the soul. This is true; but the conclusions he
draws are quite absurd; the war, he says, has reduced the
doctrine of providence to an absurdity.
In view of the deaths of such masses of people, carried away by
blind chance in open battle, in trenches, in airships, in
submarines, the illusion that the destinies of men are in the
care of an omnipotent intelligence with carefully arranged plans
is an idea that cannot be entertained for a moment, he says. And
he adds that the war proves the absurdity of the Christian
principle of loving one's neighbor. Surely, it proves the exact
opposite, by showing what comes of disobeying the rule.
As to what he says about God, it may perhaps stand as an argument
against certain narrow views with which some people satisfy
themselves in comparatively easy times; but we cannot explain
away the facts about this terrible calamity, and must either find
an explanation or leave them unexplained. Is it not impossible
to entertain the idea of a universe that is ruled by reckless and
purposeless powers, and that yet at the same time is peopled by
so intelligent and conscientious a being as Man; the said alleged
reckless Powers being utterly indifferent to Man's welfare? To
all well-balanced minds, the universe appears as ruled by
intelligent and beneficent Powers. What we ought to do is to
expand our ideas about the nature of deity and the meaning of
life, and the laws of the cosmos.
Even this philosopher worships a deity of his own, which he calls
the religion of reason. He preaches the beauty and satisfying
nature of resignation, recommending brave devotion to the
unavoidable and the knowledge and recognition of the eternity and
indestructibility of the cosmos and of the courses of nature, in
which the individual unceasingly appears and disappears in order
to make place for new forms and new modes of unending substance.
Thus, he gives with one hand what he takes away with the other.
But there is something in me that might be called "interest" or
"love," which binds me indissolubly with the fate of that
universe; I feel that I cannot be obliterated, my ultimate
essence cannot be obliterated whatever may become of my present
outfit of personal prejudices and memories.
Man sometimes seems to forget that, in moments of pride, he
claims the divine gift of free will. His religions declare that
he has been endowed with this gift. It follows that, if he is to
use this gift, he must be left to his own guidance, and that he
will make mistakes. How else can free will be governed and still
remain free? We are calling upon God to save us from the
consequences of our own willfulness; and God's answer is, "Obey
the eternal laws; choose right instead of wrong; study nature and
learn its true laws."
Is the attitude of pride consistent with the attitude of
supplication? If we shrink horrified at the thought of machines
dropping dynamite from the sky, and all the other horrors with
which we are now so familiar, let us remember past years of
arrogance. And let us think of the generations of smug
commonplace well-to-do-ness, or foolish extravagance, or ruthless
exploiting of our fellow man that have preceded this volcanic
outbreak. How much worse might it not have been if not for the
protection of supernal powers?
However natural and merciful death may be, this carnage is an
utter horror; and it is consolation, and not palliation of
misdeeds, that we must see in the release of death. The fact
that death, when it comes, comes with a welcome, does not excuse
us for killing.
In regarding human history, we have to remember that this is the
Iron Age, whose entry was announced by the departure of the Gods,
last among them the goddess of purity, daughter of justice. But
the goddess is to return with a new golden age, when man has
learned his lesson. How does this bear upon the present topic?
Because part of the knowledge which man lost was concerned with
death, and the darkness to which he was condemned by his own
folly included the meaning of life and death. Fear of death was
henceforth his lot, and bereavement and separation.
The unity and the eternity of life have to be learned over again;
and over again man has to learn that justice and purity are
essential conditions to knowledge and to happiness. He has to
learn that the immortal part of his nature stands with him now,
waiting for recognition and communion; and that, even while
living, it is possible to pass forever beyond the gates of death,
and to enter a realm where partings are no more.
THE DOCTRINE OF REINCARNATION IN PERSIAN THOUGHT
By Margaret Smith
[From THE ARYAN PATH, January 1943, pages 10-15.]
While the more orthodox Sunni Muslims and most of the Sufi
mystics rejected the doctrine of reincarnation and the
transmigration of souls, the conception found much more
acceptance among the Shiites of Persia and among Muslim sects
that were reckoned as heretical by the orthodox.
The belief is found in two forms, one being the view that the
soul passes through a series of lives, by rebirth each time in a
different body, the other the view that the Divine Spirit, in a
special sense, is reincarnated in a human body, from time to time
-- the belief of the Imamites. In Iraq and in Persia, Muslim
thought was affected by Neo-Pythagorean and Gnostic theories and
probably by Buddhism, too.
The sect of the Mutazilites, some of whom accepted the doctrine,
owed their origin to a Persian, Wasil b. Ma Al Ghazzal (ob. 748
A.D.), a disciple of the theologian and ascetic Hasan of Basra,
whom the Sufis claimed as one of their number. They taught the
doctrine of the Unity and the Justice of God, and therefore held
that a man had freewill and was morally responsible for his good
or evil deeds. Their belief in reincarnation was the logical
consequence of their belief in the Divine Justice, which required
an exact retribution for sin, but also demanded a means whereby
man could attain to salvation. Those who had sinned, they
believed, could, in successive lives, purify themselves and, by
obeying the Divine Law, free themselves from the necessity of
rebirth and become fit to enter Paradise.
The doctrine was also accepted by many among the Shiites, who
believe in the spiritual succession of the Imams, their religious
leaders, and could not accept the idea of their election by human
choice, as the Arabs had done. The Persians had held firmly to
the Divine Right of Kings in the Sassanian Period and this may
have influenced their attitude towards the Imam. They held that
he was the earthly incarnation of the Divine Spirit and that the
Spirit was transmitted intact from one Imam to another. With
this was combined the belief in a Mandi, Sahib-i-Zaman (Master of
the Age), who would reappear when the hour came for his
manifestation. The last of the Imams accepted by the Shiites
disappeared in the ninth century. His followers held that while
the Imam was withdrawn for a time, he would return to destroy the
powers of evil and to bring in the Golden Age of justice and
truth. This idea that the last of the Imams will be reincarnated
as a Mandi or a Messiah is still widely held.
Several Shiite sects, such as the Ismailis, the Qarmatites, and
the Nusayris, believed also that ordinary individuals would
reincarnate until they had learnt to recognize the Imam and had
acquired the knowledge to overcome the evil within them, thus
obtaining freedom from rebirth. The Nusayris divided time into
seven cycles, each of which had its own manifestation of Deity.
They also taught that from God, the Light of lights, emanated a
light, the nur-Muhammad, which was dispersed into luminous
particles, the stars, but these, as a punishment for their pride,
were degraded into souls imprisoned in human bodies. The soul,
after passing through various cycles of transmigration, might
reascend to its former sphere if, while on earth, it recognized
the Divine incarnations and accepted their teaching. If not, it
must continue to submit to rebirth, perhaps as a Christian or a
Muslim, until its expiation was complete. This sect still exists
in Western Asia.
The Druses, called after the Persian mystic Hamza Al Duruzi, who
taught a secret gnosis, arose in the eleventh century, but still
exist in considerable numbers and still adhere to an esoteric
religion, which includes belief in reincarnation. They teach
that God is One, Ineffable, Passionless, in Himself beyond the
comprehension of men but making Himself manifest to men by
successive incarnations. The material, multiform world is an
emanation from the Divine Spirit, which it reflects as in a
mirror. The Druses hold that the number of human beings is
fixed, neither increasing nor decreasing and that souls are
continually being reborn in fresh incarnations. The souls of
those in whom good predominates over evil, pass after the death
of the body into fresh incarnations of ever greater perfection,
until they reach a state of purity in which they can be
reabsorbed into the One, but those in whom evil is allowed to
have the ascendancy fall lower still, even to sub-human levels.
The Druses maintain the freedom of man's will, so that man's
salvation depends upon his own efforts, helped by the Divine
illumination given through the Imam.
In certain of the Persian poets, we find a belief in evolution,
which includes not only the evolution of the human being, but
also the spiritual evolution of the soul and may well have
included some belief in the doctrine of reincarnation. The poet
Abdallah Ansari (1005-1085 A.D.) of whom it was said that he was
born a Gnostic and had not to seek knowledge and to discover it
anew, writes of how he came from the sphere of the unmanifest
into the phenomenal world, how he passed through the stages of
inanimate organizations to life and thence,
> Leaving the brutes behind, I rose again:
> Within the crystal shell of human soul
> The drop of self became a precious pearl.
Seeking to worship God as others did, he found himself still
> I followed then the road that leads to Him
> And so became a bond-slave at His gate.
> No longer was I separate from Him,
> From Him I came, to Him I had returned.
Here there is the belief in the continuance of the same Ego
through different successive existences, always ascending until
it attains to reunion with its Source.
It was stated of Umar Khayyam, the Persian mathematician and
astronomer, who lived in the eleventh century and was famed for
his quatrains, that he believed in reincarnation and as he was a
student of Ibn Sina (Avicenna) who also accepted the doctrine, he
may have derived it from him.
Much of the teaching contained in his verses is consistent with
this view. The soul, he taught, was in its essence Divine,
created in purity, and while in the body, the soul was a captive
that must seek to shake off its fetters and regain its former
> O soul! from earthly taint when purified
> As spirit free, thou shalt toward heaven ride,
> Thy home the Empyrean! Shame on thee
> Who dost in this clay tenement abide.
> -- Translation by J.M. Rodwell
By renunciation of this world and its vanities, the soul may free
itself from the bondage of the senses and the self, but the
service of others is part of this discipline: eternal happiness
will not be won by one oblivious of the happiness of others:
> Whate'er thou doest, never grieve thy brother
> Nor kindle flames of wrath his peace to smother.
> Dost thou desire to taste eternal bliss?
> Vex thine own heart, but never vex another.
> -- Translation by E.H. Whinfield
When the lower self has been completely annihilated, then the
mystic can pass into the life with God:
> The more I die to self, I live the more,
> The more abase myself, the higher soar.
And at the last, the mystic can say:
> My being is of Thee and Thou art mine
> And I am Thine, since I am lost in Thee.
> -- Translation by E.H. Whinfield
The great Persian mystic Shihab Al Din Suhrawardi (ob. 1191
A.D.), who suffered death for his adherence to Sufism, accepted
the doctrine of reincarnation for those who had not made
sufficient progress towards the goal of spiritual perfection. He
held that all souls were journeying towards God and that when, by
effort and self-discipline, they were perfected, they would find
their rest in Him.
There are indications in the writings of the mystic poet Farid Al
Din Attar (ob. c. 1229 A.D.) that he accepted the doctrine of
reincarnation, especially in his MANTIQ AL TAYR. Therein, he
symbolizes the ascent of the soul as the journey made by a
company of birds to find their King, in the course of which they
had to pass through the Seven Valleys of Search, Love, Knowledge,
Detachment, Unification, Bewilderment, and Annihilation, enduring
hardships, privations, suffering, until they attained their end.
When purified and freed from all earthly elements, they were
enlightened by the Eternal Sun and their souls were transformed
into its light. That this attainment is reached after many
existences is suggested by this passage:
> When a hundred thousand ages beyond all time, before or after,
> had passed, then these mortal birds delivered themselves over
> joyfully to total annihilation . . . and attained, after
> annihilation, to immortality . . . Whilst thou art in
> existence or non-existence how canst thou set foot in this place?
> But when thou art no more hindered by existence or non-existence,
> then thou seest what took place at the beginning and at the end,
> and when thou knowest the end, behold the gain of it! A germ of
> life is nourished in order that it may become an intelligent and
> active being . . . he is given the knowledge of his own
> existence. Then Death comes to efface all . . . Man has
> turned again into the dust of the way and has been annihilated
> again and again. But in the midst of his annihilation, he has
> learnt a hundred different kinds of mysteries, of which he knew
> not hitherto. Then he has been given complete immortality and
> has attained to glory.
Attar tells, too, the story of the Phoenix, which is an allegory
of reincarnation, of how it lives a thousand years and when the
time of its death is at hand, it heaps up fuel, places itself on
the funeral-pyre, and itself kindles the flames that consume it.
> Soon both pyre and bird become a glowing red-hot mass. When it
> is reduced to ashes and but one spark remains, then, from the
> ashes, a new Phoenix arises into life.
So, though one body perishes, the spark, which is the immortal
soul, remains and entering into a new body, lives again.
The idea of the evolution of the self through successive
existences is found in the poetry of the great Sufi Jalal Al Din
Rang (1207-1273 A.D.), who teaches that every visible form has
its archetype in the invisible world and that, though the form
perishes, the original remains. What seems to perish is
immortal: the stream that seems to be merged in the ocean has
come from a spring, the waters of which never cease to flow.
That eternal fountain is the Universal Soul, whence all created
things come forth as flowing streams and will do so forever.
From the time that the soul entered this material world, it was
given an opportunity to make its escape. First, it passed
through the inanimate, then came to the animate, and then became
possessed of knowledge, reason, and faith. From humanity, it may
ascend again until it takes upon itself the sinless nature of the
angels. Then at last it is fit to shake off the trammels of
earthly life within a material body and to pass into the Divine
life, the drop merged in the ocean, the part become one with the
Whole. (DIWAN SHAMS-I-TABRIZ, No. XII)
The same idea of the continuance of the Ego through countless
rebirths is found in his great MATHNAWI:
> Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
> Yet once more I shall die as man, to soar
> With angels blest: but even from angelhood
> I must pass on: all except God doth perish.
> When I have sacrificed my angel soul,
> I shall become what no man e'er conceived.
> Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence
> Proclaims in organ tones, "To Him we shall return."
> -- MATHNAWI, Book III, IS. 3901 FF., Translation by R.A. Nicholson
The modern Zoroastrians appear also to hold this doctrine,
believing that if after death the good deeds of a man outweigh
the evil, he is forthwith admitted to Paradise, which is
understood in a spiritual sense, as indicating a state rather
than a place. But if a man's evil deeds outweigh the good, he
must, for a further period of probation, suffer rebirth in this
world, which represents Hell, also understood as a condition, not
The doctrine of reincarnation is accepted by the Baha'is of
modern Persia, the successors of the Babis, originally a Shiite
sect, who teach that God is Pure Essence, the Source of all
things, which are mirrors reflecting His glory. The universe
exists in order to individualize the One Eternal Essence.
Forms or bodies perish, but renovation follows dissolution:
reincarnation is the means by which the spirit can develop and be
made perfect through successive associations with bodies. The
thoughts and the characteristics of the individual are not
dispersed after death, but tend to reappear in association with
each other, when opportunity offers, in another human individual.
The Baha'is, however, do not believe that there is a continuance
of self-consciousness from one life to another; they hold that
the results of each individual life-experience enrich humanity
Each human soul, they believe, is a ray of the Divine Love, and,
just as many lamps may be kindled from one flame, so the spirits
of countless men may be illumined by the One World Spirit. Life
in this world is imprisonment for the soul; it is a place full of
hardships, afflictions, suffering; but the soul must look to its
true home in the invisible world and strive to attain thereto.
As matter has evolved from the lowest to the highest form, which
is the human body, so the spirit must advance to its perfection,
when ignorance and darkness will be changed into Divine
Illumination. Man has control over his own destiny, but most men
are blinded by ignorance and selfishness and it is to arouse them
to effort and to discipline that God, from time to time, has sent
Messengers and Teachers, who have reached spiritual perfection
and are true mirrors of the Divine. Love is the light by which
man is guided when in darkness and the means of growth for all
who are enlightened; love to God and to fellow men. "Ye are all
the fruit of one tree," said Bahaullah, "and the leaves of one
branch." Therefore, men should live in sympathy, love, and
fellowship one with another.
Successive acts build up the character, for good or ill, and so
men are the arbiters of their own fate. Salvation means the
conscious realization of God in this life: the soul then knows
itself and knows that it is one with the Infinite and Eternal
Essence. But those whose search has not attained its object, or
who have not had the opportunity of hearing the teaching of the
Messenger of God, are reincarnated so that they may continue
their search, until at last, by Divine grace, they attain to
illumination and to the knowledge of their oneness with the
WHAT OF DEATH?
By G. de Purucker
[From GOLDEN PRECEPTS, pages 40-47.]
What of Death, the third of the woes that beset humanity? Death
is the Opener, the One giving Vision: Death is the greatest and
loveliest change that the heart of Nature has in store for us.
There is no death, if by that term we mean a perfect and
complete, an utter and absolute cessation of all that is. Death
is change, even as birth through reincarnation that is death to
the soul is change; there is no difference between death,
so-called, and life, so-called, for they are one. The change is
into another PHASE OF LIFE. Death is a phase of life even as
life is a phase of death. It is not something to be feared.
Manís physical body must sleep for a certain period in order to
recuperate its forces, its powers; so must the psychical
constitution of man have its rest-time -- in Devachan.
Death is as natural, death is as simple, death itself is as
painless, and death itself is as beautiful as the growth of a
lovely flower. It is the portal through which the pilgrim enters
the stage higher.
Exactly the same succession of events takes place in Death that
ensues when we lay ourselves in bed at night and drop off into
that wonderland of consciousness we call Sleep. When we awaken
rested, composed, refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready for the
fray and problems of the daily life again, we find that we are
the identical persons that we were before the sleep began. In
sleep, we have a break of consciousness; in death also, there is
a break of consciousness. In sleep we have dreams, or a greater
or less unconsciousness; and in death we have dreams; blissful,
wondrous, spiritual -- or blank unconsciousness. As we awaken
from sleep, so do we return to earth again in the next
incarnation in order to take up the tasks of our karmic life in a
new human body.
Here then is one difference between sleep and death, but a
difference of circumstance and by no means of kind: after sleep,
we return to the same body; after death we take upon ourselves a
new body. We incarnate, we reincarnate, every day when we wake
from sleep; because what has happened to us, what has ensued,
while the physical body is asleep, is identical, but of very
short term, with what takes place, with what ensues, when and
after we die.
Death is an absolute sleep, a perfect sleep, a perfect rest;
sleep is an incomplete death, an imperfect death, and often
troubled with fevered and uneasy dreams because of the
imperfection of the conscious entity -- call it soul, if you like
-- which the human Ego is. Death and Sleep are brothers. What
happens in sleep takes place in death -- but imperfectly so. We
incarnate anew every time we awake, because awaking means that
the entity that temporarily has left the body during sleep -- the
brain-mind, the astral-physical consciousness -- returns into
that body, incarnates itself anew, and thus the body awakens with
the psychical fire again invigorating the blood and the tissues
and the nerves.
In going to your bed and in lying down and losing consciousness,
have you ever feared? No. It is so natural; it is so happy an
occurrence; it is so restful. Nature rests and the tired brain
reposes; and the inner constitution, the SOUL if you like so to
call it, is temporarily withdrawn during the sleeping period into
the higher consciousness of the human being -- the ray, so to
speak, so absorbed back into the inner spiritual sun.
Just exactly the same thing takes place at death; but in death
the worn-out garment is cast aside; the repose also is long,
utterly beautiful, utterly blissful, filled with glorious and
magnificent dreams, and with hopes unrealized, which now are
realized in the consciousness of the spiritual being. This
dreaming condition is a panorama of the fulfillment of all our
noblest hopes and all our dreams of unrealized spiritual
yearnings. It is a fulfillment of them all in glory and bliss
and perfect completion and plenitude.
During sleep, the silver chain of vitality still links the
peregrinating entity to the body that it has left, so that it
returns to that body along this psycho-magnetic chain of
communication. When death comes, that silver cord of vitality is
snapped, quick as a flash of lightning -- Nature is very merciful
in this case -- and the peregrinating entity returns to its
cast-off body no more. This complete departure of the inner
consciousness means the snapping of that silver cord of vitality;
and the body then is cast aside as a garment that is worn out and
useless. The experience of the peregrinating consciousness, the
peregrinating entity or soul, is the same as what happened to it
during sleep, but it is now on a cosmic scale. The consciousness
passes, and before it returns to earth again as a reincarnating
ego, it goes from sphere to sphere, from realm to realm, from
mansion to mansion (following the wording of the Christian
scriptures) which are in the Fatherís house.
Nevertheless, in a sense it is also resting in utter bliss, in
utter peace. During this resting-time, it digests and
assimilates the experiences of the last life and builds these
experiences into its being as character, just as during sleep the
resting body digests and assimilates the food it has taken in
during the daytime, and throws off the wastes, and builds up the
tissues anew; and when the reawakening comes, it is refreshed.
So is the reincarnating ego refreshed when it returns to earth.
In sleep when the withdrawal of the inner entity is complete, the
sleep is relatively perfect and there is relatively perfect
unconsciousness -- the sweetest sleep of all. For then the body
is undisturbed, rests peacefully and quietly, and rebuilds in its
system what was torn down during the hours of active work or
If the withdrawal of the inner entity is incomplete or partial,
then dreams occur; for the inner entity feels the attraction of
the physical part of itself, the physical man, still feels that
physical man working in it psycho-magnetically, as it were; and
the unconsciousness of sleep is disturbed by the vibrations of
the physical man, of the animate body. This produces evil
dreams, bad dreams, fevered dreams, strange dreams, and unhappy
dreams. If the withdrawal is somewhat more complete than in this
last case, but not yet wholly complete, then there are happy
dreams, dreams of peace.
When the sleep is what is called unconscious sleep, it is so
because the inner entity is the least affected by the
psycho-magnetic vibrations of the body and of the brain in
particular. In itself, this consciousness or mind is in a doze,
resting, but with a certain amount of its consciousness
remaining, which the brain, however, cannot register as a dream,
because the separation between the body and the consciousness
that has left it is too complete. But while this consciousness
is thus half-awake, so to speak, half-resting, it is in that
particular world, invisible to human eyes, to which its feelings
and thoughts have directed it in the previous moments and hours.
It is there as a visitant, perfectly well protected, perfectly
guarded, and nothing will or can in all probability harm it --
unless, indeed, the manís essential nature is so corrupted that
the shield of spirituality ordinarily flowing around this inner
entity is worn so thin that antagonistic influences may penetrate
KARMA AND JUSTICE VERSUS PUNISHMENT
By Gertrude W. van Pelt
[From THE DOCTRINE OF KARMA: CHANCE OR JUSTICE, pages 41-54.]
> It knows not wrath nor pardon; utter-true
> It measures mete, its faultless balance weight,
> Times are as naught, tomorrow it will judge,
> Or after many days.
> -- THE LIGHT OF ASIA
The sense of justice is deeply rooted in the human mind, because
mind is part of the Cosmos, all of whose actions and reactions
are based upon justice. There is nothing a child so keenly
resents, nothing that so embitters an adult, as a feeling that he
has been unjustly treated. People will accept misfortunes, at
least without bitterness, if they KNOW they deserve them.
Unfortunately, in the confused and distorted mental outlook of
today, with selfishness so rife and the 'every man for himself'
doctrine so commonly practiced, there is in Western lands no
confidence in the justice of things. How could there be, after
centuries of false teachings and counterstrokes of revenge all
down the ages, until few can be found who are not in the tangle?
Nothing but a true philosophy of life can possibly make men face
the facts. There must be a broader outlook than the one-life
theory offers. Some chance to harmonize with justice the
frequent sight of good punished and bad rewarded must be given
men, before they can clean their hearts of bitterness, turn
suspicion into trust, and shake off the deceiving lenses that
have disguised every brother as an alien. Theosophy alone, which
can restore order to the human mind and thus reveal the order and
beautiful harmony that Nature is forever working towards, can
save us from ourselves.
It is more particularly in Christian lands that the perception of
justice in the Universe has been so completely lost sight of. In
Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Vedantism, Taoism, the teaching of
Karma has not been lost, and even though the countries under
these religions are in their dark cycles, crime is not as rampant
as with us. In 1889, H.P. Blavatsky said:
> According to the last census in Ceylon and India, in the
> comparative table of crimes committed by Christians, Muslims,
> Hindus, Eurasians, Buddhists, etc., etc., on two millions of
> population taken at random from each, and covering the
> misdemeanors of several years, the proportion of crimes committed
> by the Christian stands at 15 to 4 as against those committed by
> the Buddhist population.
> -- THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, pages 73-4.
In LUCIFER, April 1888, H.P. Blavatsky writes editorially:
> This is what one reads in the TABLET, the leading organ of Roman
> Catholic Englishmen, about Creeds and Criminality. I underline
> the most remarkable statements.
> "The official statement as to the moral and material progress of
> India, which has recently been published, supplies a very
> interesting contribution to the controversy on the missionary
> question. It appears from these figures that while we effect A
> VERY MARKED MORAL DETERIORATION IN THE NATIVES BY CONVERTING THEM
> TO OUR CREED, THEIR NATURAL STANDARD OF MORALITY IS SO HIGH that,
> however much we Christianize them, WE CANNOT SUCCEED IN MAKING
> THEM ALTOGETHER AS BAD AS OURSELVES."
The following quotation from may suggest an explanation of these
> Buddhists believe that every act, word, or thought has its
> consequence, which will appear sooner or later in the present or
> in the future state. Evil acts will produce evil consequences,
> good acts will produce good consequences?
> -- THE WHEEL OF THE LAW, page 57
Theosophy teaches that justice does not call for punishment from
us. Karma will take care of this more efficiently than we can
possibly do, and bring to all JUST what they deserve. Why should
any seek to add to this? OUR sole care should be to help men to
meet their deserts bravely. What might we not accomplish if our
prison system were based on still further educative rather than
punitive measures! The wisest and best minds of our civilization
in increasing numbers are realizing this in considering the most
outstanding violation of the duty of one to another, namely,
legalized murder, which is a stigma upon our age. Future
citizens of our Republic will certainly look back with horror to
the barbarous custom of Capital Punishment.
The Karma of thwarting Nature's plan in this way must be heavy
for the nations who have permitted it. Society must, of course,
be protected against malefactors, but in such a way that the
latter are redeemed, not made worse. When one's moral sense is
shocked, it is safe to assume that there is always a philosophic
basis for this in the facts. Theosophy has given very specific
teachings in regard to the sin of taking the life of another,
which seems, in a way, to be magnified when the State is the
murderer, because so many are involved in the crime.
Without attempting to explain in detail here the teaching as to
the reaction upon society, it may be said that one who is
violently deprived of his body, does not really die. That is, it
does not leave this earth atmosphere, but rather remains on the
astral plane, more at liberty in a way than behind the prison
bars, until his natural life-term has expired. Here he can and
does freely influence the weak-minded to commit crime and inject
his feeling of hate against society, which has so ill-treated
him, into the minds of living men. Think of the terrible Karma
this brings to all concerned and contrast that with the results
that would follow an intelligent and sincere effort to help the
criminal out of the mire he is in. Certainly, in this country,
at present, we manufacture criminals.
> Resist not evil, and render good for evil, are Buddhist precepts,
> and were first preached in view of the implacability of Karmic
> law. For man to take the law into his own hands is anyhow a
> sacrilegious presumption. Human Law may use restrictive not
> punitive measures; but a man who, believing in Karma, still
> revenges himself and refuses to forgive every injury, thereby
> rendering good for evil, is a criminal and only hurts himself.
> As Karma is sure to punish the man who wronged him, by seeking to
> inflict an additional punishment on his enemy, he, who instead of
> leaving that punishment to the great Law adds to it his own mite,
> only begets thereby a cause for the future reward of his own
> enemy and a future punishment for himself.
> -- H.P. Blavatsky, THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, 200 (orig. ed.)
Theosophy also states something that may further complicate the
reading of the Law. Besides the so-called misfortunes that come
unwittingly and unasked to the majority, there are those who have
surpassed this majority in the School of Life, and whose egos
sometimes take up deliberately what is called bad karma for the
sake of discipline, to overcome defects, and to gain fortitude.
Or they may assume difficult and unpleasant tasks, such as
voluntary living in the slums or our prisons, solely for the sake
of helping our brothers. There will occur to the mind many other
such examples, which are happily becoming more and more frequent
and form many a bright picture against the black background of
Another evidence that the sense of justice is obscured is found
in the belief in prayer to an external deity. This does not
refer to aspiration, to the effort to reach to the god within --
which should be ever in the background of consciousness when not
in the foreground -- but to the begging for personal benefits.
H.P. Blavatsky calls this foolish and useless unless accompanied
with will-power; when so accompanied it becomes black magic.
Impersonally regard the spectacle of two armies sent forth to
murder each other, each side appealing piously to God to bring it
victory! If sincere, prayer for personal favors is weakening and
degrading; if not sincere, it is pure CANT. How much more
healthy, virile, stimulating and elevating is the teaching of
Karma! How it evokes the innate dignity in man to know that he is
master of his destiny; that as he sows, so shall he reap; that
there is no chance in the Universe; that privileged beings do not
exist, but that the unlimited treasures of Nature are open to all
who meet the conditions.
There is a gentler aspect to the justice dealt to all that should
not pass notice. After the life of struggle, of discipline, of
perhaps pain and disappointment, there comes the beautiful
Devachan -- a wonderful compensation of bliss and rest, a
glorious preparation for the new day.
JUNGIAN PSYCHOLOGY AND THE VEDANTA
By Edward Thornton
[From THE ARYAN PATH, April 1964, pages 159-63.]
When considering the comparative attributes of the Vedanta and
the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung, I should like it to be
understood from the outset that Jung was a Doctor of Medicine and
a psychiatrist. Of all the reviews I have read of Jung's
recently published autobiography, the one from the pen of
Kathleen Raine was very much to the point. The article called
Jung a "sent Man" and concluded by saying that he was essentially
Whenever Jung was accused of permitting himself to encroach upon
the domains of theology and philosophy, he stressed time and time
again that he was an empiricist, and consequently had to abide by
the facts presented to him and would never allow himself to
indulge in metaphysical speculation. He was a doctor and had to
speak strictly from his clinical experience. This being the
case, Jung's vocation was concerned with suffering -- spiritual,
and mental, as well as physical -- we can therefore understand
his continual refusal to introduce the Vedanta and other Eastern
traditions in his essential clinical work, although it is evident
to all that he possessed a most profound veneration for those
If therefore this difference is comprehended between Jung's
psychology and the sublime system of monist Vedanta, we can
proceed with the study of the comparative attributes of both, and
for my introduction to this theme, I have chosen the great
Commentary of Shankara on the Mandukya Upanishad. This is one of
the shortest of all the Upanishads and is concerned with the
meaning and nature of the most sacred of all Sanskrit syllables
The first sloka of the Upanishad instructs us that
> All this is verily Brahman. The Atman is Brahman.
> This Atman has four quarters.
It is pointed out that this Atman appears to be divided into four
parts, namely the Waking State (Vaishwanara), the Dream State
(Taijasa), the State of Dreamless Sleep (Prajna), and the state
of transcendental Super-consciousness (Turiya), which is
identical with Brahman or Atman.
The first three quarters correspond to the three letters (matras)
that constitute the sacred syllable, namely A-U-M, and the
assumption into itself of all three marks the transcendent
fourth, which has no corresponding letter or sound (is amatra).
This silence or Atman is equivalent with the fourth quarter
> This first quarter is Vaishwanara whose sphere (of activity) is
> the waking state, who is conscious of external objects, who has
> seven limbs and nineteen mouths, and whose experience consists of
> gross (material) objects.
> The Second quarter is the Taijasa whose sphere (of activity) is
> the dream, who is conscious of internal objects, who has seven
> limbs and nineteen mouths, and who experiences subtle objects.
> That is the state of deep sleep wherein the sleeper does not
> desire any objects nor does he see any dream. The third quarter
> is the Prajna whose sphere is deep sleep, in whom all experiences
> become unified or undifferentiated, who is verily a mass of
> consciousness entire, who is full of bliss, and who is the path
> leading to the knowledge (of the other two states).
> This is the Lord of all; this is the controller within; this is
> the source of all; and this is that from which all things
> originate and into which they finally disappear.
This last is the experience of the very few illumined beings that
point the way of all human existence, and have bequeathed to
humanity the facts of their experience in the realm of
supra-personal God-consciousness, whether the saint be of the
Eastern or Western traditions. Such a being was Shankara, and it
is understandable that as a monist (advaitin), he was concerned
fundamentally with the end experience, although he left
invaluable instructions and advice for those aspirants whose
destiny was to be chiefly in the realm of the dualistic approach
to the Divine.
It is perhaps for all these reasons that Shankara paid little
attention to the waking and dream states as such, for he regarded
both as illusory from the standpoint of the supreme experience of
Turiya. Nevertheless, he stressed in all his writings that the
phenomenal world as well as the dream world are real and must not
be disregarded or rejected so long as a person has not attained
to the state of Turiya, which, in the Vedanta, is said to be
experienced in Nirvikalpa Samadhi (Contentless
Super-consciousness). Now this Nirvikalpa Samadhi is the
end-result of all contemplative experience and consequently
demands the practice of spiritual austerities, which MUST include
the practice of meditation, culminating with contemplation in the
sense of concentration in complete inner absorption. That this
sublime spiritual vocation is not meant for everybody was
revealed by that great spiritual genius Sri Ramakrishna in the
> Once, finding it difficult to reconcile the contradictory
> doctrines of man's free will and God's grace, two disciples of
> the Master went to him for a solution of the same.
> The Master said, "Why do you talk of free will? Everything is
> dependent on the Lord's will. Our will is tied to the Lord's
> like the cow to its tether. No doubt we have a certain amount of
> freedom even as the cow has, within a prescribed circle. So man
> thinks that his will is free. But know that his will is
> dependent on the Lord's."
> DISCIPLES: "Is there then no necessity of practicing penance,
> meditation, and the rest? For one can as well sit quiet and say,
> 'It is all God's will; whatever is done, is done at His will.' "
> SRI RAMAKRISHNA: "Oh, to what effect, if you simply say that in
> so many words? Any amount of your verbal denial of thorns can
> never save you from their painful prick when you place your hand
> on them. Had it been entirely with man to do spiritual practices
> according to his will, everybody would have done so. But no;
> everyone can't do it, and why? But there is one thing: If you
> don't utilize properly the amount of strength He has given you,
> He never gives you more. That is why self-exertion is necessary.
> And so everyone has to struggle hard even to become fit for the
> grace of God. By such endeavor and through His grace the
> sufferings of many lives can be worked out in one life. But some
> self-effort is absolutely necessary."
It will be apparent that such a fulfillment of human perfection
is given to but very few; yet all these agree in all essentials
and are therefore the greatest teachers of humanity, for they
prefigure the ultimate fulfillment of the human race. As has
been said, Shankara was by no means forgetful of mankind as a
whole, and his dissertations on the dualistic approach should
therefore be heeded with our greatest attention.
It is fundamentally in this realm of experience that the ideas of
Jung come very close to those of Shankara, but it must be borne
in mind that Jung was concerned with the treatment of neuroses
and psychoses, and not with a philosophical system. In his
treatment of the psychologically and spiritually sick, Jung found
that the dream state (Taijasa, as it is called in our Upanishad)
produced phenomena in the shape of dreams that had a compensatory
nature opposite to that of the waking state (Vaishwanara).
Often it was found by him that the narrowness of the waking state
-- or consciousness, as he called it -- produced a mental
attitude to reality that was far too inadequate for the
individual concerned, the consequence being that the person
succumbed to neurotic illness. A careful attention to his
dreams, however, would give a compensatory stress from the
unconscious (Taijasa), so that assimilation of the material would
lead to a greater wholeness of the patient concerned, and a
consequent disappearance of the neurotic symptom.
Similarly, the modern so-called "enlightened" individual, who
finds the origin of his orientation to life in the rationalistic
philosophy of Descartes, would experience compensation to his
inadequate conscious attitude from the deep chthonic strata of
the unconscious psyche. This would stress his need for the
acceptance of his spiritual roots, which manifest themselves in
his own line of cultural heritage, often going back into very
deep experience of extremely archaic connotation.
It was with regard to this great number of "scientifically"
educated men and women that Jung had to occupy himself so
enormously. Jung showed that although the clarity of so many
Oriental philosophies is so helpful, one cannot jump out of one's
karmic obligations; indeed, before one could veritably occupy
oneself with the higher flights of yoga (Raja-Yoga), one had to
come to terms with one's own nature. Lord Jesus said something
of the kind when he maintained that one would not be released
until the uttermost farthing had been paid.
In a brief article of this nature, it is of course impossible to
go into the details of either the psychological technique or the
nature of dream interpretation. Suffice it' to say that for the
latter, a knowledge of comparative religions, mythology, and the
nature of symbolism is indispensable; consequently, the layman
often finds himself unequal to such an undertaking.
According to Jung, the psyche is the totality of all conscious
and unconscious processes. One cannot but be reminded of the
close similarity of his terminology with that contained in the
Mandukya Upanishad, but as has already been stated, Jung's
swa-dharma (sacred vocation) was that of an Aesculapian, and not
of a spiritual teacher in the strict meaning of that term. It
was for this reason that he constantly insisted on pinning
himself and his pupils down to empirical facts that emerged in
the course of his OWN and his clinical work.
The compensatory nature of the unconscious psyche to that of
consciousness reveals an active matrix inherent in the psyche.
It is the realm from whence prefigurations, prescience, and
often-prophetic insights are derived; hence, it is a realm of the
psyche, a knowledge and experience of which are indispensable to
modern psychotherapy. In his vast research and practice, Jung
indeed found something in an empirical way that is highly
relevant to our subject. He ascertained, namely, two things that
> (1) That the human psyche possesses an autochthonous religious
> function, and (2) That he never cured a patient who found himself
> in the second half of life, without the patient having found
> access to this genuine religious function.
Concerning the third quarter referred to in our Upanishad, namely
the state of dreamless sleep (Prajna), note that it is called "a
mass of consciousness, entire, who is full of bliss, and who
experiences bliss." Now this state of bliss, from the point of
view of the contemplative, would represent the unconscious nature
of the fifth body or Kosha of Vedantic tradition, namely the
Anandamayakosha (the body of bliss). In contemplative practice,
this becomes consciously experienced in a dynamic positive sense.
This is essentially the experience of the religious adept; hence
scarcely likely to become the subject of the psychotherapist's
In his clinical work, Jung would always ask himself, "What could
possibly be the meaning of a psychosis?" Understand that the use
of the term "meaning" in this connection has the same
significance as "function," namely, the function of a
breakthrough of predominantly collective unconscious material
into consciousness. The question of meaning is also concerned
with the possibility of a cure and consequently of a possible
therapy. This latter would mean the same as the constructive
employment of the hitherto destructive demons, and would produce
a totally changed situation as compared with the pre-morbid
"Meaning" has to do here with telos (goal) and to a great extent
is therefore identical with the question of a causa finalis
(final cause). Jung made the proposal that schizophrenic
illnesses are to be understood as a "gigantic attempt at
compensation" by the unconscious, compensation for narrowness of
consciousness, or, as he said once, of the Weltanschauung of the
All these processes of the human psyche, Jung confirmed in all
his greater writings, and showed that these point towards a goal
(telos). Out of his therapeutic experience, he never tired of
drawing attention to the fact that the psyche's possessing the
same attributes in all traditions confirms this eternal process
within the human soul in the nature of mandala formations, all of
which incline towards a center of the personality that Jung
called the Self.
He was unfamiliar with the static Center of Self (Turiya) of the
Vedantic tradition in his therapeutic work, but maintained that
the psyche, being of immense age, showed indisputable
verification of the fact that it was proceeding to the sublime
consummation (entelechie). Hence, his empirical findings would
imply that last sloka of our Upanishad:
> This is the source of all, and this is that from which all things
> originate and in which they finally disappear.
By G. de Purucker
[From WIND OF THE SPIRIT, pages 159-61.]
One of the most interesting things in the human constitution is
what we call the consciousness, and it is a curious paradox that
it is just about consciousness that the least is known.
Everybody talks about it; everybody says consciousness,
consciousness, and consciousness; but when you ask a man: What do
you mean by those words, he begins to hem and to haw. Shall we
say it is awareness? Yes, that is one of the functions of
consciousness. The only thing we can say is that it is, and we
all know what it is.
It does not need to be described. As soon as you begin to try to
define it, you tangle yourself up in words, and you actually lose
all intuition, all feel of what it is. Your consciousness goes
as it were from your central consciousness into the low small
consciousness of words. We all know of men who so entangle
themselves in explanations that they forget about what they are
talking, their consciousness just will not fit into details and
words. They have lost grip of the main thing.
Now human consciousness is unitary and integral, that is to say
there are not two, three, or more kinds of consciousness in the
human constitution. But it is a unitary consciousness that comes
down into our brain minds or into our ordinary consciousness from
the spirit of us, the divine center where the truth abides in
fullness. This human center of us cannot transmit this celestial
visitant fully because this human part of us is beclouded, heavy,
and thick with the sheaths of the lower consciousness. Our
thoughts, feelings, and emotions rise around us like a thick
thundercloud under the sun. But behind the cloud is the one
sunlight. So it is with consciousness.
Theosophical seers for many ages and belonging to different
religions and philosophies have classified human consciousness
for purposes of convenient understanding into four divisions.
There are Jagrat, the waking state, Swapna, the sleeping state,
Sushupti, the utter dreamless sleep, the state of death for most
men, and Turiya, the state of the divine, which god-men and the
great seers and sages have told us of, because these last to a
certain extent experience it.
It is all one consciousness. Jagrat is the state in which we all
here are now -- unless there is someone asleep in the audience,
and if he is, he will be in the Swapna state, the sleeping state
in which he is more or less dreaming. Sometimes people are half
dreaming when they are in the Jagrat state. We call it
daydreaming. I do not mean creative dreaming of thought; I mean
just the lazy dreaming where the thought wanders. It is part
Swapna in the Jagrat state. Next is the Sushupti, as we call it,
which in sleep is dreamless. It is the state of most human souls
after death: perfect sweet undreaming consciousness, in which a
thousand days are as a day, and time exists not because the
consciousness is not in these lower realms of time, measured by
clocks, watches, movements of the celestial spheres.
Consciousness there is not in the time-state. Then we have the
highest of this same unitary consciousness, the source of our
consciousness, Turiya. The Buddhists call it the nirvana. The
Hindus call it Mukti or Moksa. We use these terms also for they
are so definitely descriptive. It is the pure consciousness of
the spirit of man, a ray from the divine, or a spark from the
Now then, here is the deduction, the moral to be drawn from these
facts. All of us have this one state of consciousness
manifesting to most of us in these three terms: physical waking,
sleeping with dreams, dreamless sleep, or the death-state for
most people until they embody themselves. Do you know what this
means? It means that we men are not alert to what is in us and
what we can do. There is the key to the mysteries of initiation.
First learn to be fully awake when you are in the Jagrat state as
we are now, physical awakening. Learn to be fully awake. Next,
learn to carry that state of self-consciousness when you sleep,
so that you will be as self-conscious when you sleep as you are,
or think you are, when you are awake. Third and next, the
highest: learn to be self-consciously awake after death. For it
is one consciousness working through all three states, and every
one of us has it; and every one of us is subject to these three
lower conditions or states of this one unitary consciousness.
Think what this means for our future evolutionary progress. Why
should we not begin now? I remember a story that was told of the
Founder of the Theosophical Society, H P. Blavatsky.
One of her pupils came to her one day and said, "HPB, you know I
am awfully tired; I have been working all day long."
"So sorry," said HPB, "you had better go and rest. By the way,
do you sleep when you sleep, truly sleep? Well, you are doing
better than I do. I am working while I am sleeping."
She had reached that point where she could keep conscious, in
self-conscious awareness, while other men slept; in other words,
she could be self-consciously aware when most people go to sleep.
The third stage, as I have said, is to be self-consciously aware
after death. When you have attained that, then the next is the
state of the god-men, or the men-gods, whom the human race has
known, the Buddhas and Christs, men like Shankaracharya,
Tsongkhapa, and Apollonius. When you reach that stage, you have
to be conscious all the time, waking, sleeping, after death, and
until you return, for you will then have found yourself.
Have you never asked yourself why is it that after dreamless
sleep or dreaming sleep, you awaken the same man? It is so common
and so ordinary that it slips the attention of the average man,
showing that you are not fully aware, not fully awake. But the
genius sees this, and he recognizes that this most common
phenomenon is precisely one that has never been explained by
science, and yet the explanation is with us all the time. We
return because we never have left. We have rebecome our
self-conscious selves again because we were never anything other.
Consciousness is continuity. We have not taught ourselves to be
self-consciously awake when we sleep, self-consciously awake when
we die. But the power is in you. It is yours for the asking.
You remember that Pythagoras called those who were sleeping this
life and death away, the living dead. How long are you going to
stand that for yourselves?
MAN'S THREEFOLD NATURE
By Henry T. Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, October 1933, pages 161-67.]
The entire nature of man may be variously divided, and the
Theosophical teachings often speak of the sevenfold nature of
man. They say that man has seven principles, and these they
enumerate and describe. But here we propose to consider man as a
threefold being; for it is evident that seven principles may be
made into three by grouping some of them together. We say, then,
that man can be considered as composed of three main parts,
though these divisions may, when necessary, be subdivided. This
division into three parts will be simpler for a beginner and will
suffice for our present purpose; but at the same time, it may be
found convenient to refer occasionally to minor subdivisions of
the three main divisions.
Now what are our three main divisions? What shall we call them?
Names are somewhat vague, and not usually accurately descriptive;
but a very good nomenclature is that of Body, Soul, and Spirit.
Only we must be careful to say just what we mean by these words,
especially the last two, as they have such vague and variable
senses in common parlance.
The strictly materialistic view, as we know, takes into account
only the body; but that view has now largely been abandoned.
What then of the middle principle in our threefold
classification? What of the soul, or, to use the appropriate
adjective, what of the PSYCHIC nature of man? This question
brings us to the most important point that we have to make in
this article -- the absolute necessity for distinguishing between
this intermediate or psychic nature and the spiritual nature that
comes above it. For it is a great mistake to suppose that when
we have given up the belief that the body is all, when we have
relinquished the strictly materialistic view, we have thereby
escaped from all the consequences of materialism.
When we have passed beyond the physical body of man, we do not
straightway enter the regions of spiritual perfection; we have
not by any means risen beyond the lower nature of man, beyond his
selfish instincts, his dangerous lusts and passions.
Selfishness, and the delusions arising from it, cling also to
parts of man's nature that are not physical. His psychic nature
may, like his body, be under the influence of selfishness and
delusion, and his psychic powers and faculties may be misused, to
his own detriment and to the harm of others, just as his physical
powers may be so used.
This is highly important; because people so often confuse the
psychic with the spiritual; they perhaps do not know there is any
such distinction. What is nowadays called psychology is based
almost entirely on the psychic or intermediate nature of man.
This psychology is being used as a basis for the study of
character and moral questions; methods of treatment for children
and invalids are being based on it. The results of this
ignorance of the facts are likely to be disastrous; and it is
fortunate that our natural common sense often serves as an
antidote to some of the conclusions reached by these
psychologists and to the methods they propose.
The psychic nature of man is intermediate between his spiritual
and his vital-physical nature. When we explore it, we are on
middle ground. The psychic nature of man includes mental
faculties and emotional faculties, and the will operates therein;
but all of these are neutral in themselves and may be the
instrument of selfish or unselfish purposes, or be colored by
right or wrong notions.
There is a most important article in LUCIFER written by H.P.
Blavatsky called "Psychic and Noetic Action," which makes this
point very clear. The author goes into the psychological aspects
of the question, showing what connection there is between various
bodily organs and functions -- brain, heart, nervous system, etc.
-- and the psychic and noetic nature of man respectively. Now
what is the meaning of this word noetic? This is easily answered
by a reference to Platonic philosophy, where man is shown to be a
divine and immortal being who is passing through necessary
experience by being shut into a body. This body is equipped with
the vital and psychic qualities of the animal nature. The
immortal, radiant, divine soul in man is called Nous, the vital
animal soul is called Psyche. Hence, psychic means that which
pertains to the psyche, and noetic means that which pertains to
Now what does modern psychology or psychoanalysis know of this
distinction? Too often, we find that only the psychic nature of
man is analysed, with the result of representing man as a bundle
of instincts and propensities. The noetic principle, with its
clear vision, its noble and unselfish motives, its free and
untrammeled will, is not discovered. This sort of analysis, this
sort of psychology, therefore, fixes man's attention on his
weaknesses while failing to reveal to him his strength.
If we ask what is the matter with the world, it may surely be
answered that it is lack of knowledge of the right kind. Our
numerous theorists, with their various fads and panaceas for
improving the race and adjusting social inequalities, are
building on a wrong foundation. This the common sense of the
people tells them; and it is well that people should have logical
reasoning to back their instinctive perception of right and
wrong, and to enable them to confute these blind leaders.
Or take education. How many theories of education take into
account these vital facts about human nature? For they are facts,
and any theory that fails to reckon with them is sure to go
wrong. With all that is done for the physical nature of the
child, and for his intellectual nature, what is done for this
noetic or spiritual part? It is this part that is the true seat
of self-control. Yet we hear of systems that propose to withdraw
discipline and the protection that it gives, and to abandon the
child, all untrained, to the mercies of his own instincts. Does
not common sense say that we should first give the child the
power to cope with those propensities? Yet how can we do this
when we do not even understand our own nature, let alone the
We often hear of systems of education, or of particular schools,
based on the idea of leaving the pupil free to his own devices;
and great success is claimed. But it may well be asked whether
the success is due to the method, or whether it is gained by the
superior personal qualities of the teacher. It is also to be
borne in mind that temporary success may be gained at the cost of
subsequent disadvantage. However this may be, it is certain that
our failure to solve the question of discipline versus liberty in
education is due to our lack of understanding of human nature;
and that, given this understanding, we should be able to meet
that difficulty. In short, it is necessary to distinguish
between what is psychic and what is noetic, and not to abandon
the child to his own devices until we are sure that he has the
power to control his own impulses.
At this point, we may quote with advantage from "Psychic and
> The whole conclave of psycho-physiologists may be challenged to
> correctly define Consciousness, and they are sure to fail,
> because Self-consciousness belongs alone to man and proceeds from
> the SELF, the higher Manas. Only, whereas the psychic element
> (or Kama Manas) is common to both the animal and human being --
> the far higher degree of its development in the latter resting
> merely on the greater perfection and sensitiveness of his
> cerebral cells -- no physiologist, not even the cleverest, will
> ever be able to solve the mystery of the human mind, in its
> highest spiritual manifestation, or in its dual aspect of the
> psychic and the noetic (or the manasic) or even to comprehend the
> intricacies of the former on the purely material plane -- unless
> he knows something of, and is prepared to admit the presence of,
> this dual element. This means that he would have to admit a
> lower (animal), and a higher (or divine) mind in man, or what is
> known in Occultism as the 'personal' and the 'impersonal' Egos.
> For, between the psychic and the noetic, between the Personality
> and the Individuality, there exists the same abyss as between a
> "Jack the Ripper" and a holy Buddha. Unless the physiologist
> accepts all this, we say, he will ever be led into a quagmire.
> -- LUCIFER, October, 1890, page 91
Observe in the above that the psychic element is far more highly
developed in man than in the animal; but that this does not
constitute the difference between man and animal. This is a most
important point, because man has so often been represented as
merely a higher animal, as a being differing from the animal in
degree only and not in kind. But we see here that the real
difference between man and the animal is that man has the noetic
element, which is not manifest in the animal. (It is present in
germ or in potency in the animal, just as it is in every other
living being, even the mineral atom; but this general truth,
stated for the sake of accuracy, does not affect our present
On this distinction rests the question of free will, about which
H.P. Blavatsky next speaks. A study of the physical and psychic
natures only, with ignorance of the noetic principle, or at least
failure to reckon with it, may well lead to the conclusion that
man is a mechanism, the victim of a chain of causes and effects.
Such a conclusion is at direct variance with hourly experience
and common sense; yet it is true that people are capable of
holding in their minds theories that are thus at variance with
experience, and that these theories injuriously influence their
ideals and consequently their conduct.
False ideals, if largely held, can poison our common mental
atmosphere and stifle the breath of a healthy life. We hear of
brainy people asserting that no man is responsible for his
actions, and yet in the same breath praising a man for his
goodness. If men are not responsible for their actions, they
merit not praise any more than blame. Free will and
responsibility are recognized as facts in our daily experience;
so we may take our choice between a philosophy that gives the lie
to experience and one that explains experience.
Now as to free will, it may be that in some dry philosophic sense
no will can be free, inasmuch as it must be conditioned by a
motive of some kind. But such a meaning does not concern us when
considering practical affairs. It is enough to know that our
will is not a slave to the complex of influences that compose our
mental and psychic nature. Experience tells us that varying
degrees of freedom obtain among men; some being driven by their
desires or drifting easily in a current, while others are able to
resist such influences and to steer a course that they have set
themselves. There is no limit to the extent to which a human
will may liberate itself from the tangle of thoughts and desires,
in order that it may carry out high ideals. At the heart of all
beings is infinity, eternity, godhood; and the particular being
called Man has reached the stage of evolution where he is able to
will his own progress self-consciously toward infinite heights.
It is important to notice that, in our day, metaphysics,
philosophy, and psychology have been separated from religion and
pursued as independent studies; while natural science again has
been regarded as independent. Such a sundering of the field of
inquiry is bound to be disastrous to the quest for truth. The
search for truth should recognize no such departments. The great
practical maxim of religion and philosophy alike is that truth is
revealed to the cleansed mind, to the liberated heart. The
gospel of Love, claimed by some religions as their peculiar
prerogative, but actually the common property of religions,
simply means that the aspirant to knowledge must abandon the
personal and acquisitive motive that is the essence of ordinary
human life, and replace it by a far higher and broader motive,
for which the word "Love" is but one of many inadequate epithets.
We must evoke the noetic side of our nature.
In the terminology used by Theosophy, Manas, "mind," the center
of self-consciousness in man, is subject to two attractions, one
from below, the other from above.
The lower influence is Kama, or passional and instinctual desire;
the higher influence is Buddhi, the spiritual center in man.
Man's mind oscillates between these two influences, and this is
the source of his tribulations. If it fall under the influence
of Kama, he becomes worse than a beast, because desire, which in
animals is limited to harmless naturalness, is in man intensified
by its alliance with self-consciousness and intellect. But if
Manas be allied with Buddhi, the great At-One-ment is achieved,
and man becomes a conscious god.
Theosophy is preeminently scientific and recognizes facts; nor
seeks to hustle them out of sight in order to preserve the
integrity of some world-view based on physical science.
Theosophy interprets human nature as we find it. How much better
to have a philosophy that interprets life instead of being at
variance with it; which encourages our best instincts instead of
H.P. Blavatsky, in the article referred to, next proceeds to
define the difference between noetic and psychic mental
functions; a difference usually ignored, to the great confusion
> To describe, as the physiologists do, the human Soul in its
> relations to senses and appetites, desires and passions, common
> to man and the brute, and then endow it with Godlike intellect,
> with spiritual and rational faculties that can take their source
> but in a SUPERSENSIBLE world, is to throw forever the veil of an
> impenetrable mystery over the subject. Yet in modern science,
> "psychology" and "psychism" relate only to conditions of the
> nervous system, mental phenomena being traced solely to molecular
> action. The higher noetic character of the Mind-Principle is
> entirely ignored, and even rejected as a "superstition" by both
> physiologists and psychologists.
Man can thus be truly said to have two selves: his real Self and
its mortal ever-changing reflection. The Higher Self is ever the
same throughout incarnations, but the lower self, manifesting
through our organic system, changes with each incarnation. It
imagines itself to be the real Self, thus falling into what
Buddhist philosophy calls the 'heresy of separateness.' To the
real Self is given the name of Individuality, by contrast with
Personality, which is a name for the lower self. From the Higher
Self proceed the noetic impulses; from the lower self proceed the
psychic, animal, passional impulses.
The Higher Self cannot act directly on the body, but the lower
self does. The Higher Self acts indirectly on the body through
the mediation of the lower self; for the latter, by its power of
choice, can gravitate towards the animal nature, or aspire to the
The body of man is compared by H.P. Blavatsky to:
> An Aeolian harp, chorded with two sets of strings, one made of
> pure silver, the other of catgut. When the breath from the
> divine Fiat brushes softly over the former, man becomes like unto
> HIS God -- but the other set feels it not. It needs the breeze
> of a strong terrestrial wind, impregnated with animal effluvia,
> to set its animal chords vibrating. It is the function of the
> physical, lower mind to act upon the physical organs and their
> cells; but it is the higher mind ALONE that can influence the
> atoms interacting in those cells, which interaction is alone
> capable of exciting the brain, VIA THE SPINAL "CENTER" CORD, to a
> mental representation of spiritual ideas far beyond any objects
> on this material plane. The phenomena of divine consciousness
> have to be regarded as activities of our mind on another and a
> higher plane, working through something less substantial than the
> moving molecules of the brain.
This shows the difference between the pure noetic visions of real
seership and the psychic visions of mediumship. The former can
only be attained after the impulses of the lower passional and
personal nature have been entirely subdued -- nay, when even the
very memory of them has been obliterated; and this requires a
long course of training in unselfish devotion and instruction
under the guidance of a Teacher. Without this, any light that
may come from above will be tinged with reflections from the
personal nature and will mislead. Though we may not be advanced
enough to have these pure visions, still anybody, even the
humblest, may obtain light from the central core of his nature,
in the form of those intuitions that prompt us to right action.
Such guidance may be recognized by its being always on the side
of impersonality and unselfishness, and by its being free from
emotional disturbance, however lofty the latter may seem.
The influences of the spiritual planes are formless, so beware of
figures and voices. How many visionaries have pointed in
evidence to the very signs that should have served to warn them
and us! The fact of a vision, of a voice, is sure evidence that
the communication is not from the highest source. Again, what
seems so sacred to the recipient is by no means so convincing to
others; and each such visionary has his own special message,
different from those of others, sufficient only to gather around
him a small body of followers, if even that. Sure proofs, these,
of the terrestrial, of the personal, quality of the visions.
Never was more need than today of the distinction between the
celestial and the terrestrial in 'supernormal' mental phenomena,
a day when people are running after every new and strange thing.
Pitiful that a real hunger should be fed on such husks! And how
urgent that the pure sacred teachings of the Ancient Wisdom
should be spread!
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application