The Writings of Annie Besant
The Ancient Wisdom
First published 1897
THE UNITY UNDERLYING ALL RELIGIONS
Right thought is necessary to right conduct, right understanding to right living, and the Divine Wisdom – whether called by its ancient Sanskrit name of Brahma Vidya, or its modern Greek name of Theosophia, Theosophy – comes to the world as at once an adequate philosophy and an all-embracing religion and ethic.
It was once said of the Christian Scriptures by a devotee that they contained shallows in which a child could wade and depths in which a giant must swim. A similar statement might be made of Theosophy, for some of its teachings are so simple and so practical that any person of average intelligence can understand
and follow them, while others are so lofty, so profound, that the ablest strains his intellect to contain them and sinks exhausted in the effort.
In the present volume an attempt will be made to place Theosophy before the reader simply and clearly, in a way which shall convey its general principles and truths as forming a coherent conception of the universe, and shall give such
detail as is necessary for the understanding of their relations to each other.
An elementary textbook cannot pretend to give the fullness of knowledge that may be obtained from abstruser works, but it should leave the student with clear fundamental ideas on his subject, with much indeed to add by future study but
with little to unlearn. Into the outline given by such a book the student should be able to paint the details of further research.
It is admitted on all hands that a survey of the great religions of the world shows that they hold in common many religious, ethical, and philosophical ideas. But while the fact is universally granted, the explanation of the fact is a matter of dispute.
Some allege that religions have grown up on the soil of human ignorance tilled by the imagination, and have been gradually elaborated from crude forms of animism and fetishism; their likenesses are referred to universal natural phenomena imperfectly observed and fancifully explained, solar and star worship being the universal key for one school, phallic worship the equally universal key for another ; fear, desire, ignorance, and wonder led the savage to personify the powers of nature, and priests played upon his terrors and his hopes, his misty fancies, and his bewildered questionings ; myths became scriptures and symbols facts, and their basis was universal the likeness of the
products was inevitable.
Thus speak the doctors of"Comparative Mythology," and plain people are silenced but not convinced under the rain of proofs ; they cannot deny the likenesses, but they dimly feel: Are all man’s dearest hopes and lofty imaginings nothing more than the outcome of savage fancies and of groping ignorance? Have the great leaders of the race, the martyrs and heroes of
humanity, lived, wrought, suffered and died deluded, for the mere personifications of astronomical facts and for the draped obscenities of barbarians?
The second explanation of the common property in the religions of the world asserts the existence of an original teaching in the custody of a Brotherhood of greatspiritual Teachers, who – Themselves the outcome of past cycles of evolution – acted as the instructors and guides of the child-humanity of our
planet, imparting to its races and nations in turn the fundamental truths of religion in the form most adapted to the idiosyncrasies of the recipients.
According to this view, the Founders of the great religions are members of the one Brotherhood, and were aided in Their mission by many other members, lower in degree than Themselves, Initiates and disciples of various grades, eminent in spiritual insight, in philosophical knowledge, or in purity of ethical wisdom.
These guided the infant nations, gave them their polity, enacted their laws, ruled them as kings, taught them as philosophers, guided them as priests ; all the nations of antiquity looked back to such mighty men, demigods, and heroes, and they left their traces in literature, in architecture, in legislation.
That such men lived it seems difficult to deny in the face of universal tradition, of still existing Scriptures, and of prehistoric remains for the most part now in ruins, to say nothing of other testimony which the ignorant would reject.
The sacred books of the East are the best evidence for the greatness of their authors, for who in later days or in modern times can even approach the spiritual sublimity of their religious thought, the intellectual splendour of their philosophy, the breadth and purity of their ethic? And when we find that
these books contain teachings about God, man, and the universe identical in substance under much variety of outer appearance, it does not seem unreasonable to refer to them to a central primary body of doctrine. To that body we give the name Divine Wisdom, in its Greek form: THEOSOPHY.
As the origin and basis of all religions, it cannot be the antagonist of any: it is indeed their purifier, revealing the valuable inner meaning of much that has
become mischievous in its external presentation by the perverseness of ignorance and the accretions of superstition ; but it recognises and defends itself in each, and seeks in each to unveil its hidden wisdom. No man in becoming a Theosophist need cease to be a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu ; he will but
acquire a deeper insight into his own faith, a firmer hold on its spiritual truths, a broader understanding of its sacred teachings. As Theosophy of old gave birth to religions, so in modern times does it justify and defend them. It is the rock whence all of them were hewn, the hole of the pit whence all were dug. It justifies at the bar of intellectual criticism the deepest longings and
emotions of the human heart: it verifies our hopes for man ; it gives us back ennobled our faith in God.
The truth of this statement becomes more and more apparent as we study the various world-Scriptures, and but a few selections from the wealth of material available will be sufficient to establish the fact, and to guide the student in his search for further verification. The main spiritual verities of religion may
be summarised thus:
One eternal, infinite, incognisable real Existence.
From THAT the manifested God, unfolding from unity to duality to trinity.
From the manifested Trinity many spiritual Intelligences, guiding cosmic
Man a reflection of the manifested God and therefore a trinity fundamentally, his inner and real Self being eternal, one with the Self of the universe.
His evolution by repeated incarnations, into which he is drawn by desire, and from which he is set free by knowledge and sacrifice, becoming divine in potency as he had ever been divine in latency.
China which is now a fossilised civilisation, was peopled in old days by the Turanians, the fourth subdivision of the great Fourth Race, the race which inhabited the lost continent of Atlantis, and spread its offshoots over the world. The Mongolians, the last subdivision of that same race, later reinforced its population, so that in China we have traditions from ancient days, preceding the settlement of the Fifth, or Aryan race in India. In the Ching Chang Ching, or Classic of Purity, we have a fragment of an ancient scripture of singular
beauty, breathing out the spirit of restfulness and peace so characteristic of the "original teaching." Mr. Legge says in the introductory note to his translation [ The Sacred Books of the East] that the treatise –
"Is attributed to Ko Yüan (or Hsüan), a Taoist of the Wü dynasty (A.D. 222-227), who is fabled to have attained to the state of an Immortal, and is generally so denominated. He is represented as a worker of miracles ; as addicted to
intemperance, and very eccentric in his ways. When shipwrecked on one occasion, he emerged from beneath the water with his clothes unwet, and walked freely on the surface. Finally he ascended to the sky in bright day. All these accounts may safely be put down as the figments of later time."
Such stories are repeatedly told of Initiates of various degrees, and are by no means necessarily "figments," but we are more interested in Ko Yüan’s own account of the book.
"When I obtained
the true Tao, I recited this Ching [book] ten thousand times. It is what the
Spirits of heaven practise and had not been communicated to scholars of this
lower world. I got if from the Divine Ruler of the
the Royal-mother of the West.
Now the "Divine
Ruler of the
deals with Tao – literally "the Way’ – the name by which the One Reality is indicated in the ancient Turanian and Mongolian religion. We read: "The Great Tao has no bodily form, but It produced and nourishes heaven and earth. The Great Tao has no passions, but It causes the sun and the moon to revolve as they do. The Great Tao has no name, but It effects the growth and
maintenance of all things. (i,1)
This is the manifested God as unity, but duality supervenes:
Now the Tao (shows itself in two forms), the Pure and the Turbid, and has (two conditions of) Motion and Rest, Heaven is pure and earth is turbid ; heaven moves and the earth is at rest . The masculine is pure and the feminine is turbid ; the masculine moves and the feminine is still. The radical (Purity) descended, and the (turbid) issue flowed abroad, and thus all things were
produced (I, 2).
This passage is particularly interesting from the allusion to the active and receptive sides of Nature, the distinction between Spirit, the generator, and Matter, the nourisher, so familiar in later writings. In the Tao Te Ching the teaching as to the Unmanifested and the Manifested comes out very plainly.
"The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name. Having no name, it is the Originator of heaven and earth, having a name, it is the Mother of all things…Under these two aspects it is really the same ; but as development takes place it receives the different names. Together we call them the Mystery (i, 1,2,4). " Students of the Kabalah will be reminded of one of the Divine Names, "the Concealed Mystery." Again:
"There was something undefined and complete, coming into existence before heaven and earth. How still it was and formless, standing alone and undergoing no change, reaching everywhere and in no danger (of being exhausted). It may be regarded as the Mother of all things. I do not know its name, and I give it the
designation of the Tao. Making an effort to give it a name, I call it the Great. Great, it passes on ( in constant flow). Passing on, it becomes remote. Having become remote, it returns (xxv, 1-3). "
Very interesting it is to see here the idea of the forthgoing and the returning of the One Life, so familiar to us in the Hindu Literature. Familiar seems the verse: "All things under heaven sprang from It as existent (and named) ; that existence
sprang from It as non-existent (and not named) (xl,2)".
That a Universe might become, the Unmanifest must give forth the One from whom duality and trinity proceed:
"The Tao produced One ; One produced Two ; Two produced Three ; Three produced all things. All things leave behind them the Obscurity (out of which they have come), and go forward to embrace the Brightness (into which they have emerged), while they are harmonised by the Breath of vacancy (xlii, 1)."
"Breath of Space" would be a happier translation. Since all is produced from It, It exists in all:
"All pervading is the Great Tao. It may be found on the left hand and on the right …It clothes all things as with a garment, and makes no assumption of being their lord ; - It may be named in the smallest things. All things return (to their root and disappear), and do not know that it is It which presides over
their doing so – It may be named in the greatest things (xxxiv, 1, 2 )." Chwang-ze (fourth century BC) in his presentation of the ancient teachings, refers to the spiritual Intelligences coming from the Tao:
"It has Its root and ground (of existence) in Itself. Before there were heaven and earth, from of old, there It was securely existing. From It came the mysterious existence of spirits, from It the mysterious existence of God (Bk. vi, Pt. I, Sec. vi, 7)."
A number of the names of these Intelligences follow, but such beings are so well known to play a great part in the Chinese religion that we need not multiply quotations about them.
Man is regarded as a trinity, Taoism, says Mr. Legge, recognising in him the spirit, the mind, and the body. This division comes out clearly in the /Classic of Purity, in the teaching that man must get rid of desire to reach union with
Now the spirit of man loves purity, but his mind disturbs it. The mind of man loves stillness, but his desires draw it away. If he could always send his desires away, his mind of itself would be still. Let his mind be made clean, and his spirit of itself becomes pure ….The reason why men are not able to attain to
this is because their minds have not been cleansed, and their desires have not been sent away. If one is able to send the desires away, when he then looks at his mind it is no longer his: when he looks out at his body it is no longer his ; and when he looks farther off at external things, they are things which he has
nothing to do with ..(i, 3, 4).
Then, after giving the stages of indrawing to "the condition of perfect stillness," it is asked:
"In that condition of rest independently of place, how can any desire arise? And when no desire any longer arises there is the true stillness and rest. That true (stillness) becomes (a) constant quality, and responds to external things (without error) ; yea, that true and constant quality holds possession of the
nature. In such constant response and constant stillness there is constant purity and rest. He who has this absolute purity enters gradually into the (inspiration of the ) True Tao (i, 5)."
The supplied words "inspiration of" rather cloud than elucidate the meaning, for entering into the Tao is congruous with the whole idea and with other Scriptures.
On putting away of desire is laid much stress in Taoism ; a commentator on the Classic of Purity remarks that understanding the Tao depends on absolute purity, and
The acquiring the Absolute Purity depends entirely on the putting away of Desire, which is the urgent practical lesson of the Treatise. The Tao Teh Ching says:
Always without desire we must be found,
If its deep mystery we would sound;
But if desire always within us be,
Its outer fringe is all that we shall see.( i, 3)
Reincarnation does not seem to be so distinctly taught as might have been expected, although passages are found which imply that the main idea was taken for granted and that the entity was considered as ranging through animal as well as human births. Thus we have from Chwang-ze the quaint and wise story of a
dying man, to whom his friend said:
"Great indeed is the Creator! What will He now make you to become? Where will He take you to? Will he make you the liver of a rat or the arm of an insect? Szelai replied, "Wherever a parent tells a son to go, east, west, south or north, he simply follows the command …Here now is a great founder, casting his metal. If the metal were to leap up (in the pot) and say, ‘I must be made into a (sword like the ) Moysh,’ the great founder would be sure to regard it as uncanny. So again, when a form is being fashioned in the mould of the womb, if it were to say, ‘I must become a man, I must become a man,’ the Creator would be sure to regard it as uncanny. When we once understand that heaven and earth are a great melting pot and the Creator a great founder, where can we to go to that shall not be right for us? We are born as from a quiet sleep and we die to a calm awaking" (Bk. vi, Pt. I, Sec. vi).
Turning to the Fifth, the Aryan Race, we have the same teachings embodied in the oldest and greatest Aryan religion – the Brahmanical. The eternal Existence is proclaimed in the Chhandogyopanishad as "One only, without a second," and it is written:
It willed, I shall multiply for the sake of the universe (vi, ii, 1, 3).
The Supreme Logos, Brahman, is threefold – Being, Consciousness, Bliss, and it is said:
From This arise life, mind and all the senses, ether, air, fire , water, earth the support of all ( Mundakopanishad, ii,3).
No grander descriptions of Deity can be found anywhere than in the Hindu Scriptures, but they are becoming so familiar that brief quotation will suffice. Let the following serve as specimens of their wealth of gems:
"Manifest, near, moving in the secret place, the great abode, herein rests all that moves, breathes, and shuts the eyes. Know That as to be worshipped, being and non-being, the best, beyond the knowledge of all creatures. Luminous, subtler than the subtle, in which the worlds and their denizens are infixed.
That, this imperishable Brahman ; That, also life and voice and mind…In the golden highest sheath is spotless, partless Brahman ; That the pure Light of lights, known by the knowers of the Self…That deathless Brahman is before, Brahman behind, Brahman to the right and to the left, below, above, pervading ;
this Brahman truly is the all. This is the best ( Mundakopanishad , II,ii, 1,2,9,11).
Beyond the universe, Brahman, the supreme, the great, hidden in all beings according to their bodies, the one Breath of the whole universe, the Lord, whom knowing (men) become immortal. I know that mighty Spirit, the shining sun beyond darkness… I know Him the unfading, the ancient, the Soul of all, omnipresent by His nature, whom the Brahman-knowers call unborn, whom they call eternal (Shvetashvataropanishad, iii. 7,8,21).
When there is no darkness, no day nor night, no being nor non-being (there is) Shiva even alone ; That the indestructible, That is to be worshipped by Savriti, from That came forth the ancient wisdom. Not above nor below, nor in the midst, can He be comprehended. Nor is there any similitude for Him whose name is infinite glory. Not with the sight is established His form, none may by the eye behold Him ; they who know Him by the heart and by the mind, dwelling in the heart, become immortal (Ibid., iv, 18-20).
That man in his inner Self is one with the Self of the universe – "I am That" – is an idea that so thoroughly pervades all Hindu thought that man is often referred to as the "divine town of Brahman," [ Mundakopanishad ] the "town of nine gates," [ Shvetâshvataropanishad, iii,14. ] God dwelling in the cavity of
the heart.[ Ibid., Ii]
"In one manner is to be seen (the Being) which cannot be proved, which is eternal, without spot, higher than the ether, unborn, the great eternal Soul…This great unborn Soul is the same which abides as the intelligent (soul) in all living creatures, the same which abides as ether in the heart ; [ The "ether in the heart" is a mystical phrase used to indicate the One, who is said
to dwell therein.] - in him it sleeps; it is the Subduer of all, the Ruler of all, the sovereign Lord of all ; it does not become greater by good works nor less by evil work. It is the Ruler of all, the sovereign Lord of all beings, the Preserver of all beings, the Bridge, the Upholder of the worlds, so that they fall not to ruin ( Brihadaranyakopanishad, IV, iv, 20,22, Trs. Dr. E. Röer.)
When God is regarded as the evolver of the universe, the threefold character comes out very clearly as Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma or again as Vishnu sleeping under the waters, the Lotus springing from Him, and in the Lotus Brahma. Man is likewise threefold, and in the Mândűkyopanishad the self is described as conditioned by the physical body, the subtle body, and the mental body, and then rising out of all into the One "without duality." From the Trimurti (Trinity) come many Gods, connected with the administration of the universe, as to whom it is said in the Brihadaranyakopanishad.
"Adore Him, ye Gods, after whom the year by rolling days is completed, the Light of lights, as the Immortal Life (IV, iv, 16)."
It is hardly necessary to mention the presence in Brâhmanism of the teaching of reincarnation, since its whole philosophy of life turns on this pilgrimage of the Soul through many births and deaths, and not a book could be taken up in which this truth is not taken for granted. By desires man is bound to this wheel
of change, and therefore by knowledge, devotion, and the destruction of desires, man must set himself free. When the Soul knows God it is liberated. ( Shvetash, I, 8.) The intellect purified by knowledge beholds Him. ( Mund., III, I,8 .) Knowledge joined to devotion finds the abode of Brahman. ( Mund., III, ii,4).
Whoever knows Brahman, becomes Brahman. ( Mund., III, ii,9 ) When desires cease the mortal becomes immortal and obtains Brahman. ( Kathop., vi, 14). Buddhism, as it exists in its northern form, is quite at one with the most ancient faiths, but in the southern form it seems to have let slip the idea of the Logoic Trinity as of the One Existence from which They came forth. The LOGOS in His triple manifestation is: the First LOGOS, Amitâbha, the Boundless Light ; the Second, Avalokiteshvara, or Padmapani (Chenresi) ; the Third, Manjusri – "the representative of creative wisdom, corresponding to Brahmâ." ( Eitel’s Sanskrit Chinese Dictionary, sub voce. ) Chinese Buddhism apparently does not contain the idea of a primordial Existence, beyond the LOGOS, but Nepalese Buddhism postulates Âdi-Buddha, from Whom Amitâbha arises. Padmapâni is said by Eitel to be the representative of compassionate Providence and to correspond partly with Shiva, but as the aspect of the Buddhist Trinity that sends forth incarnations He appears rather to represent the same idea as Vishnu, to whom He is allied by bearing the Lotus (fire and water, or Spirit and Matter as the primary constituents of the universe).
Reincarnation and Karma are so much the fundamentals of Buddhism that it is hardly worth while to insist on them save to note the way of liberation, and to remark that as the Lord Buddha was a Hindu preaching to Hindus, Brâhmanical
doctrines are taken for granted constantly in His teaching, as matters of course. He was a purifier and a reformer, not an iconoclast, and struck at the accretions due to ignorance, not at fundamental truths belonging to the Ancient Wisdom.
"Those beings who walk in the way of the law that has been well taught, reach the other shore of the great sea of birth and death, that is difficult to cross." (Udanavarga, xxix. 37).
Desire binds man, and must be gotten rid of:
"It is hard for one who is held by the fetters of desire to free himself of them, says the Blessed One. The steadfast, who care not for the happiness of desires, cast them off and do soon depart (to Nirvana)….Mankind has no lasting desires: they are impermanent in them who experience them ; free yourselves then from what cannot last, and abide not in the sojourn of death ( Ibid., Ii, 6, 8).
He who has destroyed desires for (worldly )goods, sinfulness, the bonds of the eye of the flesh, who has torn up desire by the very root, he, I declare, is a Brahmana (Ibid., xxxiii, 68)."
And a Brâhmana is a man "having his last body," (Udânavarga, xxxiii, 41) and is defined as one.
"Who, knowing his former abodes (existences) perceives heaven and hell, the Muni, who has found the way to put an end to birth". (ibid., xxxiii,55). In the exoteric Hebrew Scriptures, the idea of a Trinity does not come out strongly, though duality is apparent, and the God spoken of is obviously the LOGOS, not the One Unmanifest: "I am the Lord and there is none else. I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil ; I am the Lord that doeth all these things." (Is., xlvii, 7) Philo, however, has the doctrine of the LOGOS very clearly, and it is found in the Fourth Gospel:
"In the beginning was the Word [Logos] and the Word was with God and the Word was God….All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. (St. John i, 1, 3).
In the Kabalah the doctrine of the One, the Three, the Seven, and then the many, is plainly taught:
The Ancient of the Ancients, the Unknown of the Unknown, has a form, yet also has not any form. It has a form through which the universe is maintained. It also has not any form, as It cannot be comprehended. When It first took this form [Kether, the Crown, the First Logos] It permitted to proceed from It nine brilliant Lights [Wisdom and the Voice, forming with Kether the Triad, and then the seven lower Sephiroth] …It is the Ancient of the Ancients, the Mystery of the Mysteries, the Unknown of the Unknown.
It has a form which appertains to It, since It appears (through it) to us, as the Ancient Man above all as the Ancient of the Ancients, and as that which there is the Most Unknown among the Unknown. But under that form by which It makes Itself known, It however still remains the Unknown (Issac Myer’s Qabbalah, from the Zohar, pp. 274-275).
Myer points out that the "form" is "not ‘the Ancient of the Ancients,’ who is the Ain Soph. Again:
"Three Lights are in the Holy Upper which Unite as One ; and they are the basis of the Thorah, and this opens the door to all….Come, see! the mystery of the word. These are three degrees and each exists by itself, and yet all are One and are knotted in One, nor are they separated one from another….Three come out from One, One exists in Three, it is the force between Two, Two nourishes One. One nourishes many sides, thus All is One. (ibid., 373, 375,376).
Needless to say that the Hebrews held the doctrine of many Gods – "Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the Gods?" –and of multitudes of subordinate ministrants, the "Sons of God," the "Angels of the Lord," the "Ten Angelic Hosts."(Exodus, xv,ii.)
Of the commencement of the universe the Zohar teaches:
In the beginning was the Will of the King, prior to any existence which came into being through emanation from this Will. It sketched and engraved the forms of all things that were to be manifested from concealment into view, in the supreme and dazzling light of the Quadrant [the Sacred Tetractys] (Myer’s
Quabbalah, pp. 194-95).
Nothing can exist in which the Deity is not immanent, and with regard to Reincarnation it is taught that the Soul is present in the divine Idea ere coming to earth ; if the Soul remained quite pure during its trial it escaped rebirth, but this seems to have been only a theoretical possibility, and it is said:
All souls are subject to revolution (metempsychosis, a’leen o’gilgoolah), but men do not know the ways of the Holy One: blessed be It! they are ignorant of the way they have been judged in all time, and before they came into this world and when they have quitted it (ibid., p. 198).
Traces of this belief occur both in the Hebrew and Christian exoteric
Scriptures, as in the belief that Elijah would return, and later that he had
returned in John the Baptist.
Turning to glance at
The Gods bow before Thy Majesty by exalting the Souls of That which produceth them….and say to Thee: Peace to all emanations from the unconscious father of the conscious Fathers of the Gods…..Thou Producer of beings, we adore the Souls which emanate from Thee. Thou begettest us, O Thou Unknown, and we greet Thee in worshipping each God-Soul which descendeth from Thee and liveth in us (quoted in Secret Doctrine iii, 485, 1893 ed.; v, 463, Adyar Ed.).
The "conscious Fathers of the Gods" are the LOGOI, the "unconscious Father" is the One Existence, unconscious not as being less but as being infinitely more than what we call consciousness, a limited thing.
In the fragments of the Book of the Dead we can study the conceptions of the reincarnating of the human Soul, of its pilgrimage towards and its ultimate union with the LOGOS. The famous papyrus of "the scribe Ani, triumphant in peace," is full of touches that remind the reader of the Scriptures of other
faiths ; his journey through the underworld, his expectation of re-entering his body (the form taken by reincarnation among the Egyptians), his identification with the LOGOS:
Saith Osiris Ani: I am the great One, son of the great One ; I am Fire, the son of Fire …I have knit together my bones, I have made myself whole and sound ; I have become young once more ; I am Osiris the Lord of eternity (xliii, 1, 4 ).
In Pierret’s recension of The Book of the Dead we find the striking passage:
I am the being of mysterious names who prepares for himself dwellings for millions of years (p. 22). Heart, that comest to me from my mother, my heart necessary to my existence on earth …Heart, that comest to me from my mother, heart that is necessary for me for my transformation (pp. 113-114).
In Zoroastrianism we find the conception of the One Existence, imaged as Boundless Space, whence arises the LOGOS, the creator Aűharmazd: Supreme in omniscience and goodness, and unrivalled in splendor: the region of light is the place of Aűharmazd (The Bundahis, Sacred Books of the East, v, 3,
4; v, 2).
To him in the Yasna, the chief liturgy of the Zarathustrians, homage is first paid:
I announce and I (will) complete (my Yasna [worship] to Ahura Mazda, the creator, the radiant and glorious, the greatest and the best, the most beautiful (?) (to our conceptions), the most firm, the wisest, and the one of all whose body is most perfect, who attains his ends the most infallibly, because of His
righteous order, to Him who disposes our minds aright, who sends His joy-creating grace afar ; who made us and has fashioned us, and who has nourished and protected us, who is the most bounteous Spirit (Sacred Books of the East, xxxi, pp. 195,196).
The worshipper then pays homage to the Ameshaspends and other Gods, but the supreme manifested God, the LOGOS, is not here presented as triune. As with the Hebrews, there was a tendency in the exoteric faith to lose sight of this
fundamental truth. Fortunately we can trace the primitive teaching, though it disappeared in later times from the popular belief. Dr. Haug, in his Essays on the Parsis (translated by Dr. West and forming vol. v of Trubner’s Oriental Series) states that Ahuramazda – Aűharmazd or Hârmazd – is the Supreme Being, and that from him were produced – Two primeval causes, which, though different were united and produced the world of material things as well as that of the spirit (p. 303).
These were called twins and are everywhere present, in Ahuramazda as well as in man. One produces reality, the other non-reality, and it is these who in later Zoroastrianism became the opposing Spirits of good and evil. In the earlier teachings they evidently formed the Second Logos, duality being his
The "good" and "bad" are merely Light and Darkness, Spirit and Matter, the fundamental "twins" of the Universe, the Two from the One. Criticising the later idea, Dr. Haug says:
Such is the original Zoroastrian notion of the two creative Spirits, who form only two parts of the Divine being. But in the course of time this doctrine of the great founder was changed and corrupted, in consequence of misunderstandings and false interpretations. Spentômainyush [ the "good spirit"] was taken as a name of Ahuramazda Himself, and then of course Angrômainyush [ the "evil spirit"] by becoming entirely separated from Ahuramazda ; was regarded as the constant adversary of Ahuramazda: thus the Dualism of God and Devil arose (p. 205).
Dr. Haug’s view seems to be supported by the Gâtha Ahunavaiti, given with other Gâthas by "the archangels" to Zoroaster or Zarathustra:
In the beginning there was a pair of twins, two spirits, each of a peculiar activity ; these are the good and the base …And these two spirits united created the first (the material things) ; one the reality, the other the non-reality …And to succor this life (to increase it) Armaiti came with wealth, the good and
true mind ; she, the everlasting one, created the material world….All perfect things are garnered up in the splendid residence of the Good Mind, the Wise and the Righteous, who are known as the best beings (Yas., xxx, 3,4,7,10; Dr. Haug’s translation, pp.149-151).
Here the three LOGOI are seen, Ahuramazda the first, the supreme Life ; in and from him the "twins," the Second LOGOS ; then Armaiti the Mind, the Creator of the Universe, the Third LOGOS. ( Armaiti was a first Wisdom and the Goddess of Wisdom, Later as the creator, She became identified with the earth, and was worshipped as the Goddess of Earth). Later Mithra appears, and in the exoteric faith clouds the primitive truth to some extent ; of him it is said:
Whom Ahura Mazda has established to maintain and look over all this moving world ; who, never sleeping, wakefully guards the creation of Mazda (Mihir Yast, xxvii, 103: Sacred Books of the East, xviii).
He was a subordinate God, the Light of Heaven, as Varuna was the Heaven itself, one of the great ruling Intelligences. The highest of these ruling Intelligences were the six Ameshaspends, headed by the Good Thought of Ahuramazda, Vohűman – Who have charge of the whole material creation (Sacred Books of the East,v. p. 10 note).
Reincarnation does not seem to be taught in the books which, so far, have been translated, and the belief is not current among modern Parsis. But we do find the idea of the Spirit in man as a spark that is to become a flame and to be reunited to the Supreme Fire, and this must imply a development for which
rebirth is a necessity. Nor will Zoroastrianism ever be understood until we recover the Chaldean Oracles and allied writings, for there is its real root.
Travelling westward to
According to the theology of Orpheus, all things originate from an immense principle, to which through the imbecility and poverty of human conception we give a name, though it is perfectly ineffable, and in the reverential language of the Egyptians in a thrice unknown darkness in contemplation of which all knowledge is refunded into ignorance (Thomas Taylor, quoted in Orpheus, ). From this the "Primordial Triad," Universal Good, Universal Soul, Universal Mind, again the Logoic Trinity. Of this Mr. Mead writes:
The first Triad, which is manifestable to intellect, is but a reflection of, or substitute for the Unmanifestable, and its hypostases are:
(a) the Good, which is super-essential;
(b) Soul (the World Soul), which is a self-motive essence;
(c) Intellect (or the Mind), which is an impartible, immovable essence
(ibid., p. 94).
After this, a series of ever-descending Triads, showing the characteristics of the first in diminishing splendor until man is reached, who – Has in him potentially the sum and substance of the universe…"The race of men and gods is one (Pindar, who was a Pythagorean, quoted by Clemens, Strom., v.709)…Thus man was called the microcosm or little world, to distinguish him
from the universe or great world (ibid., p. 271).
He has the Nous, or real mind, the Logos or rational part, the Alogos or irrational part, the two latter again forming a Triad, and thus presenting the more elaborate septenary division. The man was also regarded as having three vehicles, the physical and subtle bodies and the luciform body or augoeides, that:
Is the "causal body," or karmic vesture of the soul, in which its destiny, or rather all the seeds of past causation are stored. This is the "thread-soul," as it is sometimes called, the "body" that passes over from one incarnation to another (ibid., p. 284).
As to reincarnation:
Together with all the adherents of the Mysteries in every land the Orphics believed in reincarnation (ibid., p. 292).
To this Mr. Mead brings abundant testimony, and he shows that it was taught by Plato, Empedocles, Pythagoras, and others. Only by virtue could men escape from the life-wheel.
Taylor in his notes to the Select Works of Plotinus, quotes from Damascius as to the teachings of Plato on the One beyond the One, the Unmanifest Existence:
Perhaps indeed, Plato leads us ineffably through the one as a medium to the ineffable beyond the one which is now the subject of discussion ; and this by an ablation of the one in the same manner as he leads to the one by an ablation of other things…That which is beyond the one is to be honoured in the most perfect silence…The one indeed wills to be by itself, but with no other ; but the unknown beyond the one is perfectly ineffable, which we acknowledge we neither know, nor are ignorant of, but which has about itself super-ignorance.
Hence by proximity to this the one itself is darkened ; for being near to the immense principle, if it be lawful so to speak, it remains as it were in the adytum of the truly mystic silence…The first is above the one and all things, being more
simple than either of these (pp.341-343).
The Pythagorean, Platonic, and Neo-Platonic schools have so many points of contact with Hindu and Buddhist thought that their issue from the one fountain is obvious. R. Garbe, in his work, Die Samkhya Philosophie (iii,pp.85-105) presents many of these points, and his statement may be summarised as follows:
The most striking is the resemblance – or more correctly the identity – of the doctrine of the One and Only in the Upanishads and the Eleatic school. Xenophanes’ teaching of the unity of God and the Kosmos and of the changelessness of the One, and even more that of Parmenides, who held that reality is ascribable only to the One unborn, indestructible and omnipresent, while all that is manifold and subject to change is but an appearance, and
further that Being and Thinking are the same – these doctrines are completely identical with the essential contents of the Upanishads and of the Vedântic philosophy which springs from them. But even earlier still the view of Thales, that all that exists has sprung from Water, is curiously like the VaidiK
doctrine that the Universe arose from the waters. Later on Anaximander assumed as the basis (????) of all things an eternal, infinite, and indefinite Substance, from which all definite substances proceed and into which they return – an assumption identical with that which lies at the root of the Sankhya, viz., the Prakrti from which the whole material side of the universe evolved.
And his famous saying p??ta ´?eî (panta rhei) expresses the characteristic view of the Sânkhya that all things are ever changing under the ceaseless activity of the three gunas. Empedocles again taught theories of transmigration and
evolution practically the same as those of the Sânkhyas, while his theory that nothing can come into being which does not already exist is even more closely identical with a characteristically Sânkhyan doctrine.
Both Anaxagoras and Democritus also present several points of close agreement, especially the latter’s view as to the nature and position of the Gods, and the same applies, notably in some curious matters of detail, to Epicurus. But it is, however, in the teachings of Pythagoras that we find the closest and most
frequent identities of teachings and argumentation, explained as due
to Pythagoras himself having visited
into relation with matter, in which the Light can be lessened and at last quite obscured, in which case the Intelligence falls finally into complete unconsciousness.
Of the highest Intelligence it is maintained that it is neither Light nor Not-Light, neither Darkness nor Not-Darkness, since all those expressions denote relations of the Intelligence to the Light, which indeed in the beginning was free from these connections, but later on encloses the Intelligence and mediates its connection with matter. It follows from this that the Buddhist view ascribes to the highest Intelligence the power to produce light from itself, and that in this respect also there is an agreement between Buddhism and Gnosticism. Garbe here points out that, as regards the features alluded to, the agreement between Gnosticism and Sânkhya is very much closer than that with Buddhism ; for while these views as to the relations between Light and Spirit pertain to the later phases of Buddhism, and are not at all fundamental to, or characteristic of it as such, the Sânkhya teaches clearly and precisely that Spirit is Light.
Later still the influence of the Sânkhya thought is very plainly evident in the Neo-Platonic writers ; while the doctrine of the LOGOS or Word, though not of Sânkhyan origin, shows even in its details that it has been derived from India, where the conception of Vach, the Divine Word, plays so prominent a part in the Brâhmanical system.
Coming to the Christian religion, contemporaneous with the Gnostic and Neo-Platonic systems, we shall find no difficulty in tracing most of the same fundamental teachings with which we have now become so familiar. The threefold LOGOS appears as the Trinity ; the First LOGOS, the fount of all life being the Father ; the dual-natured Second LOGOS the Son, God-man ; the Third, the creative Mind, the Holy Ghost, whose brooding over the waters of chaos brought forth the worlds. Then comes "the seven Spirits of God" [Rev. iv. 5.] and the hosts archangels and angels. Of the One Existence from which all comes and into which all returns, but little is hinted, the Nature that by searching cannot be found out ; but the great doctors of the Church Catholic always posit the unfathomable Deity, incomprehensible, infinite, and therefore necessarily but
One and partless.
Man is made in the
"image of God," [Gen. I, 26-27] and is consequently triple in his nature
– Spirit and Soul and body, [1-Thess. V, 23] he is a "habitation of
God," [Eph. Ii, 22] the "
asked as to Elijah coming before the Messiah, He answered that "Elias is come already and they knew him not." [ Matt. xvii, 12 ].So again we find the disciples taking reincarnation for granted in asking whether blindness from birth was a punishment for a man’s sin and Jesus in answer not rejecting the possibility of ante-natal sin, but only excluding it as causing the blindness in
the special instance. [John, ix, 1-13 ] The remarkable phrase applied to "him that overcometh" in Rev. iii, 12, - that he shall be "a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out", has been taken as signifying escape from rebirth. From the writings of some of the Christian Fathers a good case may be
made our for a current belief in reincarnation ; some argue that only the pre-existence of the Soul is taught, but this view does not seem to me supported by the evidence.
The unity of moral teaching is not less striking, than the unity of the conceptions of the universe and of the experiences of those who rose out of the prison of the body into the freedom of the higher spheres. It is clear that this body of primeval teaching was in the hands of definite custodians, who had schools in which they taught, disciples who studied their doctrines. The identity of these schools and of their discipline stands out plainly when we
study the moral teaching, the demands made on the pupils, and the mental and spiritual states to which they were raised. A caustic division is made in the Tao Teh Ching of the types of scholars:
Scholars of the highest class when they hear about the Tao, earnestly carry it into practice. Scholars of the middle class, when they have hears about it, seem now to keep it and now to lose it. Scholars of the lowest class, when they have heard about it, laugh greatly at it (Sacred Books of the East, xxxix, op. Cit.,
In the same book we read:
The sage puts his own person last, and yet it is found in the foremost place; he treats his person as if it were foreign to him, and yet that person is preserved. It is not because he has no personal and private ends that therefore such ends are realised? (vii,2) – He is free from self-display, and therefore he
shines; from self-assertion, and therefore he is distinguished ; from self-boasting, and therefore his merit is acknowledged, from self-complacency, and therefore he acquires superiority. It is because he is thus free from striving that therefore no one in the world is able to strive with him (xxii, 2). There is no guilt greater than to sanction ambition ; no calamity greater
than to be discontented with one’s lot ; no fault greater than the wish to be getting (xlvi,2).
To those who are good (to me) I am good ; and to those who are not good (to me) I am also good ; and thus all get to be good. To those who are sincere (with me) I am sincere; and to those who are not sincere (with me) I am also sincere ; and thus (all) get to be sincere (xlix, 1).
He who has in himself abundantly the attributes (of the Tâo ) is like an infant. Poisonous insects will not sting him ; fierce beasts will not seize him ; birds of prey will not strike him – ( lv, 1), I have three precious things which I prize and hold fast.
The first is gentleness ; the second is economy ; the third is shrinking from taking precedence of others …Gentleness is sure to be victorious, even in battle, and firmly to maintain its ground. Heaven will save its possessor, by his (very) gentleness protecting him (lxvii,2,4).
Among the Hindus there were selected scholars deemed worthy of special instruction to whom the Guru imparted the secret teachings, while the general rules of right living may be gathered from Manu’s Ordinances, the Upanishads, the Mahâbhârata and many other treatises:
Let him say what is true, let him say what is pleasing, let him utter no disagreeable truth, and let him utter no agreeable falsehood ; that is the eternal law (Manu, iv, 138). Giving no pain to any creature, let him slowly accumulate spiritual merit (iv, 238). For that twice-born man, by whom not the smallest danger even is caused to created beings, there will be no danger from any (quarter) after he is freed from his body (vi, 40). Let him patiently bear hard words, let him not insult anybody, and let him not become anybody’s enemy for the sake of this (perishable) body. Against an angry man let him not in
return show anger, let him bless when he is cursed (vi, 47-48).
Freed from passion, fear and anger, thinking on Me, taking refuge in Me, purified in the fire of Wisdom, many have entered My Being (Bhagavad Gitâ , iv, 10). Supreme joy is for the Yogi whose Manas is peaceful, whose passion-nature is calmed, who is sinless and of the nature of Brahman (iv, 27). He who beareth no ill-will to any being, friendly and compassionate, without attachment and egoism, balanced in pleasure and pain, and forgiving, ever content, harmonious, with the self controlled, resolute, with Manas and Buddhi dedicated to Me – he, My devotee, is dear to Me (xii,13,14)
If we turn to the Buddha, we find Him with His Arhats, to whom His secret teachings were given ; while published we have:
The wise man through earnestness, virtue, and purity makes himself an island which no flood can submerge (Udânavarga, iv, 5 ). The wise man in this world holds fast to faith and wisdom, these are his greatest treasures ; he cast aside all other riches, (x 9). He who bears ill-will to those who bear ill-will can
never become pure ; but he who feels no ill-will pacifies those who hate ; as hatred brings misery to mankind, the sage knows no hatred (xiii, 12). Overcome anger by not being angered ; overcome evil by good ; overcome avarice by liberality ; overcome falsehoods by truth (xx,18).
The Zoroastrian is taught to praise Ahuramazda, and then:
What is fairest, what is pure, what immortal, what brilliant, all that is good. The good spirit we honor, the good kingdom we honor, and the good law, and the good wisdom (Yasna, xxxvii). May there come to this dwelling contentment, blessing, guilelessness, and wisdom of the pure (Yasna, lix). Purity is the best good. Happiness, happiness is to him ; namely, to the best pure in purity (Ashem-vohu). All good thoughts, words, and works are done with knowledge.
All evil thoughts, words, and works are not done with knowledge (Mispa Kumata). ( Selected from the Avesta in Ancient Iranian and Zoroastrian Morals, by Dhunjibhoy Jamsetji Medhora).
The Hebrew had his "schools of the prophets" and his Kabbalah, and in the exoteric books we find the accepted moral teachings:
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord and who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart ; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, not sworn deceitfully (Ps. xxiv,3,4). What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah,vi,8). The lip of truth shall be established for ever ; but a lying tongue is but for a moment (Prov. xii, 19). Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy home? when thou seest the naked that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? (Isa. lviii,6,7).
The Christian teacher had His secret instructions for His disciples, (Matt. xiii, 10-17) – and He bade them:
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine (Matt. vii, 6).
For public teaching we may refer to the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount and to such doctrines as:
I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you….Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matt. v, 44-48). He that findeth his life shall lose it ; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it (x,39). Whoever shall humble himself as this
little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven (xviii, 4). The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance ; against such there is no law (Gal., v, 22-23). Let us love one another ; for love is of God ; and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God ( I John iv, 7 ).
The school of the
Pythagoras and those of the Neo-Platonists kept up the tradition for
the Pythagorean had pledged disciples as well as an outer discipline, the inner circle passing through three degrees during five years of probation. (For details see G.R.S. Mead’s Orpheus, p. 263 et. Seq.). The outer discipline he describes as follows:
We must first give ourselves up entirely to God. When a man prays he should never ask for any particular benefit, fully convinced that that will be given which is right and proper, and according to the wisdom of God and not the subject of our own selfish desires (Diod. Sic. ix, 41). By virtue alone does man
arrive at blessedness, and this is the exclusive privilege of a rational being (Hippodamus, De Felicitate, ii, Orelli, Opusc. Grćcor. Sent. et Moral., Ii, 284). In himself, of his own nature, man is neither good nor happy, but he may become so by the teaching of the true doctrine (µa??s??? ?a?? p?????a?
p?t?d?eta?) – (Hippo, ibid.).
The most sacred duty is filial piety. "God showers his blessings on him who honors and reveres the author of his days," says Pampelus (De Parentibus, Orelli, op. Cit., ii, 345). Ingratitude towards one’s parents is the blackest of all crimes, writes Perictione ( ibid.,p. 350), who is supposed to have been the
mother of Plato. The cleanliness and delicacy of all Pythagorean writings were remarkable (Ślian, Hist. Var., xiv,19). In all that concerns chastity and marriage their principles are of the utmost purity. Everywhere the great teacher recommends chastity and temperance ; but at the same time he directs that the married should first become parents before living a life of absolute celibacy, in order that children might be born under favourable conditions for continuing the holy life and succession of the Sacred Science (Iamblichus, Vit. Pythag., and Hierocl., ap. Stob. Serm. xlv, 14). This is exceedingly interesting, for it is precisely the same regulation that is laid down in the Mânava Dharma Shâstra, the great Indian Code. …Adultery was most sternly condemned (Iamb., ibid.).
Moreover, the most gentle treatment of the wife by the husband was enjoined, for had he not taken her as his companion "before the Gods"? (See Lascaulx. Zur Geschichte der Ehe bei den Griechen, in the Mém. De l’Acad. De Bavičre, vii, 107,sq.).
Marriage was not an
animal union, but a spiritual tie. Therefore, in her turn, the wife should love
her husband even more than herself, and in all things be devoted and obedient.
It is further interesting to remark that the finest characters among women with
The authors of antiquity are agreed that this discipline had succeeded in producing the highest examples not only of the purest chastity and sentiment, but also a simplicity of manners, a delicacy, and a taste for serious pursuits which was unparalleled. This is admitted even by Christian writers (See Justin,
xx, 4)…Among the members of the school the idea of justice directed all their acts, while they observed the strictest tolerance and compassion in their mutual relationships. For justice is the principle of all virtue, as Polus, (ap. Stob., Serm., viii, ed. Schow, p. 232) teaches ; "’tis justice which maintains peace and balance in the soul ; she is the mother of good order in all communities,
makes concord between husband and wife, love between master and servant.’
The word of a Pythagorean: was also his bond. And finally a man should live so as to be ever ready for death ( Hippolytus, Philos., vi). (ibid., p. 263-267).
The treatment of the virtues in the Neo-Platonic schools is interesting, and the distinction is clearly made between morality and spiritual development, or as Plotinus put it, "The endeavour is not to be without sin, but to be of God." (Select Works of Plotinus, trans. Thomas Taylor, ed., 1895, p. 11).The lowest
stage was becoming without sin by acquiring the "political virtues" which made a man perfect in conduct (the physical and ethical being below these), the reason controlling and adorning the irrational nature. Above these were the cathartic,
pertaining to reason alone, and which liberated the Soul from the bonds of generation ; the theoretic , lifting the Soul into touch with natures superior to itself;and the paradigmatic, giving it a knowledge of true being:
Hence he who energises according to the practical virtues is a worthy man; but he who energises according to the cathartic virtues is a demoniacal man, or is also a good demon. (A good spiritual intelligence, as the daimon of Socrates).
He who energises according to the intellectual virtues alone is a God. But he who energises according to the paradigmatic virtues is the Father of the Gods. (Note on Intellectual Prudence, pp. 325-332).
By various practices the disciples were taught to escape from the body, and to rise into higher regions. As grass is drawn from a sheath, the inner man was to draw himself from his bodily casing ( Kathopanishad, vi,17). The "body of light" or "radiant body" of the Hindus is the "luciform body" of the Neo-Plationists, and in this man rises to find the Self:
Not grasped by the eye, nor by speech, nor by the others senses (lit., Gods), nor by austerity, nor by religious rites ; by serene wisdom, by the pure essence
only, doth one see the partless One in meditation. This subtle Self is to be
known by the mind in which the fivefold life is sleeping. The mind of all
creatures is instinct with [these] lives ; in this, purified, manifests the Self
( Mundakopanishad, III, ii, 8,9).
Then alone can man enter the region where separation is not, where "the spheres
have ceased." In G.R.S.Mead’s Introduction to Taylor’s Plotinus, he quotes from Plotinus a description of a sphere which is evidently the Turîya of the Hindus: They likewise see all things, not those with which generation, but those with which essence is present. And they perceive themselves in others. For all things there, are diaphanous; and nothing is dark and resisting, but everything is
apparent to every one internally and throughout. For light everywhere meets with
light ; since everything contains all things in itself and again see all things in another. So that all things are everywhere and all is all. Each thing likewise is everything. And the splendor there is infinite. For everything there is great, since even that which is small is great. The sun too which is there is all the stars; and again each star is the sun and all the stars. In each however, a different property predominates, but at the same time all things are visible in each. Motion likewise there is pure; for the motion is not confounded by a mover different from it (p. lxxiii).
A description which is a failure, because the region is one above describing by
mortal language, but a description that could only have been written by one
whose eyes had been opened.
A whole volume might easily be filled with the similarities between the
religions of the world, but the above imperfect statement must suffice as a
preface to the study of Theosophy, to that which is a fresh and fuller
presentment to the world of the ancient truths on which it has ever been fed.
all these similarities point to a single source, and that is the Brotherhood of
the White Lodge, the Hierarchy of Adepts who watch over and guide the evolution of humanity, and who have preserved these truths unimpaired ; from time to time, as necessity arose, reasserting them in the ears of men. From other worlds, from earlier humanities, They came to help our globe, evolved by a process comparable to that now going on with ourselves, and that will be more intelligible when we have completed our present study than it may now appear ; and They have afforded this help, reinforced by the flower of our own humanity, from the earliest times
Still They teach eager pupils, showing the path and guiding the disciple’s steps
; still They may be reached by all who seek Them, bearing in their hands the
sacrificial fuel of love, of devotion, of unselfish longing to know in order to
serve ; still They carry out the ancient discipline, still unveil the ancient
Mysteries. The two pillars of Their Lodge gateway are Love and Wisdom, and
through its straight portal can only pass those from whose shoulders has fallen
the burden of desire and selfishness.
A heavy task lies before us, and beginning on the physical plane we shall climb
slowly upwards, but a bird’s eye view of the great sweep of evolution and of its
purpose may help us, ere we begin our detailed study in the world that
surrounds us. A LOGOS, ere a system has begun to be, has in His mind the whole, existing as idea – all forces, all forms, all that in due process shall emerge into objective life. He draws the circle of manifestation within which He wills to
energise, and circumscribes Himself to be the life of His universe. As we watch
we see strata appearing of successive densities, till seven vast regions are
apparent, and in these centres of energy appear whirlpools of matter that
separate from each other, until when the processes of separation and of
condensation are over – so far as we are here concerned – we see a central sun,
the physical symbol of the LOGOS, and seven planetary chains, each chain
consisting of seven globes.
Narrowing down our view to the chain of which our globe is one, we see
life-waves sweep round i, forming the kingdoms of nature, the three elemental,
the mineral, vegetable, animal, human. Narrowing down our view still further to
our own globe and its surroundings, we watch human evolution, and see man
developing self-consciousness by a series of many life-periods ; then centering
on a single man we trace his growth and see that each life-period has a
threefold division that each is linked to all life-periods behind it reaping their results, and to all life-periods before it sowing their harvests, by a law that cannot be broken ; that thus man may climb upwards with each life-period
adding to his experience, each life-period lifting him higher in purity, in devotion, in intellect, in power of usefulness, until at last he stands where They stand who are now the Teachers, fit, to pay to his younger brothers the debt he owes to Them.
THE PHYSICAL PLANE
We have just seen that the source from which a universe proceeds is a manifested Divine Being, to whom in the modern form of the Ancient Wisdom the name LOGOS, or Word has been given. The name is drawn from Greek Philosophy, but perfectly expresses the ancient idea, the Word which emerges from the Silence, the Voice, the Sound, by which the worlds come into being.
We must now trace the evolution of spirit-matter, in order that we may understand something of the nature of the materials with which we have to deal on the physical plane, or physical world. For it is in the potentialities wrapped up, involved, in the spirit-matter of the physical world that lies the possibility of evolution. The whole process is an unfolding, self-moved from within and aided by intelligent beings without,
who can retard or quicken evolution, but cannot transcend the capacities inherent in the materials. Some idea of these earliest stages of the world’s "becoming" is therefore necessary, although any attempt to go into minute details would carry us far beyond the limits of such an elementary treatise as the present. A very cursory sketch must suffice.
Coming forth from the depths of the One Existence, from the ONE beyond all
thought and all speech, a LOGOS, by imposing on Himself a limit, circumscribing voluntarily the range of His own Being, becomes the manifested God, and tracing the limiting sphere of His activity thus outlines the area of His universe.
Within that sphere the universe is born, is evolved, and dies ; it lives, it
moves, it has its being in Him ; its matter is His emanation ; its forces and
energies are currents of His Life ; He is immanent in every atom, all-pervading,
all-sustaining, all-evolving ; He is its source and its end, its cause and its
object, its centre and circumference ; it is built on Him as its sure foundation, it breathes in Him as its encircling space ; He is in everything and everything in Him. Thus have the sages of the Ancient Wisdom taught us of the beginning of the manifested worlds.
From the same source we learn of the Self-unfolding of the LOGOS into a
threefold form ; the First LOGOS, the Root of all being ; from Him the Second,
manifesting the two aspects of Life and Form, the primal duality, making the two
poles of nature between which the web of the universe is to be woven –
Life-Form, Spirit-Matter, Positive-Negative, Active-Receptive, Father-Mother of
the worlds. Then the Third LOGOS, the Universal Mind, that in which all
archetypically exists, the source of beings, the fount of fashioning energies,
the treasure house in which are stored up all the archetypal forms which are to
be brought forth and elaborated in lower kinds of matter during the evolution of
the universe. These are the fruits of past universes, brought over as seeds for
The phenomenal spirit and matter of any universe are finite in their extent and
transitory in their duration, but the roots of spirit and matter are eternal.
The root of matter (Mulâprakriti ) has been said by a profound writer to be
visible to the LOGOS as a veil thrown over the One existence, the supreme
Brahman (Parabrahman) –to use the ancient name.
It is this "veil" which the LOGOS assumes for the purpose of manifestation,
using it for the self-imposed limit which makes activity possible. From this He
elaborates the matter of His universe, being Himself its informing, guiding, and
controlling life. ( Hence He is called "The Lord of Mâyâ" in some Eastern
Scriptures, Mâyâ, or illusion, being the principle of form; form is regarded as
illusory, from its transitory nature and perpetual transformations, the life
which expresses itself under the veil of form being the reality).
Of what occurs on the two higher planes of the universe, the seventh and sixth,
we can form but the haziest conception. The energy of the LOGOS as whirling
motion of inconceivable rapidity "digs holes in space" in this root matter, and
this vortex of life encased in a film of the root of matter is the primary atom;
these and their aggregations, spread throughout the universe, form all the
subdivisions of spirit-matter of the highest or seventh plane. The sixth plane
is formed by some of the countless myriads of these primary atoms, setting up a
vortex in the coarsest aggregations of their own plane, and this primary atom
en-walled with spiral strands of the coarsest combinations of the seventh plane
becomes the finest unit of spirit-matter, or atom of the sixth plane. These
sixth plane atoms and their endless combinations form the subdivisions of the
spirit-matter of the sixth plane.
The sixth-plane-atom, in its turn, sets up a vortex in the coarsest aggregations
of its own plane, and, with these coarsest aggregations as a limiting wall, becomes the finest unit of spirit-matter, or atom, of the fifth plane. Again, these fifth-plane atoms, and their combinations form the subdivisions of the spirit-matter of the fifth plane. The process is repeated to form successively
the spirit-matter of the fourth, the third, the second, and the first planes.
These are the seven great regions of the universe, so far as their material constituents are concerned. A clearer idea of them will be gained by analogy when we come to master the modifications of the spirit-matter of our own physical world.
(The student may find the conception clearer if he thinks of the fifth plane atoms as Atma ; those of the fourth plane as Atma enveloped in Buddhi-matter ; those of the third plane as Atma enveloped in Buddhi and Manas-matter ; those of the second plane as Atma enveloped in Buddhi-Manas- and Kama-matter ; those of the lowest as Atma enveloped in Buddhi-Manas-Kama and Sthűla-matter. Only the outermost is active in each, but the inner are there, though latent, ready to come into activity on the upward arc of evolution).
The world "spirit-matter" is used designedly. At implies the fact that there is no such thing as "dead" matter ; all matter is living, the tiniest particles are lives. Science speaks truly in affirming: "No force without matter, no matter without force." They are wedded together in an indissoluble marriage throughout the ages of the life of a universe, and none can wrench them apart. Matter is form, and there is no form which does not express a life ; spirit is life, and there is no life that is not limited by form. Even the LOGOS, the Supreme Lord, has during manifestation the universe as His form, and so down to the atom.
This involution of the life of the LOGOS as the ensouling force in every
particle, and its successive enwrapping in the spirit-matter of every plane, so
that the materials of each plane have within them in a hidden, or latent
condition, all the form and force possibilities of all the planes above them as
well as those of their own – these two facts make evolution certain and give to
the very lowest particle the hidden potentialities which will render it fit – as
they become active powers – to enter into the forms of the highest beings. In
fact, evolution may be summed up in a phrase: it is latent potentialities
becoming active powers.
The second great wave of evolution, the evolution of form, and the third great
wave, the evolution of self-consciousness, will be dealt with later on. These
three currents of evolution are distinguishable on our earth in connection with
humanity ; the making of the materials, the building of the house, and the
growing of the tenant of the house, or, as said above, the evolution of
spirit-matter, the evolution of form, the evolution of self-consciousness.If the
reader can grasp and retain this idea, he will find a helpful clue to guide him
through the labyrinth of facts.
We can now turn to the detailed examination of the physical plane, that on which
our world exists and to which our bodies belong.
Examining the materials belonging to this plane, we are struck by their immense
variety, the innumerable differences of constitution in the objects around us,
minerals, vegetables, animals, all differing in their constituents: matter hard
and soft, transparent and opaque, brittle and ductile, bitter and sweet,
pleasant and nauseous, coloured and colourless. Out of this confusion three
subdivisions of matter emerge as a fundamental classification: matter is solid,
liquid, gaseous. Further examination shows that these solids, liquids and gases
are made up by combinations of much simpler bodies, called by chemists
"elements," and that these elements may exist in a solid, liquid, or gaseous
condition without changing their respective natures.
Thus the chemical element oxygen is a constituent of wood, and in combination
with other elements forms the solid wood fibres ; it exists in the sap with
another element, yielding a liquid combination as water ; and it exists also in
it by itself as gas. Under these three conditions it is oxygen. Further , pure
oxygen can be reduced from a gas to a liquid, and from a liquid to a solid,
remaining pure oxygen all the time, and so with other elements. We thus obtain
as three subdivisions, or conditions of matter on the physical plane, solid,
liquid, gas. Searching further, we find a fourth condition, ether, and a minute
search reveals that this ether exists in four conditions as well defined as
those of solid, liquid and gas ; to take oxygen again as an example: as it may
be reduced from the gaseous condition to the liquid and the solid, so it may be
raised from the gaseous through four etheric stages the last of which consists
of the ultimate physical atom, the disintegration of the atom taking matter out
of the physical plane altogether, and into the next plane above.
In the annexed plate three gases are shown in the gaseous and four etheric
states ; it will be observed that the structure of the ultimate physical atom is
the same for all, and that the variety of the "elements" is due to the variety
of ways in which these ultimate physical atoms combine. Thus the seventh
subdivision of physical spirit-matter is composed of homogeneous atoms ; the
sixth is composed of fairly simple heterogeneous combinations of these, each
combination behaving as a unit ; the fifth is composed of more complex
combinations, and the fourth of still more complex ones, but in all cases these
combinations act as units .
The third subdivision consists of yet more complicated combinations, regarded by the chemist as gaseous atoms or "elements," and on this subdivision many of the combinations have received special names, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, chlorine, etc., and each newly discovered combination now receives its name ; the second subdivision consists of combinations in the liquid condition, whether regarded as elements such as bromine, or as combinations such as water or alcohol ; the first subdivision is composed of all solids, again whether regarded as elements, such as iodine, gold, lead, etc., or as compounds, such as wood, stone, chalk, and so on.
The physical plane may serve the student as a model from which by analogy he may gain an idea of the subdivisions of spirit-matter of other planes. When a
Theosophist speaks of a plane, he means a region throughout which spirit-matter
exists, all whose combinations are derived from a particular set of atoms; these
atoms, in turn, are units possessing similar organisations, whose life is the
life of the LOGOS veiled in fewer or more coverings according to the plane, and
whose form consists of the solid, or lowest subdivision of matter, of the plane
immediately above. A plane is thus a division in nature, as well as a
Thus far we have been studying the results in our own physical world of the
evolution of spirit-matter in our division of the first or lowest plane of our
system. For countless ages the fashioning of materials has been going on, the
current of the evolution of spirit-matter, and in the materials of our globe we
see the outcome at the present time. But when we begin to study the inhabitants
of the physical plane, we come to the evolution of form, ( ) the building of
organisms out of these materials.
When the evolution of materials had reached a sufficiently advanced state, the
second great life-wave from the LOGOS gave the impulse to the evolution of form, and He became the organising force (As Âtmâ-Buddhi, indivisible in action, and therefore spoken of as the Monad. All forms have Âtmâ-Buddhi as controlling life.) - of His Universe, countless hosts of entities, entitled Builders -- ( Some are lofty spiritual Intelligences, but the name covers even the building Nature-spirits The subject is dealt with in Chapter XII ) - taking part in the building up of forms out of combinations of spirit-matter. The life of the LOGOS abiding in each form is its central, controlling, and directing energy.
This building of forms on the higher planes cannot here be conveniently studied in detail; it may suffice to say that all forms exist as Ideas in the mind of the LOGOS, and that in this second life-wave these were thrown outwards as models to guide the Builders. On the third and second planes the early spirit-matter combinations are designed to give it facility in assuming shapes
organised to act as units, and gradually to increase its stability when shaped into an organism.
This process went on upon the third and second planes, in what are termed the three elemental kingdoms, the combinations of matter formed therein being called generally "elemental essence," and this essence being moulded into forms by aggregations, the forms enduring for a time and then disintegrating. The outpoured life, or Monad, evolved through these kingdoms and reached in due course the physical plane, where it began to draw together the ethers and hold them in filmy shapes, in which life-currents played and into which the denser materials were built, forming the first minerals. In these are beautifully shown – as may be seen by reference to any book on crystallurgy – the numerical and geometrical lines on which forms are constructed, and from them may be gathered plentiful evidence that life is working in all minerals, although much "cribbed, cabined, and confined." The fatigue to which metals are subject is another sign that they are living things, but it is here enough to say that the occult doctrine so regards them, knowing the already-mentioned processes by which life has been involved in them.
Great stability of form having been gained in many of the minerals, the evolving Monad elaborated greater plasticity of form in the vegetable kingdom, combining this with stability of organisation. These characteristics found a yet more balanced expression in the animal world, and reached their culmination of
equilibrium in man, whose physical body is made up of constituents of most unstable equilibrium, thus giving great adaptability, and yet which is held together by a combining central force which resists general disintegration even
under the most varied conditions.
Man’s physical body has two main divisions: the dense body, made of constituents from the three lower levels of the physical plane, solids, liquids, and gases: and the etheric double, violet-gray or blue-gray in colour, interpenetrating the dense body and composed of materials drawn from the four higher levels.
The general function of the physical body is to receive contacts from the physical world, and send the report of them inwards, to serve as materials from which the conscious entity inhabiting the body is to elaborate knowledge. Its etheric portion has also the duty of acting as a medium through which the life-currents poured out from the sun can be adapted to the uses of the denser particles.
The sun is the great reservoir of the electrical, magnetic, and vital forces for
our system, and it pours out abundantly these streams of life-giving energy.
They are taken in by the etheric doubles of all minerals, vegetables, animals,
and men, and are by them transmuted into the various life-energies needed by
each entity. ( When thus appropriated the life is called Prana, and it becomes
the life-breath of every creature. Prana is but a name for the universal life
while it is taken in by an entity and is supporting its separated life.)
The etheric doubles draw in, specialise, and distribute them over their physical
counterparts. It has been observed that in vigorous health much more of the
life-energies are transmuted than the physical body requires for its own
support, and that the surplus is rayed out and is taken up and utilised by the
weaker. What is technically called the health aura is the part of the etheric
double that extends a few inches from the whole surface of the body and shows
radiating lines, like the radii of a sphere, going outwards in all directions.
These lines droop when vitality is diminished below the point of health, and
resume their radiating character with renewed vigour. It is this vital energy,
specialised by the etheric double, which is poured out by the mesmeriser for the
restoration of the weak and for the cure of disease, although he often mingles
with it currents of a more rarefied kind. Hence the depletion of vital energy
shown by the exhaustion of the mesmeriser who prolongs his work to excess.
Man’s body is fine or coarse in its texture according to the materials drawn
from the physical plane for its composition. Each subdivision of matter yields
finer or coarser materials ; compare the bodies of a butcher and of a refined
student ; both have solids in them, but solids of such different qualities.
Further , we know that a coarse body can be refined, a refined body coarsened.
The body is constantly changing ; each particle is a life, and the lives come
and go. They are drawn to a body consonant with themselves, they are repelled
from one discordant with themselves. All things live in rhythmical vibrations,
all seek the harmonious and are repelled by dissonance.
A pure body repels coarse particles because they vibrate at rates discordant
with its own ; a coarse body attracts them because their vibrations accord with
its own. Hence if the body changes its rates of vibration, it gradually drives
out of it the constituents that cannot fall into the new rhythm, and fills up
their places by drawing in from external nature fresh constituents that are
harmonious. Nature provides materials vibrating in all possible ways, and each
body exercises its own selective action.
In the earlier building of human bodies this selective action was due to the
Monad of form, but now that man is a self-conscious entity he presides over his
own building. By his thoughts he strikes the keynote of his music, and sets up
the rhythms that are the most powerful factors in the continual changes in his
physical and other bodies. As his knowledge increases he learns how to build up
his physical body with pure food, and so facilitates the tuning of it. He learns
to live by the axiom of purification: "Pure food, pure mind, and constant memory of God." As the highest creature living on the physical plane, he is the
vice-regent of the LOGOS thereon, responsible, so far as his powers extend, for
its order, peace, and good government ; and this duty he cannot discharge
without these three requisites.
The physical body, thus composed of elements drawn from all the subdivisions of the physical plane, is fitted to receive and to answer impression from it of
every kind. Its first contacts will be of the simplest and crudest sorts, and as
the life within it thrills out in answer to the stimulus from without, throwing
its molecules into responsive vibrations, there is developed all over the body
the sense of touch, the recognition of something coming into contact with it. As
specialised sense-organs are developed to receive special kinds of vibrations,
the value of the body increases as a future vehicle for a conscious entity on
the physical plane. The more impressions it can answer to, the more useful does
it become ; for only those to which it can answer can reach the consciousness.
Even now there are myriads of vibrations pulsing around us in physical nature
from the knowledge of which we are shut out because of the inability of our
physical vehicle to receive and vibrate in accord with them. Unimagined
beauties, exquisite sounds, delicate subtleties, touch the walls of our prison
house and pass on unheeded. Not yet is developed the perfect body that shall
thrill to every pulse in nature as the aeolian harp to the zephyr.
The vibrations that the body is able to receive, it transmits to physical
centres, belonging to its highly complicated nervous system. The etheric
vibrations which accompany all the vibrations of the denser physical
constituents are similarly received by the etheric double, and transmuted to its
corresponding centres. Most of the vibrations in the dense matter are changed
into chemical heat, and other forms of physical energy; the etheric give rise to
magnetic and electric action, and also pass on the vibrations to the astral
body, whence, as we shall see later, they reach the mind.
Thus information about the external world reaches the conscious entity enthroned in the body, the Lord of the body, as he is sometimes called. As the channels of information develop and are exercised, the conscious entity grows by the materials supplied to his thought by them, but so little is man yet developed that even the etheric double is not yet sufficiently harmonised to regularly convey to the man impressions received by it independently of its denser comrade, or to impress them on his brain. Occasionally it succeeds in doing so, and then we have the lowest form of clairvoyance, the seeing of the etheric doubles of physical objects, and of things that have etheric bodies as their lowest vesture.
Man dwells, as we shall see, in various vehicles, physical, astral, and mental
and it is important to know and remember that as we are evolving upwards, the
lowest of the vehicles, the dense physical, is that which consciousness first
controls and rationalises. The physical brain is the instrument of consciousness
in waking life on the physical plane, and consciousness works in it – in the
undeveloped man – more effectively than in any other vehicle. Its potentialities
are less than those of the subtler vehicles, but its actualities are greater,
and the man knows himself as " I " in the physical body ere he finds himself
elsewhere. Even if he be more highly developed than the average man, he can only show as much of himself down here as the physical organism permits, for
consciousness can manifest on the physical plane only so much as the physical
vehicle can carry.
The dense and etheric bodies are not normally separated during earth life; they
normally function together, as the lower and higher strings of a single instrument when a chord is struck, but they also carry on separate though coordinated activities. Under conditions of weak health or nervous excitement
the etheric double may in great part be abnormally extruded from its dense counterpart ; the latter then becomes very dully conscious , or entranced, according to the less or greater amount of the etheric matter extruded.
Anesthetics drive out the greater part of the etheric double, so that
consciousness cannot affect or be affected by the dense body, its bridge of
communication being broken. In the abnormally organised person called
mediums, dislocation of the etheric and dense bodies easily occurs, and the etheric double, when extruded, largely supplies the physical basis for "materialisations."
In sleep, when the consciousness leaves the physical vehicle which it uses
during waking life, the dense and etheric bodies remain together, but in the
physical dream life they function to some extent independently. Impressions
experienced during waking life are reproduced by the automatic action of the
body, and both the physical and etheric brains are filled with disjointed
fragmentary pictures, the vibrations as it were, jostling each other, and
causing the most grotesque combinations. Vibrations from outside also affect
both, and combinations often set up during waking life are easily called into
activity by currents from the astral world of like nature with themselves. The
purity or impurity of waking thoughts will largely govern the pictures arising
in dreams, whether spontaneously set up or induced from without.
At what is called death, the etheric double is drawn away from its dense
counterpart by the escaping consciousness ; the magnetic tie existing between
them during life earth life is snapped asunder, and for some hours the
consciousness remains enveloped in this etheric garb. In this it sometimes
appears to those with whom it is closely bound up, as a cloudy figure, very
dully conscious and speechless – the wraith. It may also be seen, after the
conscious entity has deserted it, floating over the grave where its dense
counterpart is buried, slowly disintegrating as time goes on.
When the time comes for rebirth, the etheric double is built in advance of the
dense body, the latter exactly following it in its ante-natal development. These
bodies may be said to trace the limitations within which the conscious entity
will have to live and work during his life, a subject that will be more fully
explained in Chapter IX on Karma.
THE ASTRAL PLANE
The astral plane is the region of the universe next to the physical, if the word
"next" may be permitted in such a connection. Life there is more active than on
the physical plane, and form is more plastic. The spirit-matter of that plane is
more highly vitalised and finer than any grade of spirit-matter in the physical
world. For , as we have seen, the ultimate physical atom, the constituent of the
rarest physical ether, has for its sphere-wall innumerable aggregations of the
coarsest astral matter. The word "next" is, however, inappropriate, as
suggesting the idea that the planes of the universe are arranged as concentric
circles, one ending where the next begins. Rather they are concentric
interpenetrating spheres, not separated from each other by distance but by
difference of constitution. As air permeates water, as ether permeates the
densest solid, so does astral matter permeate all physical. The astral world is
above us, below us, on every side of us, through us; we live and move in it, but
it is intangible, invisible, inaudible, imperceptible, because the prison of the
physical body shuts us away from it, the physical particles being too gross to
be set in vibration by astral matter.
In this chapter we shall study the plane in its general aspects, leaving on one
side for separate consideration those special conditions of life on the astral
plane surrounding the human entities who are passing through it on their way
from earth to heaven. ( Devachan, the happy or bright state, is the Theosophical
name for heaven. Kâmaloka, the place of desire, is the name given to the
conditions of intermediate life on the astral plane).
The spirit-matter of the astral plane exists in seven subdivisions, as we have
seen in the spirit-matter of the physical. There, as here, there are numberless
combinations, forming the astral solids, liquids, gases, and ethers. But most
material forms there have a brightness, a translucency, as compared to forms
here, which have caused the epithet astral, or starry, to be applied to them –
an epithet which is, on the whole, misleading, but is too firmly established by
use to be changed. As there are no specific names for the subdivisions of astral
spirit-matter, we may use the terrestrial designations. The main idea to be
grasped is that astral objects are combinations of astral matter, as physical
objects are combinations of physical matter, and that the astral world scenery
much resembles that of earth in consequence of its being largely made up of the
astral duplicates of physical objects.
One peculiarity, however, arrests and confuses the untrained observer; partly
because of the translucency of astral objects, and partly because of the nature
of astral vision – consciousness being less hampered by the finer astral matter
than when encased in the terrestrial – everything is transparent, its back is
visible as its front, its inside as its outside. Some experience is needed,
therefore, ere objects are correctly seen, and a person who has developed astral
vision, but has not yet had much experience in its use, is apt to receive the
most topsy-turvy impressions and to fall into the most astounding blunders.
Another striking and at first bewildering characteristic of the astral world is
the swiftness with which forms – especially when unconnected with any
terrestrial matrix – change their outlines.
An astral entity will change his whole appearance with the most startling
rapidity, for astral matter takes the form under every impulse of thought, the
life swiftly remoulding the form to give itself new expression. As the great
life-wave of the evolution of form passed downwards through the astral plane,
and constituted on that plane the third elemental kingdom, the Monad drew round itself combinations of astral matter, giving to these combinations – entitled
elemental essence – a peculiar vitality and the characteristic of responding to,
and instantly taking shape under, the impulse of thought vibrations.
This elemental essence exists in hundreds of varieties on every subdivision of
the astral plane, as though the air became visible here – as indeed it may seen
in quivering waves under great heat – and were in constant undulatory motion
with changing colours like mother-of-pearl.
This vast atmosphere of elemental essence is ever answering to vibrations caused by thoughts, feelings, and desires, and is thrown into commotion by a rush of any of these like bubbles in boiling water. ( C.W. Leadbeater, Astral Plane, p. 52). The duration of the form depends on the strength of the impulse to which it owes its birth ; the clearness of its outline depends on the precision of the thinking, and the colour depends on the quality – intellectual, devotional, passional – of the thought.
The vague loose thoughts which are so largely produced by undeveloped minds gather round themselves loose clouds of elemental essence when they arrive in the astral world, and drift about, attracted hither and thither to other clouds of similar nature, clinging round the astral bodies of persons whose magnetism attracts them – either good or evil – and after a while disintegrating, to again form a part of the general atmosphere of elemental essence. While they maintain a separate existence they are living entities, with bodies ofelemental essence and thoughts as the ensouling lives, and they are then called artificial elementals, or thought-forms.
Clear, precise thoughts have each their own definite shapes, with sharp clean outlines, and show an endless variety of designs. They are shaped by vibrations set up by thought, just as on the physical plane we find figures which are shaped by vibrations set up by sound. "Voice-figures" offer a very fair analogy for "thought-figures," for nature, with all her infinite variety, is very conservative of principles, and reproduces the same methods of working on plane after plane in her realms.
These clearly defined artificial elementals have a longer and much more active
life than their cloudy brethren, exercising a far stronger influence on the astral bodies (and through them on the minds) of those to whom they are attracted.
They set up in them vibrations similar to their own, and thus thoughts spread from mind to mind without terrestrial expression. More than this: they can be directed by the thinker towards any person he desires to reach, their potency depending on the strength of his will and the intensity of his mental power.
Among average people the artificial elementals created by feeling or desire are
more vigorous and more definite than those created by thought. Thus an outburst of anger will cause a very definitely outlined and powerful flash of red, and sustained anger will make a dangerous elemental, red in colour, and pointed, barbed, or otherwise qualified to injure. Love, according to its quality, will set up forms more or less beautiful in colour and design, all shades of crimson to the most exquisite and soft hues of rose, like the palest blushes of sunset or the dawn, clouds of tenderly strong protective shapes. Many a Mother’s loving prayers go to hover round her son as angel-forms, turning aside from him evil influences that perchance his own thoughts are attracting.
It is characteristic of these artificial elementals, when they are directed by the will towards any particular person, that they are animated by the one impulse of carrying out the will of their creator. A protective elemental will hover round its object, seeking any opportunity of warding off evil or attracting good – not consciously, but by a blind impulse, as finding there the
line of least resistance.
So, also, an elemental ensouled by a malignant thought will hover round its victim seeking opportunity to injure. But neither the one nor the other can make any impression unless there be in the astral body of the object something skin to themselves, something that can answer accordingly to their vibrations, and
thus enable them to attach themselves. If there be nothing in him of matter cognate to their own, then by a law of their nature they rebound from him along the path they pursued in going to him – the magnetic trace they have left – and rush to their creator with a force proportionate to that of their projection.
Thus a thought of deadly hatred, failing to strike the object at which it was darted, has been known to slay its sender, while good thoughts sent to the unworthy return as blessings to him that poured them forth.
A very slight understanding of the astral world will thus act as a most powerful stimulus to right thinking, and will render heavy the sense of responsibility in regard to the thoughts and feelings, and desires that we let loose into this astral realm. Ravening beasts of prey, rending and devouring, are too many of
the thoughts with which men people the astral plane. But they err from ignorance, they know not what they do. One of the objects of theosophical teaching, partly lifting up the veil of the unseen world, is to give men a sounder basis for conduct, a more rational appreciation of the causes of which the effects only are seen in the terrestrial world.
A few of its doctrines are more important in their ethical bearing than this of the creation and direction of thought-forms, or artificial elementals, for through it man learns that his mind does not concern himself alone, that his thoughts do not affect himself alone, but that he is ever sending out angels and
devils into the world of men, for whose creation he is responsible, and for whose influences he is held accountable. Let men, then, know the law, and guide their thoughts thereby.
If, instead of taking artificial elementals separately, we take them in the mass, it is easy to realise the tremendous effect they have in producing national and race feelings, and thus in biasing and prejudicing the mind. We all grow up surrounded by an atmosphere crowded with elementals embodying certain ideas ; national prejudices, national ways of looking at all questions, national types of feelings and thoughts, all these play on us from our birth, aye, and before. We see everything through this atmosphere, every thought is more or less refracted by it, and our own astral bodies are vibrating in accord with it.
Hence the same idea will look quite different to the Hindu, an Englishman, a Spaniard, and a Russian ; some conceptions easy to the one will be almost impossible to the other, customs instinctively attractive to the one are instinctively odious to the other. We are all dominated by our national atmosphere, i.e., by that portion of the astral world immediately surrounding us.
The thoughts of others, cast much in the same mould, play upon us and call out from us synchronous vibrations ; they intensify the points in which we accord with our surroundings and flatten away the differences, and this ceaseless action upon us through the astral body impresses on us the national half-mark
and traces channels for mental energies into which they readily flow. Sleeping and waking , these currents play upon us, and our very unconsciousness of their action makes it the more effective. As most people are receptive rather than initiative in their nature, they act almost as automatic reproducers of the
thoughts which reach them, and thus the national atmosphere is continually intensified.
When a person is beginning to be sensitive to astral influences, he will occasionally find himself suddenly overpowered or assailed by a quite inexplicable and seemingly irrational dread, which swoops upon him with even paralysing force. Fight against it as he may, he yet feels it, and perhaps resents it. Probably there are few who have not experienced this fear to some
extent, the uneasy dread of an invisible something, the feeling of a presence, of "not being alone." This arises partly from a certain hostility which animates the natural elemental world against the human, on account of the various destructive agencies devised by mankind on the physical plane and reacting on the astral, but is also largely due to the presence of so many artificial elementals of an unfriendly kind, bred by human minds.
Thoughts of hatred, jealousy, revenge, bitterness, suspicion, discontent, go out
by millions crowding the astral plane with artificial elementals whose whole
life is made of these feelings. How much also is there of vague distrust and
suspicion poured out by the ignorant against all whose ways and appearance are
alien and unfamiliar. The blind distrust of all foreigners, the surly contempt,
extending in many districts even towards inhabitants of another country – these
things also contribute evil influences to the astral world. There being so much
of these things among us, we create a blindly hostile army on the astral plane,
and this is answered in our own astral bodies by a feeling of dread, set up by
the antagonistic vibrations that are sensed, but not understood.
Outside the class of artificial elementals, the astral world is thickly populated, even excluding, as we do for the present, all the human entities who have lost their physical bodies by death. There are great hosts of natural elementals, or nature-spirits, divided into five main classes –the elementals of the ether, the fire, the air, the water, and the earth ; the last four groups have been termed, in mediaeval occultism, the Salamanders, Sylphs, Undines, and Gnomes (needless to say there are two other classes, completing the seven, not concerning us here, as they are still unmanifested).
These are the true elementals, or creatures of the elements, earth, water, air,
fire and ether, and they are severally concerned in the carrying on of the
activities connected with their own element ; they are the channels through
which work the divine energies in these several fields, the living expressions
of the law in each. At the head of each division is a great Being, the captain
of the mighty host, (Called a Deva, or God, by the Hindus. The student may like
to have the Sanskrit names of the five Gods of the manifested elements ; Indra,
lord of the Akâsha, or ether of space ; Agni, lord of fire ; Pavana, lord of
air, Varuna, lord of water ; Kshiti, lord of the earth). the directing and
guiding intelligence of the whole department of nature which is administered and
energised by the class of elementals under his control.
Thus Agni the fire-God, is a great spiritual entity concerned with the manifestation of fire on all planes of the universe, and carries on his administration through the host of the fire-elementals. By understanding the nature of these, or knowing the methods of their control, the so-called miracles of magical feats are worked, which from time to time are recorded in the public
press, whether they are avowedly the results of magical arts, or are done by the aid of "spirits" – as in the case of the late Mr. Home, who could unconcernedly pick a red-hot coal out of a blazing fire with his fingers and hold it in his hand unhurt. Levitation (the suspension of a heavy body in the air without visible support) and walking on the water have been done by the aid respectively of the elementals of the air and the water, although another method is more often employed.
As the elements enter into the human body, one or another predominating according to the nature of the person, each human being has relations with these elementals, the most friendly to him being those whose element is preponderant in him. The effects of this fact are often noted, and are popularly ascribed to "luck". A person has " a lucky hand" in making plants grow, in lighting fires, in finding underground water, etc. Nature is ever jostling us with her occult forces, but we are slow to take her hints. Tradition sometimes hides a truth in a proverb or a fable, but we have grown beyond all such "superstitions."
We find also on the astral plane, nature-spirits – less accurately termed elementals – who are concerned with the building of forms in the mineral, vegetable, animal, and human kingdoms. There are nature-spirits who build up minerals, who guide the vital energies in plants, and who molecule by molecule
form the bodies of the animal kingdom ; they are concerned with the making of the astral bodies of minerals, plants, and animals, as well as with that of the physical.
These are the fairies and elves of legends, the "little people" who play so large a part in the folk lore of every nation, the charming irresponsible children of nature, whom science had coldly relegated to the nursery, but who will be replaced in their own grade of natural order by the wiser scientists of a later day. Only poets and occultists believe in them just now, poets by the
intuition of their genius, occultists by the vision of their trained inner senses. The multitude laugh at both, most of all at the occultists ; but it matter not – wisdom shall be justified of her children.
The play of the life-currents in the etheric doubles of the forms in the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms, awoke out of latency the astral matter involved in the structure of their atomic and molecular constituents. It began to thrill in a very limited way in the minerals, and the Monad of form, exercising his organising power, drew in materials from the astral world, and
these were built by the nature-spirits into a loosely constituted mass, the mineral astral body.
In the vegetable world the astral bodies are a little more organised, and their special characteristic of "feeling" begins to appear. Dull and diffused sensations of well-being and discomfort are observable in most plants as the results of the increasing activity of the astral body. They dimly enjoy the air,
the rain, and the sunshine, and gropingly seek them, while they shrink from noxious conditions. Some seek the light and some seek the darkness ; they answer to stimuli, and adapt themselves to external conditions, some showing plainly a sense of touch. In the animal kingdom the astral body is more developed, reaching in the higher members of that kingdom a sufficiently definite
organisation to cohere for some time after the death of the physical body, and to lead an independent existence on the astral plane.
The nature-spirits concerned with the building of the animal and human astral bodies have been given the special name of desire-elementals, (Kâmadevas, they are called "desire-gods") because they are strongly animated by desires of all kinds, and constantly build themselves into the astral bodies of animals and men.
They also use the varieties of elemental essence similar to that of which their own bodies are composed to construct the astral bodies of animals, those bodies thus acquiring, as interwoven parts, the centres of sensation and of the various passional activities. These centres are stimulated into functioning by impulses received by the dense physical organs, and transmitted by the etheric physical organs to the astral body.
Not until the astral centre is reached does the animal feel pleasure or pain. A stone may be struck, but it will feel no pain ; it has dense and etheric physical molecules, but its astral body is unorganised ; the animal feels pain from a blow because he possesses the astral centres of sensation, and the desire-elementals have woven into him their own nature.
As a new consideration enters into the work of these elementals with the human astral body, we will finish our survey of the inhabitants of the astral plane ere studying this more complicated astral form.
The desire-bodies, (Kâmarűpa is the technical name for the astral body, from Kâma, desire, and rűpa, form) or astral bodies, of animals are found, as has just been stated, to lead an independent though fleeting existence on the astral plane after death has destroyed their physical counterparts. In "civilised"
countries these animal astral bodies add much to the general feeling of hostility which was spoken of above, for the organised butchery of animals in slaughterhouses and by sport sends millions of these annually into the astral world, full of horror, terror, and shrinking from men.
The comparatively few creatures that are allowed to die in peace and quietness are lost in the vast hordes of the murdered, and from the currents set up by these there rain down influences from the astral world on the human and animal races which drive them yet further apart and engender "instinctive" distrust and fear on the one side and lust of inflicting cruelty on the other.
These feelings have been much intensified of late years by the coldly devised methods of the scientific torture called vivisection, the unmentionable barbarities of which have introduced new horrors into the astral world by their reaction on the culprits, (See Chapter III, on "Kâmaloka .") as well as having
increased the gulf between man and his "poor relations".
Apart from what we may call the normal population of the astral world, there are passing travellers in it, led there by their work, whom we cannot leave entirely without mention. Some of these come from our own terrestrial world, while others are visitors from loftier regions.
Of the former, many are Initiates of various grades, some belonging to the Great White Lodge – the Himâlayan or Tibetan Brotherhood, as it is often called (It is to some members of this Lodge that the Theosophical Society owes its inception) – while others are members of different occult lodges throughout the world, ranging from white through shades of grey to black. ( Occultists who are unselfish and wholly devoted to the carrying out of the Divine Will, or who are aiming to attain these virtues, are called "white". Those who are selfish and are working against the Divine purpose in the universe are called "black."
Expanding selflessness, love and devotion are the marks of the one class: contracting selfishness, hatred, and harsh arrogance are the sign of the other.
Between these are the classes whose motives are mixed, and who have not yet realised that they must evolve towards the One Self or towards separated selves ; these I have called grey. Their members gradually drift into, or deliberately join, one of the two great groups with clearly marked aims).
All these are men living in physical bodies, who have learned to leave the physical encasement at will, and to function in full consciousness in the astral body. They are of all grades of knowledge and virtue, beneficent and maleficent, strong and weak, gentle and ferocieous. There are also many younger aspirants, still uninitiated, who are learning to use the astral vehicle, and who are employed in works of benevolence or malevolence according to the path they are seeking to tread.
After these, we have psychics of varying degrees of development, some fairly alert, others dreamy and confused, wandering about while their physical bodies are asleep or entranced. Unconscious of their external surroundings, wrapped in their own thoughts, drawn as it were within their astral shell, are millions of
drifting astral bodies inhabited by conscious entities, whose physical frames are sunk in sleep.
As we shall see presently, the consciousness in its astral vehicle escapes when the body sinks into sleep, and passes on to the astral plane ; but it is not conscious of its surroundings until the astral body is sufficiently developed to function independently of the physical.
Occasionally is seen on this plane a disciple (A Chelâ, the accepted pupil of an
Adept), who has passed through death and is awaiting an almost immediate
reincarnation under the direction of his Master. He is, of course, in the
enjoyment of full consciousness, and is working like other disciples who have
merely slipped off their bodies in sleep. A certain stage (See chapter XI, on
"Man’s Ascent") – a disciple is allowed to reincarnate very quickly after death,
and under these circumstances he has to await on the astral plane a suitable
opportunity for rebirth.
Passing through the astral plane also are the human beings who are on their way
to reincarnation ; they will again be mentioned later on (See chapter VII, on
"Reincarnation".) and they concern themselves in no way with the general life of
the astral world. The desire-elementals, however, who have affinity with them
from their past passional and sensational activities, gather round them,
assisting in the building of the new astral body for the coming earth-life.
We must now turn to the consideration of the human astral body during the period of existence in this world, and study its nature and constitution as well as its relations with the astral realm. We will take the astral body of
(a) an undeveloped man,
(b) an average man, and
(c) a spiritually developed man.
(a) An undeveloped man’s astral body is a cloudy, loosely organised, vaguely
outlined mass of astral spirit-matter, containing materials – both astral matter
and elemental essence – drawn from all the subdivisions of the astral plane, but
with a predominance of substances from the lower, so that it is dense and coarse in texture, fit to respond to all the stimuli connected with the passions and appetites. The colours caused by the rates of vibration are dull, muddy, and
dusky – brown, dull reds, dirty greens, are predominant hues. There is no play
of light or quickly changing flashing of colours through this astral body, but
the various passions show themselves as heavy surges, or, when violent, as
flashes ; thus sexual passion will send a wave of muddy crimson, rage a flash of
The astral body is larger than the physical, extending round it in all directions ten to twelve inches in such a case as we are considering. The centres of the organs of sense are definitely marked, and are active when worked on from without ; but in quiescence the life-streams are sluggish, and the astral body, stimulated neither from the physical nor mental worlds, is drowsy and indifferent. ( the student will recognise here the predominance of the tâmasic guna, the quality of darkness or inertness in nature.)
It is a constant characteristic of the undeveloped state that activity is
prompted from without rather from the inner consciousness . A stone to be moved must be pushed ; a plant moves under the attractions of light and moisture ; an animal becomes active when stirred by hunger: a poorly developed man needs to be prompted in similar ways. Not till the mind is partly grown does it begin to initiate action. The centres of higher activities, ( The seven Chakras, or wheels, so named from the whirling appearance they present, like wheels of
living fire when in activity.) related to the independent functioning of the
astral senses, are scarcely visible. A man at this stage requires for his
evolution violent sensations of every kind, to arouse the nature and stimulate
it into activity. Heavy blows from the outer world, both of pleasure and pain,
are wanted to awaken and spur to action.
The more numerous and violent the sensations, the more he can be made to feel,
the better for his growth. At this stage quality matters little, quantity and
vigour are the main requisites. The beginnings of this man’s morality will be in
his passions ; a slight impulse of unselfishness in his relations to wife and
child or friend, will be the first step upwards, by causing vibrations in the
finer matter of his astral body and attracting into it more elemental essence of
an appropriate kind. The astral body is constantly changing its materials under
this play of the passions, appetites, desires, and emotions.
All good ones strengthen the finer parts of the body, shake out some of the
coarser constituents, draw into it the subtler materials, and attract round it
elementals of a beneficent kind who aid in the renovating process. All evil ones
have diametrically opposite effects, strengthening the coarser, expelling the
finer, drawing in more of the former, and attracting elementals who help in the
The man’s moral and intellectual powers are so embryonic in the case we are
considering that most of the building and changing of his astral body may be
said to be done for him rather than by him. It depends more on his external
circumstances than on his own will, for, as just said, it is characteristic of a
low stage of development that a man is moved from without and through the body much more than from within and by the mind. It is a sign of considerable advance when a man begins to be moved by the will, by his own energy, self-determined, instead of being moved by desire, i.e., by a response to an external attraction or repulsion.
In sleep the astral body, enveloping the consciousness, slips out of the
physical vehicle, leaving the dense and etheric bodies to slumber. At this
stage, however, the consciousness is not awake in the astral body, lacking the
strong contacts that spur it while in the physical frame, and the only things
that affect the astral body may be elementals of the coarser kinds, that may set
up therein vibrations which are reflected to the etheric and dense brains, and
induce dreams of animal pleasures. The astral body floats just over the
physical, held by its strong attraction, and cannot go far away from it.
(b) In the average moral and intellectual man the astral body shows an immense
advance on that just described. It is larger in size, its materials are more balanced in quality, the presence of the rarer kinds giving a certain luminous quality to the whole, while the expression of the higher emotions sends playing through it beautiful ripples of colour. Its outline is clear and definite, instead of vague and shifting, as in the former case, and it assumes the likeness of its owner. It is obviously becoming a vehicle for the inner man, with good definite organisation and stability, a body fit and ready to function, and able to maintain itself, apart from the physical. While retaining great plasticity, it yet has a normal form, to which it continuously recurs when any pressure is removed that may have caused it to change its outline.
Its activity is constant, and hence it is in perpetual vibration, showing endless varieties of changing hues ; also the "wheels" are clearly visible though not yet functioning ( Here the student will note the predominance of the râjasic guna, the quality of activity in nature.) It responds quickly to all the contacts coming to it through the physical body, and is stirred by the influences rained on it from the conscious entity within, memory and imagination stimulating it to action, and causing it to become the prompter of the body to activity instead of only being moved by it.
Its purification proceeds along the same lines as in the former case – the expulsion of lower constituents by setting up vibrations antagonistic to them and the drawing in of finer materials in their place. But now the increased moral intellectual development of the man puts the building almost entirely under his own control, for he is no longer driven here and there by stimuli from external nature, but reasons, judges, and resists or yields as he thinks well.
By the exercise of well-directed thought he can rapidly affect the astral body, and hence its improvement can proceed apace. Nor is it necessary that he should understand the modus operandi in order to bring about the effect, any more than that a man should understand the laws of light in order to see.
In sleep, this well-developed astral body slips, as usual, from its physical encasement, but is by no means held captive by it, as in the former case. It roams about in the astral world, drifted hither and thither by the astral currents, while the consciousness within it, not yet able to direct its movements, is awake, engaged in the enjoyment of its own mental images and mental activities, and able also to receive impressions through its astral covering, and to change them into mental pictures. In this way a man may gain knowledge when out of the body, and may subsequently impress it on the brain as a vivid dream or vision, or without this link of memory it may filter through into the brain-consciousness.
(c) The astral body of a spiritually developed man is composed of the finest particles of each subdivision of astral matter, the higher kinds largely predominating in amount. It is therefore a beautiful object in luminosity and colour, hues not known on earth showing themselves under the impulses thrown
into it by the purified mind. The wheels of fire are now seen to deserve their names, and their whirling motion denotes the activity of the higher senses. Such a body is, in the full sense of the words, a vehicle of consciousness, for in the course of evolution it has been vivified in every organ and brought under
the complete control of its owner.
When in it he leaves the physical body there is no break in consciousness ; he merely shakes off his heavier vesture, and finds himself unencumbered by its weight. He can move anywhere within the astral sphere with immense rapidity, and is no longer bound by the narrow terrestrial conditions. His body answers to his will, reflects and obeys his thought. His opportunities for serving humanity are thus enormously increased, and his powers are directed by his virtue and his beneficence. The absence of gross particles in his astral body renders it incapable of responding to the promptings of lower objects of desire, and they turn away from him as beyond their attraction. The whole body vibrates only in answer to the higher emotions, his love has grown into devotion, his energy is curbed by patience.
Gentle, calm, serene, full of power, but with no trace of restlessness, such a man "all the Siddhis stand ready to serve." (Here the sâttvic guna, the quality of bliss and purity in nature, is predominant. Siddhis are superphysical powers.)
The astral body forms the bridge over the gulf which separates consciousness from the physical brain. Impacts received by the sense organs and transmitted, as we have seen, to the dense and etheric centres, pass thence to the corresponding astral centres ; here they are worked on by the elemental essence and are transmuted into feelings , and are then presented to the inner man as objects of consciousness, the astral vibrations awakening corresponding vibrations in the materials of the mental body. (See chapter IV, on "The Mental Plane.")
By these successive gradations in fineness of spirit-matter the heavy impacts of terrestrial objects can be transmitted to the conscious entity ; and, in turn, the vibrations set up by his thoughts can pass along the same bridge to the physical brain and there induce physical vibrations corresponding to the mental.
This is the regular normal way in which consciousness receives impressions from without, and in turn sends impressions outwards. By this constant passage of vibrations to and fro the astral body is chiefly developed ; the current plays
upon it from within and from without, it evolves its organisation, and subserves its general growth.
By this it becomes larger, finer in texture, more definitely outlined, and more organised interiorly. Trained thus to respond to consciousness, it gradually becomes fit to function as its separate vehicle, and to transmit to it clearly the vibrations received directly from the astral world. Most readers will have had some little experience of impressions coming into consciousness from without, that do not arise from any physical impact, and that are very quickly verified by some external occurrence.
These are frequently impressions that reach the astral body directly, and are transmitted by it to the consciousness, and such impressions are often of the nature of previsions which very quickly prove themselves to be true. When the man is far progressed, though the stage varies much according to other circumstances, links are set up between the physical and the astral, the astral and mental, so that consciousness works unbrokenly from one state to the other, memory having in it none of the lapses which in the ordinary man interpose a period of unconsciousness in passing from one plane to another. The man can then also freely exercise the astral senses while the consciousness is working in the physical body, so that these enlarged avenues of knowledge become an appanage of his waking consciousness. Objects which were before matters of faith becomes matters of knowledge, and he can personally verify the accuracy of much of the Theosophical teaching as to the lower regions of the invisible world.
When man is analysed into "principles," i.e., into modes of manifesting life, his four lower principles, termed the "lower Quaternary," are said to function on the astral and physical planes. The fourth principle is Kâma, desire, and it is the life manifesting in the astral body and conditioned by it ; it is characterised by the attribute of feeling, whether in the rudimentary form of sensation, or in the complex form of emotion, or in any of the grades that lie between. This is summed up as desire, that which is attracted or repelled by objects, according as they give pleasure or pain to the personal self.
The third principle is Prâna, the life specialised for the support of the physical organism. The second principle is the etheric double, and the first is the dense body. These three function on the physical plane. In H.P.Blavatsky’s later classifications she removed both Prâna and the dense physical body from
the rank of principles, Prâna as being universal life, and the dense physical
body as being the mere counterpart of the etheric, and made of constantly
changing materials built into the etheric matrix. Taking this view, we have the
grand philosophic conception of the One Life, the One Self, manifesting as man,
and presenting varying and transitory differences according to the conditions
imposed on it by the bodies which it vivifies; itself remaining the same in the
centre, but showing different aspects when looked at from outside, according to
the kinds of matter in one body or another.
In the physical body it is Prâna, energising, controlling, co-ordinating. In the
astral body it is Kâma, feeling, enjoying, suffering. We shall find it in yet
other aspects, as we pass to higher planes, but the fundamental idea is the same
throughout, and it is another of those root-ideas of Theosophy, which firmly grasped, serve as guiding clues in this most tangled world.
KÂMALOKA, literally the place or habitat of desire, is, as has already been intimated, a part of the astral plane, not divided from it as a distinct locality, but separated off by the conditions of consciousness of the entities belonging to it. (The Hindus call this state Pretaloka, the habitat of Pretas. A Preta is a human being who has lost his physical body, but is still encumbered
with the vesture of his animal nature. He cannot carry this on with him, and until it is disintegrated he is kept imprisoned by it.)
These are human beings who have lost their physical bodies by the stroke of death, and have to undergo certain purifying changes before they can pass on to the happy and peaceful life which belongs to the man proper, to the human soul.
(The soul is the human intellect, the link between the Divine Spirit in man and his lower personality. It is the Ego, the individual, the " I ", which develops by evolution. In Theosophical parlance, it is Manas, the Thinker. The mind is
the energy of this, working within the limitations of the physical brain, or the astral and mental bodies).
This region represents and includes the conditions described as existing in the various hells, purgatories, and intermediate states, one or other of which is alleged by all the great religions to be the temporary dwelling-place of man after he leaves the body and before he reaches "heaven." It does not include any
place of eternal torture, the endless hell still believed in by some narrow religionists being only a nightmare dream of ignorance, hate and fear. But it does include conditions of suffering, temporary and purificatory in their nature, the working out of causes set going in his earth-life by the man who experiences them. These are as natural and inevitable as any effects caused in this world by wrongdoing, for we live in a world of law and every seed must grow up after its own kind. Death makes no sort of difference in a man’s moral and mental nature, and the change of state caused by passing from one world to another takes away his physical body, but leaves the man as he was.
The Kâmalokic condition is found on each subdivision of the astral plane, so that we may speak of it as having seven regions, calling them the first, second, third, up to the seventh, beginning from the lowest and counting upwards. (Often these regions are reckoned the other way, taking the first as the highest and the seventh as the lowest. It does not matter from which end we count ; and I am reckoning upwards to keep them in accord with the planes and principles.).
We have already seen that materials from each subdivision of the astral plane
enter into the composition of the astral body, and it is a peculiar rearrangement of these materials, to be explained in a moment, which separates the people dwelling in one region from those dwelling in another, although those in the same region are able to intercommunicate. The regions, being each a subdivision of the astral plane, differ in density, and the density of the external form of the Kâmalokic entity determines the region to which he is limited ; these differences of matter are the barriers that prevent passage from one region to another ; the people dwelling in one can no more come into touch with people dwelling in another than a deep-sea fish can hold a conversation with an eagle – the medium necessary to the life of the one would be destructive to the life of the other.
When the physical body is struck down by death, the etheric body, carrying Prâna with it and accompanied by the remaining principles – that is, the whole man, except the dense body – withdraws from the "tabernacle of flesh," as the outer body is appropriately called. All the outgoing life-energies draw themselves
inwards, and are "gathered up by Prâna," their departure being manifested by the
dullness that creeps over the physical organs of the senses.
They are there, uninjured, physically complete, ready to act as they have always
been ; but the "inner Ruler," is going, he who through them saw, heard, felt,
smelt, tasted, and by themselves they are mere aggregations of matter, living
indeed but without power of perceptive action. Slowly the lord of the body draws himself away, enwrapped in the violet-grey etheric body, and absorbed in the contemplation of the panorama of his past life, which in the death hour rolls
before him, complete in every detail.
In that life-picture are all the events of his life, small and great ; he sees
his ambitions with their success or frustration, his efforts, his triumphs, his
failures, his loves, his hatreds ; the predominant tendency of the whole comes
clearly out, the ruling thought of the life asserts itself, and stamps itself
deeply into the soul, marking the region in which the chief part of his
post-mortem existence will be spent.
Solemn the moment when the man stands face to face with his life, and from the
lips of his past hears the presage of his future. For a brief space he sees himself as he is, recognises the purpose of life, knows that the Law is strong and just and good. Then the magnetic tie breaks between the dense and etheric bodies, the comrades of a lifetime are disjoined, and – save in exceptional cases – the man sinks into peaceful unconsciousness.
Quietness and devotion should mark the conduct of all who are gathered round a dying body, in order that a solemn silence may leave uninterrupted this review of the past by the departing man. Clamorous weeping, loud lamentations, can but jar and disturb the concentrated attention of the soul, and to break with the
grief of a personal loss into the stillness which aids and soothes him, is at once selfish and impertinent. Religion has wisely commanded prayers for the dying, for these preserve calm and stimulate unselfish aspirations directed to his helping, and these, like all loving thoughts, protect and shield.
Some hours after death – generally not more than thirty-six, it is said – the man draws himself out of the etheric body, leaving it in turn as a senseless corpse, and the latter, remaining near its dense counterpart, shares its fate.
If the dense body be buried, the etheric double floats over the grave, slowly disintegrating, and the unpleasant feelings many experience in a churchyard are largely due to the presence of these decaying etheric corpses. If the body is burned, the etheric double breaks up quickly, having lost its nidus, its physical centre of attraction, and this is one among many reasons why cremation is preferable to burial, as a way of disposing of corpses.
The withdrawal of the man from the etheric double is accompanied by the withdrawal from it of Prâna, which thereupon returns to the great reservoir of life universal, while the man, ready now to pass into Kâmaloka, undergoes a
rearrangement of his astral body, fitting it for submission to the purificatory changes which are necessary for the freeing of the man himself. (These changes result in the formation of what is called by Hindus the Yâtanâ, or the suffering body, or in the case of very wicked men, in whose astral bodies there is a
preponderance of the coarser matter, the Dhruvam, or strong body).
During earth life the various kinds of astral matter intermingle in the formation of the body, as do the solids, liquids, gases, and ethers in the physical. The change in the arrangement of the astral body after death consists in the separation of these materials, according to their respective densities, into a series of concentric shells – the finest within, the densest without –
each shell being made of the materials drawn from one subdivision only of the astral plane. The astral body thus becomes a set of seven superimposed layers, or a seven-shelled encasement of astral matter, in which the man may not inaptly
be said to be imprisoned, as only the breaking of these can set him free. Now will be seen the immense importance of the purification of the astral body during earth-life; the man is retained in each subdivision of Kâmaloka so long as the shell of matter pertaining to that subdivision is not sufficiently
disintegrated to allow of his escape into the next.
Moreover, the extent to which his consciousness has worked in each kind of matter determines whether he will be awake and conscious in any given region, or will pass though it in unconsciousness, "wrapped" in rosy dreams," and merely detained during the time necessary for the process of mechanical disintegration.
A spiritually advanced man, who has so purified his astral body that its constituents are drawn only from the finest grade of each division of astral matter, merely passes through Kâmaloka without delay, the astral body disintegrating with extreme swiftness, and he goes on to whatever may be his bourne, according to the point he has reached in evolution. A less developed man, but one whose life has been pure and temperate and who has sat loosely on the things of the earth, will wing a less rapid flight through Kâmaloka, but will dream peacefully, unconscious of his surroundings, as his mental body
disentangles itself from the astral shells, one after the other, to awaken only when he reaches the heavenly places.
Others, less developed still, will awaken after passing out of the lower regions, becoming conscious in the division which is connected with the active working of the consciousness during the earth-life, for this will be aroused on receiving familiar impacts, although these be received now directly through the
astral body, without the help of the physical. Those who have lived in the animal passions will awake in their appropriate region, each man literally going "to his own place."
The case of men struck suddenly out of physical life by accident, suicide, murder, or sudden death in any form, differs from those of persons who pass away by failure of the life-energies through disease or old age. If they are pure and spiritually minded they are specially guarded, and sleep out happily the term of their natural life. But in other cases they remain conscious – often entangled in the final scene of earth-life for a time, and unaware that they have lost the physical body – held in whatever region they are related to by the outermost layer of the astral body: their normal Kâmalokic life does not begin until the natural web of earth-life is out-spun, and they are vividly conscious of both
their astral and physical surroundings.
One man who had committed an assassination and had been executed for his crime was said, by one of H.P.Blavatsky’s Teachers, to be living through the scenes of the murder and the subsequent events over and over again in Kâmaloka, ever repeating his diabolical act and going through the terrors of his arrest and execution.
A suicide will repeat automatically the feelings of despair and fear which preceded his self-murder, and go through the act and the death-struggle time after time with ghastly persistence. A woman who perished in the flames in a wild condition of terror and with frantic efforts to escape, created such a whirls of passions that, five days afterwards, she was still struggling
desperately, fancying herself still in the fire and wildly repulsing all efforts to soothe her: while another woman who, with her baby on her breast, went down beneath the whirl of waters in a raging storm, with her heart calm and full of love, slept peacefully on the other side of death, dreaming of husband and
children in happy lifelike visions.
In more ordinary cases, death by accident is still a disadvantage, brought on a person by some serious fault, (Not necessarily a fault committed in the present life. The law of cause and effect will be explained in Chapter IX, "Karma"), for the possession of full consciousness in the lower Kâmalokic regions, which are
closely related to the earth, is attended by many inconveniences and perils. The man is full of all the plans and interests that made up his life, and is conscious of the presence of people and things connected with them.
He is almost irresistibly impelled by his longings to try and influence the affairs to which his passions and feelings still cling, and is bound to the earth while he has lost all his accustomed organs of activity ; his only hope of peace lies in resolutely turning away from earth and fixing his mind on higher
things, but comparatively few are strong enough to make this effort, even with the help always offered them by workers on the astral plane, whose sphere of duty lies in helping and guiding those who have left his world. (These workers are disciples of some of the great Teachers who guide and help humanity, and
they are employed in this special duty of succouring souls in need of such assistance.)
Too often such sufferers impatient in their helpless inactivity, seek the assistance of sensitives, with whom they can communicate and so mix themselves up once more in terrestrial affairs ; they sometimes seek even to obsess convenient mediums and thus to utilise the bodies of others for their own
purposes, so incurring many responsibilities in the future. Not without occult reason have English churchmen been taught to pray: "From battle, murder, and from sudden death, Good Lord, deliver us."
We may now consider the divisions of Kâmaloka one by one, and so gain some idea of the conditions which the man has made for himself in the intermediate state by the desires which he has cultivated during physical life ; it being kept in mind that the amount of vitality in any given "shell" – and therefore his
imprisonment in that shell – depends on the amount of energy thrown during earth-life into the kind of matter of which that shell consists.
If the lowest passions have been active, the coarsest matter will be strongly vitalised and its amount will also be relatively large. This principle rules through all Kâmalokic regions, so that a man during earth-life can judge very fairly as to the future for himself that he is preparing immediately on the other side of death.
The first or lowest, division is the one that contains the conditions described in so many Hindu and Buddhist Scriptures under the name of "hells" of various kinds. It must be understood that a man, in passing into one of these states, is
not getting rid of the passions and vile desires that have led him thither ; these remain, as part of his character, lying latent in the mind in a germinal state, to be thrown outwards again to form his passional nature when he is returning to birth in the physical world. (See chapter VII, on "Reincarnation").
His presence in the lowest region of Kâmaloka is due to the existence in his kâmic body of matter belonging to that region, and he is held prisoner there until the greater part of that matter has dropped away, until the shell composed of it is sufficiently disintegrated to allow the man to come into contact with
the region next above.
The atmosphere of this place is gloomy, heavy, dreary, depressing to an inconceivable extent. It seems to reek with all the influences most inimical to good, as in truth it does, being caused by the persons whose evil passions have led them to this dreary place. All the desires and feelings at which we shudder,
find here the materials for their expression ; it is, in fact, the lowest slum, with all the horrors veiled from physical sight parading their naked hideousness. Its repulsiveness is much increased by the fact that in the astral world character expresses itself in form, and the man who is full of evil passions looks the whole of them ; bestial appetites shape the astral body into
bestial forms, and repulsively human animal shapes are the appropriate clothing of brutalised human souls.
No man can be a hypocrite in the astral world, and cloak foul thoughts with a veil of virtuous seeming ; whatever a man is that he appears to be in outward form and semblance, radiant in beauty if his mind be noble, repulsive in hideousness if his nature be foul. It will readily be understood, then, how such
Teachers as the Buddha – to whose unerring vision all worlds lay open – should describe what was seen in these hells in vivid language of terrible imagery, that seems incredible to modern readers only because people forget that, once escaped from the heavy and unplastic matter of the physical world, all souls
appear in their proper likenesses and look just what they are.
Even in this world a degraded and besotted ruffian moulds his face into most repellent aspect ; what then can be expected when the plastic astral matter takes shape with every impulse of his criminal desires, but that such a man should wear a
horrifying form, taking on changing elements of hideousness?
For it must be remembered that the population – if that word may be allowed – of this lowest region consists of the very scum of humanity, murderers, ruffians, violent criminals of all types, drunkards, profligates, the vilest of mankind.
None is here, with consciousness awake to its surroundings, save those guilty of brutal crimes, or of deliberate persistent cruelty, or possessed by some vile appetite. The only persons who may be of a better general type, and yet for a while be held here, are suicides, men who have sought by self-murder to escape
from the earthly penalties of crimes they had committed, and who have but worsened their position by the exchange. Not all suicides, be it understood , for self-murder is committed from many motives, but only such as are led up to by crime and are then committed in order to avoid the consequences.
Save for the gloomy surroundings and the loathsomeness of a man’s associates, every man here is the immediate creator of his own miseries. Unchanged, except for the loss of the bodily veil, men here show out their passions in all their native hideousness, their naked brutality ; full of fierce unsatiated appetites,
seething with revenge, hatred, longings after physical indulgences which the loss of physical organs incapacitates them for enjoying, they roam, raging and ravening, through this gloomy region, crowding round all foul resorts on earth,
round brothels and gin-palaces, stimulating their occupants to deeds of shame and violence, seeking opportunities to obsess them, and so to drive them into worse excesses.
The sickening atmosphere felt round such places comes largely from these earthbound astral entities, reeking with foul passions and unclean desires. Mediums – unless of very pure and noble character – are special objects of attack, and too often the weaker ones, weakened still further by the passive
yielding of their bodies for the temporary habitation of other excarnate souls are obsessed by these creatures, and are driven into intemperance or madness.
Executed murderers, furious with terror and passionate revengeful hatred, acting over again, as we have said, their crime and recreating mentally its terrible results, surround themselves with an atmosphere of savage thought-forms, and, attracted to any one harbouring revengeful and violent designs, they egg him on into the actual commission of the deed over which he broods.
Sometimes a man may be seen constantly followed by his murdered victim, never able to escape from his haunting presence, which hunts him with a dull persistency , try he ever so eagerly to escape. The murdered person, unless himself of a very base type, is wrapped in unconsciousness, and this very unconsciousness seems to add a new horror to its mechanical pursuit.
Here also is the hell of the vivisector, for cruelty draws into the astral body the coarsest materials and the most repulsive combinations of the astral matter, and he lives amid the crowding forms of his mutilated victims – moaning,
quivering, howling (they are vivified, not by the animal souls but by elemental life) pulsing with hatred to the tormentor – rehearsing his worst experiments with automatic regularity, conscious of all the horror, and yet imperiously impelled to the self-torment by the habit set up during earth-life.
It is well once again, to remember, ere quitting this dreary region, that we have no arbitrary punishments inflicted from outside, but only the inevitable working out of the causes set going by each person. During physical life they yielded to the vilest impulses and drew into, built into, their astral bodies
the materials which alone could vibrate in answer to those impulses ; this self-built body becomes the prison house of the soul, and must fall into ruins ere the soul can escape from it.
As inevitably as a drunkard must live in his repulsive soddened physical body here, so must he live in his equally repulsive astral body there. The harvest sown is reaped after its kind. Such is the law in all the worlds, and it may not be escaped. Nor indeed is the astral body there more revolting and horrible than it was when the man was living upon earth and made the atmosphere around him fetid with his astral emanations. But people on earth do not generally recognise its ugliness, being astrally blind.
Further, we may cheer ourselves in contemplating these unhappy brothers of ours by remembering that their sufferings are but temporary, and are giving a much-needed lesson in the life of the soul. By the tremendous pressure of nature’s disregarded laws they are learning the existence of those laws, and the misery that accrues from ignoring them in life and conduct. The lesson they
would not learn during earth-life, whirled away on the torrent of lusts and desires, is pressed on them here, and will be pressed on them in their succeeding lives, until the evils are eradicated and the man has risen into a better life. Nature’s lessons are sharp, but in the long run they are merciful, for they lead to the evolution of the soul and guide it to the winning of its
Let us pass to a more cheerful region. The second division of the astral world may be said to be the astral double of the physical, for the astral bodies of all things and of many people are largely composed of the matter belonging to this division of the astral plane, and it is therefore more closely in touch with the physical world than any other part of the astral. The great majority of
people make some stay here, and a very large proportion of these are consciously awake in it. These latter are folk whose interests were bound up in the trivial and petty objects of life, who set their hearts on trifles, as well as those who allowed their lower natures to rule them, and who died with the appetites still active and desirous of physical enjoyment.
Having largely sent their life outwards in these directions, thus building their astral bodies largely of the materials that responded very readily to material impacts, they are held by these bodies in the neighbourhood of their physical attractions. They are mostly dissatisfied, uneasy, restless, with more or less
suffering according to the vigour of the wishes they cannot gratify ; some even undergo positive pain from this cause, and are long delayed ere these earthly longings are exhausted.
Many unnecessarily lengthen their stay by seeking to communicate with the earth, in whose interests they are entangled, by means of mediums, who allow them to use their physical bodies for this purpose, thus supplying the loss of their own. From them comes most of the mere twaddle with which every one is familiar who has had experience of public spiritualistic séances, the gossip and trite morality of the petty lodging-house and small shop – feminine, for the most
part. As these earth bound souls are generally of small intelligence, their communications are of no more interest- (to those already convinced of the existence of the soul after death) –than was their conversation when they were in the body, and – just as on earth – they are positive in proportion to their
ignorance, representing the whole astral world as identical with their own very limited area. There as here: They think the rustic cackle of their burgh The murmur of the world.
It is from this region that people who have died with some anxiety on their minds will sometimes seek to communicate with their friends in order to arrange the earthly matter that troubles them ; if they cannot succeed in showing themselves, or in impressing their wishes by a dream on some friend, they will
often cause much annoyance by knockings and other noises directly intended to draw attention or caused unconsciously by their restless efforts.
It is a charity in such cases for some competent person to communicate with the distressed entity and learn his wishes, as he may thus be freed from the anxiety which prevents him from passing onwards. Souls, while in this region, may also
very easily have their attention drawn to the earth, even although they would not spontaneously have turned back to it, and this disservice is too often done to them by the passionate grief and craving for their beloved presence by friends left behind on earth.
The thought-forms set up by these longings throng round them, and oftentimes arouse them if they are peacefully sleeping, or violently draw their thoughts to earth if they are already conscious. It is especially in the former case that this unwitting selfishness on the part of friends on earth does mischief to
their dear ones that they would themselves be the first to regret ; and it may that the knowledge of the unnecessary suffering thus caused to those who have passed through death may, with some, strengthen the binding force of the religious precepts which enjoin submission to the divine law and the checking of
excessive and rebellious grief.
The third and fourth regions of the Kâmalokic world differ but little from the second, and might also be described as etherialised copies of it, the fourth being more refined than the third, but the general characteristics of the three subdivisions being very similar. Souls of somewhat more progressed types are
found there, and although they are held there by the encasement built by the activity of their earthly interests, their attention is for the most part directed onwards rather than backwards, and, if they are not forcibly recalled to the concerns of earth-life, they will pass on without very much delay.
Still, they are susceptible to earthly stimuli, and the weakening interest in terrestrial affairs may be reawakened by cries from below. Large numbers of educated and thoughtful people, who were chiefly occupied with worldly affairs during their physical lives, are conscious in these regions, and may be induced
to communicate through mediums, and, more rarely, seek such communication themselves. Their statements are naturally of a higher type than those spoken of as coming from the second division, but are not marked by any characteristics
that render them more valuable than similar statements made by persons still in the body. Spiritual illumination does not come from Kâmaloka.
The fifth subdivision of Kâmaloka offers many new characteristics. It presents a distinctly luminous and radiant appearance, eminently attractive to those accustomed only to the dull hues of the earth, and justifying the epithet astral, starry, given to the whole plane. Here are situated all the materialised
heavens which play so large a part in popular religions all the world over.
The happy hunting grounds
of the Red Indian, the
their places here. Men and women who clung desperately to every "letter that killeth" have here the literal satisfaction of their cravings, unconsciously creating in astral matter by their powers of imagination, fed on the mere husks of the world’s Scriptures, the cloud-built palaces whereof they dreamed.
The crudest religious beliefs find here their temporary cloud-land realisation, and literalists of every faith, who were filled with selfish longings for their own salvation in the most materialistic of heavens, here find an appropriate, and to them enjoyable, home, surrounded by the very conditions in which they believed. The religious and philanthropic busybodies, who cared more to carry out their own fads and impose their own ways on their neighbours than to work unselfishly for the increase of human virtue and happiness, are here much to the
fore, carrying on reformatories, refuges, schools, to their own great satisfaction, and much delighted are they still to push an astral finger into an earthly pie with the help of a subservient medium whom they patronise with lofty condescension.
They build astral churches and schools and houses, reproducing the materialistic heavens they coveted ; and though to keener vision their erections are imperfect, even pathetically grotesque, they find them all-sufficing. People of the same religions flock together and co-operate with each other in various ways, so that communities are formed, differing as widely from each other as do similar communities on earth.
When they are attracted to the earth they seek, for the most part, people of their own faith and country, chiefly by natural affinity, doubtless, but also because barriers of language still exist in Kâmaloka ; as may be noticed occasionally in messages received in spiritualistic circles. Souls from this region often take the most vivid interest in attempts to establish communication
between this and the next world, and the "spirit guides" of average mediums come, for the most part, from this and from the region next above. They are generally aware that there are many possibilities of higher life before them, and that they will, sooner or later, pass away into worlds whence communication
with this earth will not be possible.
The sixth Kâmalokic region resembles the fifth, but is far more refined, and is largely inhabited by souls of a more advanced type, wearing out the astral vesture in which much of their mental energies had worked while they were in the physical body. Their delay is here due to the large part played by selfishness in their artistic and intellectual life, and to the prostitution of their talents to the gratification of the desire-nature in a refined and delicate way.
Their surroundings are the best that are found in Kâmaloka, as their creative thoughts fashion the luminous materials of their temporary home into fair landscapes and rippling oceans, snow-clad mountains and fertile plains, scenes that are of fairy-like beauty compared with even the most exquisite that earth
can show. Religionists also are found here, of a slightly more progressed kind than those in the division immediately below, and with more definite views of their own limitations. They look forward more clearly to passing out of their present sphere, and reaching a higher state.
The seventh, the highest, subdivision of Kâmaloka, is occupied almost entirely by intellectual men and women who were either pronouncedly materialistic while on earth, or who are so wedded to the ways in which knowledge is gained by the lower mind in the physical body that they continue its pursuit in the old ways,
though with enlarged faculties. One recalls Charles Lamb’s dislike of the idea that in heaven knowledge would have to be gained "by some awkward process of intuition" instead of through his beloved books. Many a student lives for long
years, sometimes for centuries – according to H.P.Blavatsky – literally in the astral library, conning eagerly all books that deal with his favourite subject, and perfectly contented with his lot.
Men who have been keenly set on some line of intellectual investigation, and have thrown off the physical body, with their thirst for knowledge unslaked, pursue their object still with unwearied persistence, fettered by their clinging to the physical modes of study. Often such men are still sceptical as to the
higher possibilities that lie before them, and shrink from the prospect of what is practically a second death – the sinking into unconsciousness ere the soul is born into the higher life of heaven. Politicians, statesmen, men of science, dwell for a while in this region, slowly disentangling themselves from the
astral body, still held to the lower life by their keen and vivid interest in the movements in which they have played so large a part, and in the effort to work out astrally some of the schemes from which Death snatched them ere yet they had reached fruition.
To all, however, sooner or later – save to that small minority who during earth-life never felt one touch of unselfish love, of intellectual aspiration, of recognition of something or some one higher than themselves – there comes a time when the bonds of the astral body are finally shaken off, while the soul sinks into brief unconsciousness of its surroundings, like the unconsciousness that follows the dropping off of the physical body, to be awakened by a sense of bliss, intense, immense, fathomless, undreamed of, the bliss of the heaven-world, of the world to which by its own nature it belongs.
Low and vile may have been many of its passions, trivial and sordid many of its longings, but it had gleams of a higher nature, broken lights now and then from a purer region, and these must ripen as seeds to the time of their harvest, and however poor and few must yield their fair return. The man passes on to reap
this harvest, and to eat and assimilate its fruit. (See Chapter V, on Devachan).
The astral corpse, as it is sometimes called, or the "shell" of the departed entity, consists of the fragments of the seven concentric shells before described, held together by the remaining magnetism of the soul. Each shell in turn has disintegrated, until the point is reached when mere scattered fragments of it remain ; these cling by magnetic attraction to the remaining shells, and
when one after another has been reduced to this condition, until the seventh or innermost is reached and itself disintegrates, the man himself escapes, leaving behind him these remains.
The shell drifts about vaguely in the kâmalokic world, automatically and feebly repeating its accustomed vibrations, and as the remaining magnetism gradually disperses, it falls into a more and more decayed condition, and finally disintegrates completely, restoring its materials to the general mass of astral
matter, exactly as does the physical body to the physical world.
This shell drifts wherever the astral currents may carry it, and may be vitalised, if not too far gone, by the magnetism of embodied souls on earth, and so restored to some amount of activity. It will suck up magnetism as a sponge sucks up water, and will then take on an illusory appearance of vitality, repeating more vigorously and vibration to which it was accustomed ; these are often set up by the stimulus of thoughts common to the departed soul and friends and relations on earth, and such a vitalised shell may play quite respectably the part of a communicating intelligence; it is however, distinguishable – apart from the use of astral vision – by its automatic repetitions of familiar thoughts, and by the total absence of all originality and of any traces of knowledge not possessed during physical life.
Just as souls may be delayed in their progress by foolish and inconsiderate friends, so may they be aided in it by wise and well-directed efforts. Hence all religions, which retain any traces of the occult wisdom of their Founders, enjoin the use of "prayers for the dead." These prayers with their accompanying
ceremonies are more or less useful according to the knowledge, the love, and the willpower by which they were ensouled.
They rest on that universal truth of vibration by which the universe is built, modified, and maintained. Vibrations are set up by the uttered sounds, arranging astral matter into definite forms, ensouled by the thought enshrined in the words. These are directed towards the Kâmalokic entity, and, striking against
the astral body, hasten its disintegration. With the decay of occult knowledge these ceremonies have become less and less potent, until their usefulness has almost reached a vanishing point.
Nevertheless they are still sometimes performed by a man of knowledge, and then exert their rightful influence. Moreover, every one can help his beloved departed by sending to them thoughts of love and peace and longing for their swift progress through the Kâmalokic world and their liberation from astral
fetters. No one should leave his "dead" to go on a lonely way, unattended by loving hosts of these guardian angel thought-forms, helping them forward with joy.
THE MENTAL PLANE
The mental plane, as its name implies, is that which belongs to consciousness working as thought ; not of the mind as it works through the brain, but as it works in its own world, unencumbered with physical spirit-matter. This world is
the world of the real man. The word "man" comes from the Sanskrit root "man" and this is the root of the Sanskrit verb "to think," so that man means thinker; he is named by his most characteristic attribute, intelligence.
In English the word "mind" has to stand for the intellectual consciousness itself, and also for the effects produced on the physical brain by the vibration of that consciousness ; but we have now to conceive of the intellectual consciousness as an entity, an individual – a being, the vibrations of whose life are thoughts, thoughts which are images, not words.
This individual is Manas, or the Thinker ; (Derived from Manas is the technical name, the mânasic plane. Englished as "mental." We might call it the plane of the mind proper, to distinguish its activities from those of the mind working in the flesh.) –he is the Self, clothed in the matter, and working within the conditions, of the higher subdivisions of the mental plane. He reveals his
presence on the physical plane by the vibrations he sets up in the brain and nervous system ; these respond to the thrills of his life by sympathetic vibrations, but in consequence of the coarseness of their material they can reproduce only a small section of his vibrations and even that very imperfectly.
Just as science asserts the existence of a vast series of etheric vibrations, of which the eye can only see a small fragment, the solar light spectrum, because it can vibrate only within certain limits, so can the physical thought-apparatus, the brain and nervous system, think only a small fragment of the vast series of mental vibrations set up by the Thinker in his own world.
The most receptive brains respond up to the point of what we call the great intellectual power ; the exceptionally receptive brains respond up to the point of what we call genius ; the exceptionally unreceptive brains respond only up to the point we call idiocy ; but every one sends beating against his brain
millions of thought-waves to which it cannot respond, owing to the density of its materials, and just in proportion to its sensitiveness are the so-called mental powers of each. But before studying the Thinker, it will be well to consider his world, the mental plane itself.
The mental plane is that which is next to the astral, and is separated from it only by differences of materials, just as the astral is separated from the physical. In fact, we may repeat what was said as to the astral and the physical with regard to the mental and the astral. Life on the mental plane is more
active than on the astral, and form is more plastic. The spirit-matter of that plane is more highly vitalised and finer than any grade of matter in the astral world. The ultimate atom of astral matter has innumerable aggregations of the coarsest mental matter for its encircling sphere-world, so that the disintegration of the astral atom yields a mass of mental matter of the coarsest
kinds. Under these circumstances it will be understood that the play of the life-forces on this plane will be enormously increased in activity, there being so much less mass to be moved by them.
The matter is in constant ceaseless motion, taking form under every thrill of
life, and adapting itself without hesitation to every changing motion.
"Mind-stuff," as it has been called, makes astral spirit-matter seem clumsy,
heavy, and lustreless, although compared with the physical spirit-matter it is
so fairy-light and luminous. But the law of analogy holds good, and gives us a
clue to guide us through this super astral region, the region that is our
birthplace and our home, although, imprisoned in a foreign land, we know it not,
and gaze at descriptions of it with the eyes of aliens.
Once again here, as on the two lower planes, the subdivisions of the
spirit-matter of the plane are seven in number. Once again, these varieties
enter into countless combinations, of every variety of complexity, yielding the
solids, liquids, gases, and ethers of the mental plane. The word "solid" seems
indeed absurd, when speaking of even the most substantial forms of mind-stuff ;
yet as they are dense in comparison with other kinds of mental materials, and as
we have no descriptive words save such as are based on physical conditions, we must even use it for lack of a better.
Enough if we understand that this plane follows the general law and order of
Nature, which is, for our globe, the septenary basis, and that the seven
subdivisions of matter are of lessening densities, relatively to each other, as
the physical solids, liquids, gases, and ethers ; the seventh, or highest,
subdivision being composed exclusively of the mental atoms.
These subdivisions are grouped under two headings, to which the somewhat
inefficient and unintelligible epithets "formless" and "form" have been
assigned. (Arűpa, without form: rűpa, form. Rűpa is form, shape, body. ) The
lower four – the first, second, third, and fourth subdivisions – are grouped
together as "with form" ; the higher three – the fifth, sixth and seventh
subdivisions – are grouped as "formless." The grouping is necessary, for the
distinction is a real one, although one difficult to describe, and the regions
are related in consciousness to the divisions in the mind itself – as will appear more plainly a little farther on.
The distinction may perhaps be best expressed by saying that in the lower four subdivisions the vibrations of consciousness give rise to forms, to images or pictures, and every thought appears as a living shape ; whereas in the higher three, consciousness, though still, of course, setting up vibrations, seems rather to send them out as a mighty stream of living energy, which does not body itself into distinct images while it remains in this higher region, but which steps up a variety of forms all linked by some common condition when it rushes into the lower worlds.
The nearest analogy that I can find for the conception I am trying to express is
that of abstract and concrete thoughts ; an abstract idea of a triangle has no
form, but connotes any plane figure contained within three right lines, the
angles of which make two right angles ; such an idea, with conditions but
without shape, thrown into the lower world, may give birth to a vast variety of
figures, right-angled, isosceles, scalene, of any colour and size, but all
filling the conditions – concrete triangles each one with a definite shape of
its own. The impossibility of giving in words a lucid exposition of the
difference in the action of consciousness in the two regions is due to the fact
that words are the symbols of images and belong to the workings of the lower
mind in the brain, and are based wholly upon those workings ; while the
"formless" region belongs to the Pure reason, which never works within the
narrow limits of language.
The mental plane is that which reflects the Universal Mind in Nature, the plane
which in our little system corresponds with that of the Great Mind in the
Kosmos. (Mahat, the Third LOGOS, or Divine Creative Intelligence, the Brahmâ of the Hindus, the Mandjusri of the Northern Buddhists, the Holy Spirit of the
Christians.) In its higher regions exist all the archetypal ideas which are now
in course of concrete evolution, and in its lower the working out of these into
successive forms, to be duly reproduced in the astral and physical worlds.
Its materials are capable of combining under the impulse of thought vibrations,
and can give rise to any combination which thought can construct ; as iron can
be made into a spade for digging or into a sword for slaying, so can mind-stuff
be shaped into thought-forms that help or injure ; the vibrating life of the
Thinker shapes the materials around him, and according to his volitions so is
his work. In that region thought and action, will and deed, are one and the same
thing – spirit-matter here becomes the obedient servant of the life, adapting
itself to every creative motion.
These vibrations, which shape the matter of the plane into thought-forms, give
rise also from their swiftness and subtlety to the most exquisite and constantly
changing colours, waves of varying shades like the rainbow hues of
mother-of-pearl, etherialised and brightened to an indescribable extent,
sweeping over and through every form, so that each presents a harmony of
rippling, living, luminous, delicate colours, including many not ever known to
Words can give no idea of the exquisite beauty and radiance shown in
combinations of this subtle matter, instinct with life and motion. Every seer
who has witnessed it, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, speaks in rapturous terms of
its glorious beauty, and ever confesses his utter inability to describe it;
words seem but to coarsen and deprave it, however deftly woven in its praise.
Thought-forms naturally play a large part among the living creatures that
function on the mental plane. They resemble those with which we are already
familiar in the astral world, save that they are far more radiant and more
brilliantly coloured, are stronger, more lasting, and more fully vitalised. As
the higher intellectual qualities become more clearly marked, these forms show
very sharply defined outlines, and there is a tendency to a singular perfection
of geometrical figures accompanied by an equally singular purity of luminous
colour. But, needless to say at the present stage of humanity, there is a vast
preponderance of cloudy and irregularly shaped thoughts, the production of the
ill-trained minds of the majority.
Rarely beautiful artistic thoughts are also here encountered, and it is little
wonder that painters who have caught, in dreamy vision, some glimpse of their
ideal, often fret against their incapacity to reproduce its glowing beauty in
earth’s dull pigments. These thought-forms are built out of the elemental
essence of the plane, the vibrations of the thought throwing the elemental
essence into a corresponding shape, and this shape having the thought as its
informing life. Thus again we have "artificial elementals" created in a way
identical with that by which they come into being in the astral regions. All
that is said in Chapter II of their generation and of their importance may be
repeated of those of the mental plane, with here the additional responsibility
on their creators of the greater force and permanence belonging to those of this
The elemental essence of the mental plane is formed by the Monad in the stage of its descent immediately preceding its entrance into the astral world, and it
constitutes the second elemental kingdom, existing on the four lower
subdivisions of the mental plane. The three higher subdivisions, the "formless,"
are occupied by the first elemental kingdom, the elemental essence there being
thrown by thought into brilliant coruscations, coloured streams, and flashes of
living fire, instead of into definite shapes, taking as it were its first
lessons in combined action, but not yet assuming definite limitations of forms.
On the mental plane, in both its great divisions, exist numberless
Intelligences, whose lowest bodies are formed of the luminous matter and elemental essence of that plane – Shining ones who guide the processes of natural order, overlooking the hosts of lower entities before spoken of, and yielding submission in their several hierarchies to their great overlords of the seven Elements. (These are the Arűpa and Rűpa Devas of the Hindus and the Buddhists, the "Lords of the heavenly and the earthly" of the Zoroastrians, the
Archangels and Angels of the Christians and Mahomedans).
They are, as may readily be imagined, beings of vast knowledge, of great power,
and most splendid in appearance, radiant, flashing creatures, myriad-hued, like
rainbows of changing supernal colours, of stateliest mien, calm energy
incarnate, embodiments of resistless strength. The description of the great
Christian Seer leaps to mind, when he wrote of a mighty angel: "A rainbow was
upon his head, and his face was imperial as it were the sun, and his feet as
pillars of fire.( Revelation, x, 1). "As the sound of many waters" are their
voices, as echoes from the music of the spheres. They guide natural order, and
rule the vast companies of the elementals of the astral world, so that their
cohorts carry on ceaselessly the processes of nature with undeviating regularity
On the lower mental plane are seen many Chelâs at work in their mental bodies,
(Usually called Mâyâvi Rűpa, or illusory body, when arranged for independent
functioning in the mental world.) --- freed for a time from their physical
vestures. When the body is wrapped in deep sleep the true man, the Thinker, may escape from it, and work untrammelled by its weight in these higher regions.
From here he can aid and comfort his fellowmen by acting directly on their
minds, suggesting helpful thoughts, putting before them noble ideas, more
effectively and speedily than he can do when encased in the body. He can see
their needs more clearly and therefore can supply them more perfectly, and it is
his highest privilege and joy thus to minister to his struggling brothers, without their knowledge of his service or any ideas of theirs as to the strong arm that lifts their burden, or the soft voice that whispers solace in their pain.
Unseen, unrecognised, he works, serving his enemies as gladly and as freely as
his friends, dispensing to individuals the stream of beneficent forces that are
poured down from the great Helpers in higher spheres. Here also are sometimes
seen the glorious figures of the Masters, though for the most part They reside
on the highest level of the "formless" division of the mental plane ; and other
Great Ones may also sometimes come hither on some mission of compassion
requiring such lower manifestation.
Communication between intelligences functioning consciously on this plane,
whether human or non-human, whether in or out of the body, is practically
instantaneous, for it is with:the "speed of thought." Barriers of space have
here no power to divide, and any soul can come into touch with any one by merely directing his attention to him.
Not only is communication thus swift, but it is also complete, if the souls are
at about the same stage of evolution ; no words fetter and obstruct the
communion, but the whole thought flashes from the one to the other, or, perhaps
more exactly, each sees the thought as conceived by the other. The real barriers
between souls are the differences of evolution ; the less evolved can know only
as much of the more highly evolved as his is able to respond to ; the limitation
can obviously be felt only by the higher one, as the lesser has all that he can
The more evolved a soul, the more does he know of all around him, the nearer
does he approach to realities ; but the mental plane has also its veils of
illusion, it must be remembered, though they be far fewer and thinner than those
of the astral and the physical worlds. Each soul has its own mental atmosphere,
and, as all impressions must come through this atmosphere, they are all
distorted and coloured. The clearer and purer, the atmosphere, and the less it
is coloured by the personality, the fewer are the illusions that can befall it.
The three highest subdivisions of the mental plane are the habitat of the
Thinker himself, and he dwells on one or other of these, according to the stage
of his evolution. The vast majority live on the lowest level, in various stages
of evolution ; a comparatively few of the highly intellectual dwell on the
second level, the Thinker ascending thither – to use a phrase more suitable to
the physical than to the mental plane – when the subtler matter of that region
preponderates in him, and thus necessitates the change ; there is of course, no
"ascending," no change of place, but he receives the vibrations of that subtler
matter, being able to respond to them, and he himself is able to send out forces
that throw its rare particles into vibration.
The student should familiarise himself with the fact that rising in the scale of
evolution does not move him from place to place, but renders him more and more able to receive impressions. Every sphere is around us, the astral, the mental, the buddhic, the nirvânic, and worlds higher yet, the life of the supreme God ; we need not stir to find them, for they are here; but our dull unreceptivity
shuts them out more effectively than millions of miles of mere space.
We are conscious only of that which affects us, which stirs us to responsive
vibration, and as we become more and more receptive, as we draw into ourself
finer and finer matter, we come into contact with subtler and subtler worlds.
Hence, rising from one level to another means that we are weaving our vestures
of finer materials and can receive through them the contacts of finer worlds ;
and it means further that in the Self within these vestures diviner powers are
waking from latency into activity, and are sending out their subtler thrills of
At the stage now reached by the Thinker, he is fully conscious of his
surroundings and is in possession of the memory of his past. He knows the bodies he is wearing, through which he is contacting the lower planes, and he is able to influence and guide them to a great extent. He sees the difficulties, the
obstacles, they are approaching – the results of past careless living – and he
sets himself to pour into them energies by which they may be better equipped for their task.
His direction is sometimes felt in the lower consciousness as an imperiously
compelling force that will have its way, and that impels to a course of action
for which all the reasons may not be clear to the dimmer vision caused by the
mental and astral garments. Men who have done great deeds have occasionally left on record their consciousness of an inner and compelling power, which seemed to leave them no choice save to do as they had done. They were then acting as the real man ; the Thinkers, that are the inner men, were doing the work consciously through the bodies that then were fulfilling their proper functions as vehicles of the individual. To these higher powers all will come as evolution proceeds.
On the third level of the upper region of the mental plane dwell the Egos of the
Masters, and of the Initiates who are Their Chelâs, the Thinkers having here a
preponderance of the matter of this region in their bodies. From this world of
subtlest mental forces the Masters carry on Their beneficent work for humanity,
raining down noble ideals, inspiring thoughts, devotional aspirations, streams
of spiritual and intellectual help for men.
Every force there generated, rays out in myriad directions, and the noblest,
purest souls catch most readily these helpful influences. A discovery flashes
into the mind of the patient searcher into Nature’s secrets ; a new melody
entrances the ear of the great musician ; the answer to a long studied problem
illumines the intellect of a lofty philosopher ; a new energy of hope and love
suffuses the heart of an unwearied philanthropist. Yet men think that they are
left uncared for, although the very phrases they use ; "the thought occurred to
me; the idea came to me; the discovery flashed on me " unconsciously testify to
the truth known to their inner selves though the outer eyes be blind.
Let us now turn to the study of the Thinker and his vestures as they are found
in men on earth. The body of the consciousness, conditioning it in the four
lower subdivisions of the mental plane – the mental body, as we term it – is
formed of combinations of the matter of these subdivisions. The Thinker, the
individual, Human Soul – formed in the way described in the latter part of this
chapter – when he is coming into incarnation, first radiates forth some of his
energy in vibrations that attract round him, and clothe him in, matter drawn
from the four lower subdivisions of his own plane.
According to the nature of the vibrations are the kinds of matter they attract ;
the finer kinds answer the swifter vibrations and take form under their impulse
; the coarser kinds similarly answer the slower ones ; just as a wire will
sympathetically sound out a note – i.e., a given number of vibrations – coming
from a wire similar in weight and tension to itself, but will remain dumb amid a
chorus of notes from wires dissimilar to itself in these respects, so do the
different kinds of matter assort themselves in answer to different kinds of
vibrations. Exactly according to the vibrations sent out by the Thinker will be
the nature of the mental body that he thus draws around him, and this mental
body is what is called the lower mind, the lower Manas, because it is the
Thinker clothed in the matter of the lower subdivisions of the mental plane and
conditioned by it in his further working.
None of his energies which are too subtle to move this matter, too swift for its
response, can express themselves through it ; he is therefore limited by it,
conditioned by it, restricted by it in his expression of himself. It is the first of his prison-houses during his incarnate life, and while his energies are acting within it he is largely shut off from his own higher world, for his attention is with the outgoing energies and his life is thrown with them into the mental body, often spoken as a vesture, or sheath, or vehicle – any expression will serve which connotes the idea that the Thinker is not the mental body, but formed it and uses it in order to express as much of himself as he can in the lower mental region.
It must not be forgotten that his energies, still pulsing outwards, draw round
him also the coarser matter of the astral plane as his astral body ; and during
his incarnate life the energies that express themselves through the lower kinds
of mental matter are so readily changed by it into the slower vibrations that
are responded to by astral matter that the two bodies are continually vibrating
together, and become very closely interwoven ; the coarser the kinds of matter
built into the mental body, the more intimate becomes this union, so that the
two bodies are sometimes classed together and even taken as one.( Thus the
Theosophist will speak of Kâma Manas, meaning the mind as working in and with the desire nature, affecting and affected by the animal nature. The Vedântin
classes the two together, and speaks of the Self as working in the
Manomayakosha, the sheath composed of the lower mind, emotions, and passions.
The European psychologist makes "feelings" one section of his tripartite
division of "mind", and includes under feelings both emotions and sensations.)
When we come to study Reincarnation we shall find this fact assuming vital
According to the stage of evolution reached by the man will be the type of
mental body he forms on his way to become again incarnate, and we may study, as we did with the astral body, the respective mental bodies of three types of men
a) an undeveloped man
b) an average man
c) a spiritually advanced man.
In the undeveloped man the mental body is but little perceptible, a small
amount of unorganised mental matter, chiefly from the lowest subdivisions of
the plane, being all that represents it. This is played on almost entirely
from the lower bodies, being set vibrating feebly by the astral storms raised
by the contacts with material objects through the sense organs. Except when
stimulated by these astral vibrations it remains almost quiescent, and even
under their impulses its responses are sluggish. No definite activity is
generated from within, these blows from the outer world being necessary to
arouse any distinct response.
The more violent the blows, the better for the progress of the man, for each
responsive vibration aids in the embryonic development of the mental body.
Riotous pleasure, anger, rage, pain, terror, all these passions, causing whirlwinds in the astral body, awaken faint vibrations in the mental, and gradually these vibrations, stirring into commencing activity the mental consciousness, cause it to add something of its own to the impressions made on it from without.
We have seen that the mental body is so closely mingled with the astral that
they act as a single body, but the dawning mental faculties add to the astral
passions a certain strength and quality not apparent in them when they work as
purely animal qualities. The impressions made on the mental body are more
permanent than those made on the astral, and they are consciously reproduced
by it. Here memory and the organ of imagination begin, and the latter
gradually moulds itself, the images from the outer world working on the matter
of the mental body and forming its materials into their own likeness.
These images, born of the contacts of the senses, draw round themselves the
coarsest mental matter; the dawning powers of consciousness reproduce these
images, and thus accumulate a store of pictures that begin to stimulate action
initiated from within, from the wish to experience again through the outer
organs the vibrations that were found pleasant, and to avoid those productive
The mental body then begins to stimulate the astral, and to arouse in it the
desires that, in the animal, slumber until awakened by a physical stimulus ;
hence we see in the undeveloped man a persistent pursuit of sense-gratification never found in the lower animals, a lust, a cruelty, a calculation, to which they are strangers. The dawning powers of the mind, yoked to the service of the senses, make of man a far more dangerous and savage brute than any animal, and the stronger and more subtle forces inherent in the mental-spiritual matter lend to the passion-nature an energy and a keenness that we do not find in the animal world.
But these very excesses lead to their own correction by the sufferings which
they cause, and these resultant experiences play upon the consciousness and
set up new images on which the imagination works. These stimulate the
consciousness to resist many of the vibrations that reach it by way of the
astral body from the external world, and to exercise its volition in holding
the passions back instead of giving them free rein.
Such resistant vibrations are set up in, and attract towards, the mental body,
finer combinations of mind-stuff and tend also to expel from it the coarser
combinations that vibrate responsively to the passional notes set up in the
astral body ; by this struggle between the vibrations set up by passion-images
and the vibrations set up by the imaginative reproduction of past experiences,
the mental body grows, begins to develop a definite organisation, and to
exercise more and more initiative as regards external activities.
While the earth life is spent gathering experiences, the intermediate life is spent assimilating them, as we shall see in detail in the following chapter, so that in each return to earth the Thinker has an increased stock of faculties to take shape as his mental body. Thus the undeveloped man, whose mind is the slave of his passions, grows into the average man, whose mind is a battleground in which passions and mental powers wage war with varying success, about balanced in their forces, but who is gradually gaining the mastery over his lower nature.
In the average man, the mental body is much increased in size, shows a certain
amount of organisation, and contains a fair proportion of matter drawn from
the second, third, and fourth subdivisions of the mental plane. The general law which regulates all the building up and modifying of the mental body may here be fitly studied, though it is the same principle already seen working in the lower realms of the astral and physical worlds.
Exercise increases, disuse atrophies and finally destroys. Every vibration set up in the mental body causes changes in its constituents, throwing out of it, in the part affected, the matter that cannot vibrate sympathetically, and replacing it by suitable materials drawn from the practically illimitable store around. The more a series of vibrations is repeated, the more does the part affected by them increase in development ; hence, it may be noted in passing, the injury done to the mental body by over-specialisation of mental energies.
Such mistaken direction of these powers causes a lopsided development of the
mental body ; it becomes proportionately over developed in the region in which
these forces are continually playing and proportionately undeveloped in other
parts, perhaps equally important. A harmonious and proportionate all-round
development is the object to be sought, and for this we need a calm self-analysis and a definite direction of means to ends. A knowledge of this law, further explains certain familiar experiences, and affords a sure hope of progress. When a new study is commenced, or a change in favour of high morality is initiated, the early stages are found to be fraught with difficulties ; sometimes the effort is even abandoned because the obstacles in the way of its success appear to be insurmountable.
At the beginning of any new mental undertaking, the whole automatism of the
mental body opposes it ; the materials habituated to vibrate in a particular
way, cannot accommodate themselves to the new impulses, and the early stage
consists chiefly of sending out thrills of force which are frustrated, so far
as setting up vibrations in the mental body are concerned, but which are the
necessary preliminary to any such sympathetic vibrations, as they shake out of
the body the old refractory materials and draw into it the sympathetic kinds.
During this process, the man is not conscious of any progress; he is conscious
only of the frustration of his efforts and of the dull resistance he encounters. Presently, if he persists, as the newly attracted materials begin to function, he succeeds better in his attempts, and at last, when all the old materials are expelled and the new are working, he finds himself succeeding without an effort, and his object is accomplished.
The critical time is during the first stage ; but if he trust in the law, as sure in its working as every other law in Nature, and persistently repeat his efforts, he must succeed ; and a knowledge of this fact may cheer him when otherwise he would be sinking in despair. In this way, then, the average man may work on, finding with joy that as he steadily resists the promptings of the lower nature he is conscious they are losing their power over him, for he is expelling from his mental body all the materials that are capable of being thrown into sympathetic vibrations. Thus the mental body gradually comes to be composed of the finer constituents of the four lower subdivisions of the mental plane, until it has become radiant and exquisitely beautiful form which is the mental body of the –
Spiritually developed man. From this body all the coarser combinations have
been eliminated, so that the objects of the senses no longer find in it, or in
the astral body connected with it, materials that respond sympathetically to
their vibrations. It contains only the finer combinations belonging to each of
the four subdivisions of the lower mental world, and of these again the
materials of the third and fourth sub-planes very much predominate in its
composition over the materials of the second and first, making it responsive
to all the higher workings of the intellect, to the delicate contacts of the
higher arts, to all the pure thrills of loftier emotions.
Such a body enables the Thinker who is clothed in it to express himself much
more fully in the lower mental region and in the astral and physical worlds ;
its materials are capable of a far wider range of responsive vibrations, and
the impulses from a loftier realm mould it into nobler and subtler organisation.
Such a body is rapidly becoming ready to reproduce every impulse from the Thinker which is capable of expression on the lower subdivisions of the mental plane ; it is growing into a perfect instrument for activities in this lower mental world.
A clear understanding of the nature of the mental body would much modify
modern education, and would make it far more serviceable to the Thinker than
it is at present. The general characteristics of this body depend on the past
lives of the Thinker on earth, as will be thoroughly understood when we have
studied Reincarnation and Karma. The body is constituted on the mental plane,
and its materials depend on the qualities that the Thinker has garnered within
himself as the results of his past experiences.
All that education can do is to provide such external stimuli as shall arouse and encourage the growth of the useful faculties he already possesses, and stunt and help in the eradication of those that are undesirable. The drawing out of these inborn faculties, and not the cramming of the mind with facts, is the object of true education.
Nor need memory be cultivated as a separate faculty, for memory depends on attention – that is on the steady concentration of the mind on the subject studied – and on the natural affinity between the subject and the mind. If the subject be liked – that is, if the mind has a capacity for it – memory will not fail, provided due attention be paid. Therefore education should cultivate the habit of steady concentration, of sustained attention, and should be directed according to the inborn faculties of the pupil.
Let us now pass into the "formless" divisions of the mental plane, the region
which is man’s true home during the cycle of his reincarnations, into which he
is born, a baby soul, an infant Ego, an embryonic individuality, when he begins his purely human evolution.( See Chapters VII and VIII, on "Reincarnation").
The outline of this Ego, the Thinker, is oval in shape, and hence H.P. Blavatsky speaks of this body of Manas which endures throughout all his incarnations as the Auric Egg. Formed of the matter of the three highest subdivisions of the mental plane, it is exquisitely fine, a film of rarest subtlety, even at its first inception ; and, as it develops, it becomes a radiant object of supernal glory and beauty, the shining One, as it has been aptly named. ( This is the Augśides of the Neo-Platonists, the "spiritual body" of St. Paul).
What is this Thinker? He is the divine Self, as already said, limited, or
individualised, by this subtle body drawn from the materials of the "formless"
region of the mental plane. (The Self, working in the Vignyânamayakosha, the
sheath of discriminative knowledge, according to the Vedântic classification).
This matter – drawn around a ray of the Self, a living beam of the one Light
and Life of the universe – shuts off this ray from its Source, so far as the
external world is concerned, encloses it within a filmy shell of itself, and so makes it "an individual." The life is the Life of the LOGOS, but all the powers of that Life are lying latent, concealed ; everything is there potentially, germinally, as the tree is hidden within the tiny germ in the seed.
This seed is dropped into the soil of human life that its latent forces may be
quickened into activity by the sun of joy and the rain of tears, and he fed by
the juices of the life-soil that we call experience, until the germ grows into a mighty tree, the image of its generating Sire. Human evolution is the evolution of the Thinker; he takes on bodies on the lower mental and astral, and the physical planes, wears then through earthly, astral, lower mental life, dropping them successively at the regular stages of this life-cycle as he passes from world to world, but ever storing up within himself the fruits he has gathered by their use on each plane.
At first, as little conscious as a baby’s earthly body, he almost slept through life after life, till the experiences playing on him from without awakened some of his latent forces into activity; but gradually he assumed more and more part in the direction of his life, until, with manhood reached, he took his life into his own hands, and an ever-increasing control over his future destiny.
The growth of the permanent body which, with the divine consciousness, forms the Thinker is extremely slow. Its technical name is the causal body, because he
gathers up within it the results of all experiences, and these act as causes,
moulding future lives. It is the only permanent one among the bodies during
incarnation, the mental, the astral, and physical bodies being reconstituted for
each fresh life ; as each perishes in turn, it hands on its harvest to the one
above it, and thus all the harvests are finally stored in the permanent body ;
when the Thinker returns to incarnation he sends out his energies, constituted
of these harvests, on each successive plane, and thus draws round him a anew
body after body suitable to his past.
The growth of the causal body itself, as said, is very slow, for it can vibrate
only in answer to impulses that can be expressed in the very subtle matter of
which it is composed, thus weaving them into the texture of its being. Hence the
passions, which play so large a part in the early stages of human evolution,
cannot directly affect its growth. The Thinker can work into himself only the
experiences that can be reproduced in the vibrations of the causal body, and
these must belong to the mental region, and be highly intellectual or loftily
moral in their character ; other wise its subtle matter can give no sympathetic
vibration in answer.
A very little reflection will convince any one how little material, suitable for
the growth of this lofty body, he affords by his daily life ; hence the slowness
of evolution, the little progress made. The Thinker should have more of himself
to put out in each successive life, and, when this is the case, evolution goes
swiftly forward. Persistence in evil courses reacts in a kind of indirect way on
the causal body, and does more harm than the mere retardation of growth ; it
seems after a long time to cause a certain incapacity to respond to the
vibrations set up by the opposite good, and thus to delay growth for a
considerable period after the evil has been renounced.
Directly to injure the causal body, evil of a highly intellectual and refined
kind is necessary, the "spiritual evil" mentioned in the various Scriptures of
the world. This is fortunately rare, rare as spiritual good, and found only
among the highly progressed, whether they be following the Right-hand or the
Left-hand Path. (The Right-hand Path is that which leads to divine manhood, to
Adeptship used in the service of the worlds. The Left-hand Path is that which
also leads to Adeptship, but to Adeptship that is used to frustrate the progress
of evolution and is turned to selfish individual ends. They are sometimes called
the White and Black Paths respectively.)
The habitat of the Thinker, of the Eternal Man, is on the fifth subplane, the
lowest level of the "formless" region of the mental plane. The great masses of
mankind are here, scarce yet awake, still in the infancy of their life. The
Thinker develops consciousness slowly, as his energies, playing on the lower
planes, there gather experience, which is indrawn with these energies as they
return to him treasure-laden with the harvest of life. This eternal Man, the
individualised Self, is the actor in every body that he wears ; it is his
presence that gives the feeling of " I " alike to body and mind, the " I " being
that which is self-conscious and which, by illusion, identifies itself with that
vehicle in which it is most actively energising.
To the man of the senses the " I " is the physical body and the desire nature ;
he draws from these his enjoyment, and he thinks of these as himself, for his
life is in them. To the scholar the " I " is the mind, for in its exercise lies
his joy and therein his life is concentrated. Few can rise to the abstract
heights of spiritual philosophy, and feel this Eternal Man as " I ", with memory
ranging back over past lives and hopes ranging forward over future births.
The physiologists tell us that if we cut the finger we do not really feel the
pain there where the blood is flowing, but that pain is felt in the brain, and
is by imagination thrown outwards to the place of the injury ; the feeling of
pain in the finger is, they say an illusion ; it is put by imagination at the
point of contact with the object causing the injury ; so also will a man feel
pain in an amputated limb, or rather in the space the limb used to occupy.
Similarly does the one " I ", the Inner Man, feel suffering and joy in the
sheaths which enwrap him, at the points of contact with the external world, and
feels the sheath to be himself, knowing not that this feeling is an illusion,
and that he is the sole actor and experiencer in each sheath.
Let us now consider, in this light, the relations between the higher and lower
mind and their action on the brain. The mind, Manas, the Thinker, is one, and is
the Self in the causal body; it is the source of innumerable energies, of
vibrations of innumerable kinds. These it sends out, raying outwards from
itself. The subtlest and finest of these are expressed in the matter of the
causal body, which alone is fine enough to respond to them ; they form what we
call the Pure Reason, whose thoughts are abstract, whose method of gaining
knowledge is intuition ; its very "nature is knowledge," and it recognises truth
at sight as congruous with itself.
Less subtle vibrations pass outwards, attracting the matter of the lower mental
region, and these are the Lower Manas, or lower mind – the coarser energies of
the higher expressed in denser matter ; these we call the intellect, comprising
reason, judgement, imagination, comparison, and the other mental faculties ; its
thoughts are concrete, and its method is logic ; it argues, it reasons, it
infers. These vibrations, acting through astral matter on the etheric brain, and
by that on the dense physical brain, set up vibrations therein, which are the
heavy and slow reproductions of themselves – heavy and slow, because the
energies lose much of their swiftness in moving the heavier matter.
This feebleness of response when a vibration is initiated in a rare medium and
then passes into a dense one is familiar to every student of physics. Strike a
bell in air and it sounds clearly ; strike it in hydrogen, and let the hydrogen
vibrations have to set up the atmospheric waves, and how faint the result.
Equally feeble are the workings of the brain in response to the swift and subtle
impacts of the mind ; yet that is all that the vast majority know as their
The immense importance of the mental workings of this "consciousness" is due to the fact that it is the only medium whereby the Thinker can gather the harvest
of experience by which he grows. While it is dominated by the passions it runs
riot, and he is left unnourished and therefore unable to develop ; while it is
occupied wholly in mental activities concerned with the outer world, it can
arouse only his lower energies; only as he is able to impress on it the true object of its life, does it commence to fulfil its most valuable functions of gathering what will arouse and nourish his higher energies.
As the Thinker develops he becomes more and more conscious of his own inherent powers, and also of the workings of his energies on the lower planes, of the bodies which those energies have drawn around him. He at last begins to try to influence them, using his memory of the past to guide his will, and these
impressions we call "conscience" when they deal with morals and "flashes of
intuition " when they enlighten the intellect.
When these impressions are continuous enough to be normal, we speak of their
aggregate as "genius." The higher evolution of the Thinker is marked by his
increasing control over his lower vehicles, by their increasing susceptibility
to his influence, and their increasing contributions to growth. Those who would
deliberately aid in this evolution may do so by a careful training of the lower
mind and of the moral character, by steady and well directed effort.
The habit of quiet, sustained, and sequential thought, directed to non-worldly
subjects, of meditation, of study, develops the mind-body and renders it a
better instrument ; the effort to cultivate abstract thinking is also useful, as
this raises the lower mind towards the higher, and draws into it the subtlest
materials of the lower mental plane.
In these and cognate ways all may actively co-operate in their own higher
evolution, each step forward making the succeeding steps more rapid. No effort,
not even the smallest, is lost, but is followed by its full effect, and every
contribution gathered and handed inwards is stored in the treasure-house of the
causal body for future use. Thus evolution, however slow and halting, is yet
ever onwards, and the divine Life, ever unfolding in every soul, slowly subdues
all things to itself.
The word Devachan is the theosophical name for heaven, and, literally translated, means the shining land, or the Land of the Gods. ( Devasthan, the place of the Gods, is the Sanskrit equivalent. It is the Svarga of the Hindus ; the Sukhâvati of the Buddhists ; the Heaven of the Zoroastrians and Christians,
and of the less materialised among the Mohammedans). It is a specially guarded part of the mental plane, whence all sorrow and all evil are excluded by the action of the great spiritual Intelligences who superintend human evolution ; and it is inhabited by human beings who have cast off their physical and astral bodies, and who pass into it when their stay in Kâmaloka is completed.
The devachanic life consists of two stages, of which the first is passed in the four lower subdivisions of the mental plane, in which the Thinker still wears the mental body and is conditioned by it, being employed in assimilating the materials gathered by it during the earth-life from which he has just emerged.
The second stage is spent in the "formless world," the Thinker escaping from the mental body, and living in his own
unencumbered life in the full measure of the self-consciousness and knowledge to which he has attained.
The total length of time spent in Devachan depends upon the amount of material for the Devachanic life which the soul has brought with it from its life on earth. The harvest of the fruit for consumption and assimilation in Devachan consists of all the pure thoughts and emotions generated during earth-life, all
the intellectual and moral efforts and aspirations, all the memories of useful work and plans for human service – everything which is capable of being worked into mental and moral faculty, thus assisting in the evolution of the soul.
Not one is lost, however feeble, however fleeting ; but selfish animal passions cannot enter, there being no material in which they can be expressed. Nor does all the evil in the past life, though it may largely preponderate over the good, prevent the full reaping of whatever scant harvest of good there may have been ; the scantiness of the harvest may render the devachanic life very brief, but the most depraved, if he has had any faint longings after the right, any stirrings of tenderness, must have a period of devachanic life in which the seed of good may put forth its tender shoots, in which the spark of good may be gently fanned into a tiny flame.
In the past, when men lived with their hearts largely fixed on heaven and directed their lives with a view to enjoying its bliss, the period spent in Devachan was very long, lasting sometimes for many thousands of years ; at the present time, men’s minds being so much more centred on earth, and so few of their thoughts comparatively being directed towards the higher life, their devachanic periods are correspondingly shortened.
Similarly, the time spent in the higher and lower regions of the mental plane ( Called technically the Arűpa and Rűpa Devachan – existing on the arűpa and rűpa levels of the mental plane ) respectively is proportionate to the amount of thought generated severally in the mental and causal bodies ; All the thoughts belonging to the personal self, to the life just closed – with all its ambitions, interests, loves, hopes, and fears – all these have their fruition in the Devachan where forms are found ; while those belonging to the higher mind, to the regions of abstract, impersonal thinking, have to be worked out in the "formless" devachanic region. The majority of people only just enter that lofty region to pass swiftly out again ; some spend there a large portion of their devachanic existence ; a few spend there almost the whole.
Ere entering into any details let us try to grasp some of the leading ideas which govern the devachanic life, for it is so different from physical life that any description of it is apt to mislead by its very strangeness. People realise so little of their mental life, even as led in the body, that when they are presented with a picture of mental life out of the body they lose all sense of reality, and feel as though they had passed into a world of dream.
The first thing to grasp is that mental life is far more intense, vivid, and nearer to reality than the life of the senses. Everything we see and touch and hear and taste and handle down here is two removes farther from the reality than everything we contact in Devachan. We do not even see things as they are, but the things that we see down here have two more veils of illusion enveloping them. Our sense of reality here is an entire delusion ; we know nothing of things, of people, as they are ; all that we know of them are the impressions they make on our senses, and the conclusions, often erroneous, which our reason deduces from the aggregate of these impressions. Get and put side by side the ideas of a man held by his father, his closest friend, the girl who adores him, his rival in business, his deadliest enemy, and a casual acquaintance, and see how incongruous the pictures.
Each can only give the impressions made on his own mind, and how far are they from the reality of what the man is, seen by the eyes that pierces all veils and behold the whole man. We know of each of our friends the impressions they make on us, and these are strictly limited by our capacity to receive ; a child may
have as his father a great statesman of lofty purpose and imperial aims, but that guide of nation’s destinies is to him only his merriest play fellow, his most enticing storyteller.
We live in the midst of illusions, but we have the feeling of reality, and this yields us content. In Devachan we shall also be surrounded by illusions – though, as said, two removes nearer to reality – and there also we shall have a similar feeling of reality which will yield us content.
The illusions of earth, though lessened, are not escaped from in the lower heavens, though contact is more real and more immediate. For it must never be forgotten that these heavens are part of a great evolutionary scheme, and, until man has found the real Self, his own unreality makes him subject to illusions.
One thing however, which produces the feeling of reality in earth-life and of unreality when we study Devachan, is that we look at earth-life from within, under the full sway of its illusions, while we contemplate Devachan from outside, free for the time from its veil of Mâyâ.
In Devachan the process is reversed, and its inhabitants feel their own life to be the real one and look on the earth-life as full of the most patent illusions and misconceptions. On the whole, they are nearer to the truth than the physical critics of their heaven-world.
Next, the Thinker – being clad only in the mental body and being in the
untrammelled exercise of its powers – manifests the creative nature of these
powers in a way and to an extent that down here we can hardly realise. On earth
a painter, a sculptor, a musician, dreams, dreams of exquisite beauty, creating
their visions by the powers of the mind ; but when they seek to embody them in
the coarse materials of earth they fall far short of the mental creation. The
marble is too resistant for perfect form, the pigments to muddy for perfect
In heaven, all they think, is at once reproduced in form, for the rare and
subtle matter of the heaven-world is mind stuff, the medium in which the mind
normally works when free from passion, and it takes shape with every mental
impulse. Each man, therefore, in a very real sense, makes his own heaven, and
the beauty of his surroundings is definitely increased, according to the wealth
and energy of his mind. As the soul develops his powers, his heaven grows more and more subtle and exquisite; all the limitations in heaven are self-created,
and heaven expands and deepens with the expansion and deepening of the soul.
While the soul is weak and selfish, narrow and ill-developed, his heaven shares
these pettinesses; but it is always the best that is in the soul, however poor
that best may be. As the man evolves, his devachanic lives become fuller,
richer, more and more real, and advanced souls come into ever closer and closer
contact with each other, enjoying wider and deeper intercourse.
A life on earth, thin, feeble, vapid, and narrow, mentally and morally, produces
a comparatively thin, feeble, vapid and narrow life in Devachan, where only the
mental and the moral survive. We cannot have more than we are, and our harvest
is according to our sowing. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked ; for whatsoever a man soweth, that,"- and neither more nor less, - "shall he also reap." Our indolence and greediness would fain reap where we have not sown, but in this universe of law, the Good Law, mercifully just, brings to each the exact wages of his work.
The mental impressions, or mental pictures, we make of our friends will dominate us in Devachan. Round each soul throng those he loved in life, and every image of the loved ones that live in the heart becomes a living companion of the soul in heaven. And they are unchanged. They will be to us there as they were here, and no otherwise. The outer semblance of our friend as it affected our senses, we form out of mind-stuff in Devachan by the creative powers of the mind; what was here a mental picture is there – as in truth it was here, although we knew it not – an objective shape in living mind-stuff, abiding in our own mental atmosphere ; only what is dull and dreamy here is forcibly living and vivid
And with regard to the true communion, that of the soul with soul? That is
closer, nearer, dearer than anything we know here, for, as we have seen, there
is no barrier on the mental plane between soul and soul; exactly in proportion
to the reality of the soul-life in us is the reality of soul-communion there ;
the mental image of our friend is our own creation ; his form is as we knew and
loved it ; and his soul breathes through that form to ours just to the extent
that his soul and ours can throb in sympathetic vibration.
But we can have no touch with those we knew on earth if the ties were only of
the physical or astral body, or if they and we were discordant in the inner life
; therefore into our Devachan no enemy can enter, for sympathetic accord of
minds and hearts can alone draw men together there. Separateness of heart and
mind means separation in the heavenly life, for all that is lower than the heart
and mind can find no means of expression there. With those who are far beyond us in evolution we come into contact just as far as we can respond to them ; great ranges of their being will stretch beyond our ken, but all that we can touch is ours. Further, these greater ones can and do aid us in the heavenly life, under
conditions we shall study presently, helping us to grow towards them, and thus
be able to receive more and more. There is then no separation by space or time,
but there is separation by absence of sympathy, by lack of accord between hearts and minds.
In heaven we are with all whom we love and with all whom we admire, and we
commune with them to the limit of our capacity, or, if we are more advanced, of
theirs. We meet them in the forms we loved on earth, with perfect memory of our
earthly relationships, for heaven is the flowering of all earth’s buds, and the
marred and feeble loves of earth expand into beauty and power there. The
communion being direct, no misunderstandings of words or thoughts can arise ;
each sees the thought his friend creates, or as much of it as he can respond to.
Devachan, the heaven-world, is a world of bliss, of joy unspeakable. But it is
much more than this, much more than a rest for the weary. In Devachan all that
was valuable in the mental and moral experiences of the Thinker during the life
just ended is worked out, meditated over, and is gradually transmuted into
definite mental and moral faculty, into powers which he will take with him to
his next rebirth. He does not work into the mental body the actual memory of the past, for the mental body will, in due course, disintegrate ; the memory of the past abides only in the Thinker himself, who has lived through it and who endures. But these facts of past experiences are worked into mental capacity, so that if a man has studied a subject deeply the effects of that study will be the creation of a special faculty to acquire and master that subject when it is first presented to him in another incarnation.
He will be born with a special aptitude for that line of study, and will pick it
up with great facility. Everything thought upon earth is thus utilised in
Devachan ; every aspiration is worked up into power ; all frustrated efforts
become faculties and abilities ; struggles and defeats reappear as materials to
be wrought into instruments of victory ; sorrows and errors shine luminous as
precious metals to be worked up into wise and well-directed volitions.
Schemes of beneficence, for which power and skill to accomplish were lacking in the past, are in Devachan worked out in thought, acted out, as it were, stage by stage, and the necessary power and skill are developed as faculties of the mind to be put into use in a future life on earth, when the clever and earnest
student shall be reborn as a genius, when the devotee shall be reborn as a
saint. Life then, in Devachan, is no mere dream, no lotus-land of purposeless
idling ; it is the land in which the mind and heart develop, unhindered by gross
matter and by the trivial cares, where weapons are forged for earth’s fierce
battlefields, and where the progress of the future is secured.
When the Thinker has consumed in the mental body all the fruits belonging to it
of his earthly life, he shakes it off and dwells unencumbered in his own place.
All the mental faculties which express themselves on the lower levels are drawn
within the causal body – with the germs of the passional life that were drawn
into the mental body when it left the astral shell to disintegrate in Kâmaloka –
and these become latent for a time, lying within the causal body, forces which
remain concealed for lack of material in which to manifest. (The thoughtful
student may here find a fruitful suggestion on the problem of continuing
consciousness after the cycle of the universe is trodden. Let him place Îshvara
in the place of the Thinker, and let the faculties that are the fruits of a life
represent the human lives that are the fruits of a Universe. He may then catch
some glimpse of what is necessary for consciousness, during the interval between universes).
The mental body, the last of the temporary vestures of the true man,
disintegrates, and its materials return to the general matter of the mental
plane, whence they were drawn when the Thinker last descended into incarnation.
Thus the causal body alone remains, the receptacle and treasure-house of all
that has been assimilated from the life that is over. The Thinker has finished a
round of his long pilgrimage and dwells for a while in his own native land.
His condition as to consciousness depends entirely on the point he has reached
in evolution. In his early stages of life he will merely sleep, wrapped in
unconsciousness, when he has lost his vehicles on the lower planes. His life
will pulse gently within him, assimilating any little results from his closed
earth-existence that may be capable of entering into his substance ; but he will
have no consciousness of his surroundings. But as he develops, this period of
his life becomes more and more important, and occupies a greater proportion of
his devachanic existence.
He becomes self-conscious, and thereby conscious of his surroundings – of the
not-self – and his memory spreads before him the panorama of his life,
stretching backwards into the ages of the past. He sees the causes that worked
out their effects in the last of his life-experiences, and studies the causes he
has set going in this latest incarnation. He assimilates and works into the
texture of the causal body all that was noblest and loftiest in the closed
chapter of his life, and by his inner activity he develops and co-ordinates the
materials in his causal body. He comes into direct contact with great souls,
whether in or out of the body at the time, enjoys communion with them, learns
from their riper wisdom and longer experience.
Each succeeding devachanic life is richer and deeper ; with his expanding
capacity to receive, knowledge flows into him in fuller tides ; more and more he
learns to understand the workings of the law, the conditions of evolutionary
progress, and thus returns to earth-life each time with greater knowledge, more
effective power, his vision of the goal of life becoming ever clearer and the
way to it more plain before his feet.
To every Thinker, however unprogressed, there comes a moment of clear vision
when the time arrives for his return to the life of the lower worlds. For a
moment he sees his past and the causes working from it into the future, and the
general map of his next incarnation is also unrolled before him. Then the clouds
of lower matter surge round him and obscure his vision, and the cycle of another
incarnation begins with the awakening of the powers of the lower mind, and their
drawing round him, by their vibrations, materials from the lower mental plane to
form the new mental body for the opening chapter of his life-history. This part
of our subject, however, belongs in its detail to the chapters on reincarnation.
We left the soul asleep, (See Chapter III., On Kâmaloka, ) having shaken off the
last remains of his astral body, ready to pass out of Kâmaloka into Devachan,
out of purgatory into heaven. The sleeper awakens to a sense of joy unspeakable, of bliss immeasurable, of peace that passeth understanding.
Softest melodies are breathing round him, tenderest hues greet his opening eyes, the very air seems music and colour, the whole being is suffused with light and harmony.
Then through the golden haze dawn sweetly the faces loved on earth, etherialised
into the beauty which expresses their noblest, loveliest emotions, unmarred by
the troubles and the passions of the lower worlds. Who may tell the bliss of
that awakening, the glory of that first dawning of the heaven-world?
We will now study the conditions in detail of the seven subdivisions of
Devachan, remembering that in the four lower we are in the world of form, and a
world, moreover, in which every thought presents itself at once as a form. This
world of form belongs to the personality, and every soul is therefore surrounded
by as much of his past life as has entered into his mind and can be expressed in
The first, or lowest, region is the heaven of the least progressed souls, whose
highest emotion on earth was a narrow, sincere, and sometimes selfish love for
family and friends. Or it may be that they felt some loving admiration for some
one they met on earth who was purer and better than themselves, or felt some
wish to lead a higher life, or some passing aspiration towards mental and moral
There is not much material here out of which faculty can be moulded, and their
life is but very slightly progressive ; their family affections will be
nourished and a little widened, and they will be reborn after a while with a
somewhat improved emotional nature, with more tendency to recognise and respond to a higher ideal. Meanwhile they are enjoying all the happiness they can
receive; their cup is but a small one, but it is filled to the brim with bliss,
and they enjoy all that they are able to conceive of heaven. Its purity, its
harmony, play on their undeveloped faculties and woo them to awaken into
activity, and the inner stirrings begin which must precede any manifested
The next division of devachanic life comprises men and women of every religious faith whose hearts during their earthly lives had turned with loving devotion to God, under any name, under any form. The form may have been narrow, but the heart rose up in aspiration, and here finds the object of its loving worship.
The concept of the Divine which was formed by their mind when on earth here
meets them in the radiant glory of devachanic matter, fairer, diviner, than
their wildest dreams.
The Divine One limits Himself to meet the intellectual limits of His worshipper,
and in whatever form the worshipper has loved and worshipped Him, in that form He reveals Himself to his longing eyes, and pours out on him the sweetness of His answering love. The souls are steeped in religious ecstasy, worshipping the One under the forms their piety sought on earth, losing themselves in the
raptures of devotion, in communion with the Object they adore. No one finds
himself a stranger in the heavenly places, the Divine veiling Himself in the
familiar form. Such souls grow in purity and in devotion under the sun of this
communion, and return to earth with these qualities much intensified. Nor is all
their devachanic life spent in this devotional ecstasy, for they have full
opportunities of maturing every other quality they may possess of heart and
Passing onwards to the third region, we come to those noble and earnest beings
who were devoted servants of humanity while on earth, and largely poured out
their love to God in the form of works for man. They are reaping the reward of
their good deeds by developing larger powers of usefulness and increased wisdom in their direction. Plans of wider beneficence unroll themselves before the mind of the philanthropist, and like an architect, he designs the future edifice
which he will build in a coming life on earth ; he matures the schemes which he
will then work out into actions, and like a creative God plans his universe of
benevolence, which shall be manifested in gross matter when the time is ripe.
These souls will appear as the great philanthropists of yet unborn centuries,
who will incarnate on earth with innate dower of unselfish love and of power to
Most varied in character, perhaps, of all the heavens is the fourth, for here
the powers of the most advanced souls find their exercise, so far as they can be
expressed in the world of form. Here the kings of art and of literature are
found, exercising all their powers of form, of colour, of harmony, and building
greater faculties with which to be reborn when they return to earth. Noblest
music, ravishing beyond description, peals forth from the mightiest monarchs of
harmony that the earth has known, as Beethoven, no longer deaf, pours out his
imperial soul in strains of unexampled beauty, making even the heaven world more melodious as he draws down harmonies from higher spheres, and sends them thrilling through the heavenly places. Here also we find the masters of painting and of sculpture, learning new hues of colour, new curves of undreamed beauty.
And here also are others who failed, though greatly aspiring, and who are here
transmuting longings into powers, and dreams into faculties, that shall be
theirs in another life. Searchers into Nature are here, and they are learning
her hidden secrets ; before their eyes are unrolling systems of worlds with all
their hidden mechanism, woven series of workings of unimaginable delicacy and
complexity ; they shall return to earth as great "discoverers," with unerring
intuitions of the mysterious ways of Nature.
In this heaven also are found students of the deeper knowledge, the eager,
reverent pupils who sought the Teachers of the race, who longed to find a
Teacher, and patiently worked at all that had been given out by some one of the
great spiritual Masters who have taught humanity. Here their longings find their
fruition, and Those they sought, apparently in vain, are now their instructors ;
the eager souls drink in the heavenly wisdom, and swift their growth and
progress as they sit at their Master’s feet. As teachers and as light-bringers
shall they be born again on earth, born with the birthmark of the teacher’s high
office upon them.
Many a student on earth, all unknowing of these subtler workings, is preparing
himself a place in this fourth heaven, as he bends with a real devotion over the
pages of some teacher of genius, over the teachings of some advanced soul. He is forming a link between himself and the teacher he loves and reverences, and in
the heaven-world that soul-tie will assert itself, and draw together into communion the souls it links. As the sun pours down its rays into many rooms,
and each room has all it can contain of the solar beams, so in the heaven-world
do these great souls shine into hundreds of mental images of themselves created
by their pupils, fill them with life, with their own essence, so that each
student has his master to teach him and yet shuts out none other from his aid.
Thus, for periods long in proportion to the materials gathered for consumption
upon earth, dwell men in these heaven-worlds of form, where all good that the
last personal life had garnered finds its full fruition, its full working out
into minutest detail. Then as we have seen, when everything is exhausted, when
the last drop has been drained from the cup of joy, the last crumb eaten of the
heavenly feast, all that has been worked up into faculty, that is of permanent
value, is drawn within the causal body, and the Thinker shakes off him and the
then disintegrating body through which he has found expression on the lower
levels of the devachanic world. Rid of this mental body, he is in his own world, to work up whatever of his harvest can find material suitable for it in that high realm.
A vast number of souls touch the lowest level of the formless world as it were but for a moment, taking brief refuge there, since all lower vehicles have fallen away. But so embryonic are they that they have as yet no active powers that there can function independently, and they become unconscious as the mental body slips away into disintegration. Then, for a moment, they are aroused to consciousness, and a flash of memory illumines their past and they see its pregnant causes ; and a flash of foreknowledge illumines their future, and they see such effects as will work out in the coming life. This is all that very many are as yet able to experience of the formless world. For, here again, as ever, the harvest is according to the sowing, and how should they who have sowed nothing for that lofty region expect to reap any harvest therein?
But many souls have during their earth-life, by deep thinking and noble living, sown much seed, the harvest of which belongs to this fifth devachanic region, the lowest of the three heavens of the formless world. Great is now their reward for having so risen above the bondage of the flesh and of passion, and they begin to experience the real life of man, the lofty existence of the soul
itself, unfettered by vestures belonging to the lower worlds. They learn truths by direct vision, and see the fundamental causes of which all concrete objects are the results; they study the underlying unities, whose presence is marked in the lower worlds by the variety of irrelevant details.
Thus they gain a deep knowledge of law, and learn to recognise its changeless workings below results apparently the most incongruous, thus building into the body that endures firm unshakable convictions, that will reveal themselves in earth-life as deep intuitive certainties of the soul, above and beyond all reasoning. Here also the man studies his own past, and carefully disentangles the causes he has set going ; he marks their interaction, the resultants accruing from them, and sees something of their working out in the lives yet in the future.
In the sixth heaven are more advanced souls, who during earth-life had felt but little attraction for its passing shows, and who had devoted all their energies to the higher intellectual and moral life. For them there is no veil upon the past, their memory is perfect and unbroken, and they plan the infusion into
their next life of energies that will neutralise many of the forces that are working for hindrance, and strengthen many of those that are working for good.
This clear memory enables them to form definite and strong determinations as to actions which are to be done and actions which are to be avoided, and these volitions they will be able to impress on their lower vehicles in their next birth, making certain classes of evils impossible, contrary to what is felt to
be the deepest nature, and certain kinds of good inevitable, the irresistible demands of a voice that will not be denied.
These souls are born into the world with high and noble qualities which render a base life impossible, and stamp the babe from its cradle as one of the pioneers of humanity. The man who has attained to this sixth heaven sees unrolled before him the vast treasures of the Divine Mind in creative activity and can study the archetypes of all forms that are being gradually evolved in the lower worlds.
There he may bathe himself in the fathomless ocean of the Divine Wisdom, and unravel the problems connected with the working out of those archetypes, the partial good that seems as evil to the limited vision of men encased in flesh.
In this wider outlook, phenomena assume their due relative proportions, and he sees the justification of the divine ways, no longer to him "past finding out" so far as they are concerned with the evolution of the lower worlds.
The questions over which on earth he pondered, and whose answers ever eluded his eager intellect, are here solved by an insight that pierces through phenomenal veils and sees the connecting links which make the chain complete. Here also the
soul is in the immediate presence of, and in full communion with, the greater souls that have evolved in our humanity, and, escaped from the bonds which make "the past" of earth, he enjoys "the ever-present" of an endless and unbroken life.
Those we speak of here as "the mighty dead" are there the glorious living, and the soul enjoys the high rapture of their presence, and grows more like them as their strong harmony attunes his vibrant nature to their key.
Yet higher, lovelier, gleams the seventh heaven, where Masters and Initiates have their intellectual home. No soul can dwell there ere yet is has passed while on earth through the narrow gateway of Initiation, the strait gate that "leadeth unto life" unending. ( See Chapter XI, on "Man’s Ascent." The Initiate
has stepped out of the ordinary line of evolution, and is treading a shorter and steeper road to human perfection).
That world is the source of the strongest intellectual and moral impulses that flow down to earth ; thence are poured forth the invigorating streams of the loftiest energy. The intellectual life of the world has there its root; thence genius receives its purest inspirations. To the souls that dwell there it matters little whether, at the time, they be or be not connected with the lower
vehicles ; they ever enjoy their lofty self-consciousness and their communion with those around them ; whether, when "embodied" they suffuse their lower vehicles with as much of this consciousness as they can contain is a matter for their own choice – they can give or withhold as they will.
And more and more their volitions are guided by the will of the Great Ones, whose will is one with the will of the LOGOS, the will which seeks ever the good of the worlds. For here are being eliminated the last vestiges of separateness – ( Ahamkâra, the " I " making principle, necessary in order that self consciousness may be evolved, but transcended when its work is over) – in all who have not yet reached final emancipation – all, that is, who are not yet Masters – and, as these perish, the will becomes more and more harmonised with the will that guides the worlds.
Such is an outline of the "seven heavens" into one or other of which men pass in due time after the "change that men call death." For death is only a change that gives the soul a partial liberation, releasing him from the heaviest of his chains. It is but a birth into a wider life, a return after a brief exile on earth to the soul’s true home, a passing from a prison into the freedom of the upper air. Death is the greatest of earth’s illusions ; there is no death, but only changes in life’s conditions. Life is
continuous, unbroken, unbreakable ; "unborn, eternal, constant," it perishes not with the perishing of the bodies
that clothe it. We might as well think that the sky is falling when a pot is broken, as imagine that the soul perishes when the body falls to pieces. ( A simile used in the Bhagavad Purâna).
The physical, astral and mental planes are "the three worlds" though which lies the pilgrimage of the soul, again and again repeated. In these three worlds revolves the wheel of human life, and souls are bound to that wheel throughout their evolution, and are carried by it to each of these worlds in turn. We are
now in a position to trace a complete life-period of the soul, the aggregate of these periods making up its life, and we can also distinguish clearly the difference between personality and individuality.
A soul when its stay in the formless world of Devachan is over, begins a new life-period by putting forth the energies which function in the form-world of the mental plane, these energies being the resultant of the preceding life-periods. These passing outwards, gather round themselves, from the matter of the four lower mental levels, such materials as are suitable for their
expression, and thus the new mental body for the coming birth is formed. The vibration of these mental energies arouses the energies which belong to the desire-nature, and these begin to vibrate ; as they awake and throb, they attract to themselves suitable materials for their expression from the matter of
the astral world, and these form the new astral body for the approaching incarnation.
Thus the Thinker becomes clothed with his mental and astral vestures, exactly expressing the faculties evolved during the past stage of his life. He is drawn, by forces which will be explained later, (See Chapter VII , on "Reincarnation") to the family which is to provide him with a suitable physical encasement, and
becomes connected with this encasement through his astral body.
During prenatal life the mental body becomes involved with the lower vehicles, and this connection becomes closer and closer through the early years of childhood, until at the seventh year they are as completely in touch with the Thinker himself as the stage of evolution permits. He then begins to slightly control his vehicles, if sufficiently advanced, and what we call conscience is
his monitory voice. In any case, he gathers experience through these vehicles, and during the continuance of earth-life, stores the gathered experience in its own proper vehicle, in the body connected with the plane to which the experience belongs.
When the earth-life is over the physical body drops away, and with it his power of contacting the physical world, and his energies are therefore confined to the astral and mental planes. In due course, the astral body decays, and the outgoings of his life are confined to the mental plane, the astral faculties
being gathered up and laid by within himself as latent energies.
Once again, in due course, its assimilative work completed, the mental body disintegrates, its energies in turn becoming latent in the Thinker, and he withdraws his life entirely into the formless devachanic world, his own native habitat. Thence, all experiences of his life period in the three worlds being
transmuted into faculties and powers for future use, are contained within himself, he anew commences his pilgrimage and treads the cycle of another life-period with increased power and knowledge.
The personality consists of the transitory vehicles through which the Thinker energises in the physical, astral, and lower mental worlds, and of all the activities connected with these. These are bound together by the links of memory caused by impressions made on the three lower bodies ; and, by the self-identification of the Thinker with his three vehicles, the personal " I " is set up. In the lower stages of evolution this " I " is in the physical and
passional vehicles, in which the greatest activity is shown, later it is in the mental vehicle, which then assumes predominance.
The personality with its transient feeling, desires, passions, thus forms a quasi-independent entity, though drawing all its energies from the Thinker it enwraps, and as its qualifications, belonging to the lower worlds, are often in direct antagonism to the permanent interests of the "Dweller in the body,"
conflict is set up in which victory inclines sometimes to the temporary pleasure, sometimes to the permanent gain. The life of the personality begins when the Thinker forms his new mental body, and it endures until that mental body disintegrates at the close of its life in the form-world of Devachan.
The individuality consists of the Thinker himself, the immortal tree that puts out all these personalities as leaves, to last through the spring, summer and autumn of human life. All that the leaves take in and assimilate enriches the sap that courses through their veins, and in the autumn this is withdrawn into the parent trunk, and the dry leaf falls and perishes. The Thinker alone lives
forever ; he is the man for whom "the hour never strikes," the eternal youth who as the Bhagavad Gitâ has it, puts on and casts off bodies as a man puts on new garments and throws off the old.
Each personality is a new part for the immortal Actor, and he treads the stage of life over and over again, only in the life-drama each character he assumes is the child of the preceding ones and the father of those to come, so that the life-drama is a continuous history, the history of the Actor who plays the
To the three worlds that we have studied is confined the life of the Thinker, while he is treading the earlier stages of human evolution. A time will come in the evolution of humanity when its feet will enter loftier realms, and reincarnation will be of the past. But while the wheel of rebirth and death is turning, a man is bound thereon by desires that pertain to the three worlds, his
life is led in these three regions.
To the realms that lie beyond we now may turn, albeit but little can be said of them that can be either useful or intelligible. Such little as may be said, however, is necessary for the outlining of the Ancient Wisdom.
We have seen that man is an intelligent self-conscious entity, the Thinker, clad in bodies belonging to the lower mental, astral and physical planes ; we have now to study the Spirit which is his innermost Self, the source whence he proceeds.
This Divine spirit, a ray from the LOGOS, partaking of His own essential Being, has the triple nature of the LOGOS Himself, and the evolution of man as man consists in the gradual manifestation of these three aspects, their development from latency into activity, man thus repeating in miniature the evolution of the universe.
Hence he is spoken of as the microcosm, the universe being the macrocosm; he is called the mirror of the universe, the image, or reflection, of God ; ( "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." – Gen. I, 26. ) – and hence also the ancient axiom, "As above, so below." It is this in-folded deity that is the
guarantee of man’s final triumph ; this is the hidden motive power that makes evolution at once possible and inevitable, the upward-lifting force that slowly overcomes every obstacle and every difficulty. It was this Presence that Matthew Arnold dimly ( ) sensed when he wrote of the "Power, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness," but he erred in thinking "not ourselves," for it is the very innermost Self of all – truly not our separated selves, but our Self. (Âtma, the reflection of Paramâtmâ.)
This Self is the One, and hence is spoken of as the Monad – ( It is called the Monad, whether it be the Monad of spirit-matter, Âtma ; or the Monad of form or the human Monad, Âtma-Buddhi-Manas. In each it is a unit and acts as a unit,
whether the unit be one-faced, two-faced, or three-faced) – and we shall need to remember that this Monad is the outbreathed life of the LOGOS, containing within itself germinally, or in a state of latency, all the divine powers and attributes.
These powers are brought into manifestation by the impacts arising from contact with the objects of the universe into which the Monad is thrown ; the friction caused by these gives rise to responsive thrills from the life subjected to
their stimuli, and one by one the energies of the life pass from latency into
activity. The human Monad – as it is called for the sake of distinction – shows
as we have already said, the three aspects of Deity, being the perfect image of
God, and in the human cycle these three aspects are developed one after the
These aspects are the three great attributes of the Divine Life as manifested in
the universe, existence, bliss, and intelligence – ( Satchitânanda is often used
in the Hindu Scriptures as the abstract name of Brahman, the Triműrti being the
concrete manifestation of these) –the three LOGOI severally showing these forth
with all the perfection possible within the limits of manifestation.
In man, these aspects are developed in the reversed order – intelligence, bliss,
existence – "existence" implying the manifestation of the divine powers. In the
evolution of man that we have so far studied we have been watching the
development of the third aspect of the hidden deity – the development of
consciousness as intelligence. Manas, the Thinker, the human Soul, is the image
of the Universal Mind, of the Third LOGOS, and all his long pilgrimage on the
three lower planes is devoted to the evolution of this third aspect, the
intellectual side of the divine nature in man.
While this is proceeding, we may consider the other divine energies as rather
brooding over the man, the hidden source of his life, than as actively
developing their forces within him. They play within themselves, unmanifest.
Still, the preparation of these forces for manifestation is slowly proceeding;
they are being roused from that unmanifested life that we speak of as latency by
the ever-increasing energy of the vibrations of the intelligence, and the
bliss-aspect begins to send outwards its first vibrations – faint pulsings of
its manifested life thrill forth.
This bliss-aspect is named in theosophical terminology Buddhi, a name derived
from the Sanskrit word for wisdom, and it belongs to the fourth, or buddhic
plane of our universe, the plane, in which there is still duality, but were
there is no separation. Words fail me to convey the idea, for words belong to
the lower planes where duality and separation are ever connected, yet some
approach to the idea may be gained.
It is a state in which each is himself, with a clearness and vivid intensity
which cannot be approached on lower planes, and yet in which each feels himself to include all others, to be one with them, inseparate and inseparable. (The reader should refer back to the Introduction, p. 36, and reread the description given by Plotinus of this state, commencing: "They likewise see all things." And he should note the phrases, "Each likewise is everything," and "In each, however a different quality predominates.)
Its nearest analogy on earth is the condition between two persons who are united
by a pure, intense love, which makes them feel as one person, causing them to
think, feel, act, live as one, recognising no barrier, no difference, no mine
and thine, no separation. (It is for this reason that the bliss of divine love
has in many Scriptures been imaged by the profound love of husband and wife, as in the Bhagavad Purâna of the Hindus, the Song of Solomon of the Hebrews and Christians. This is also the love of the Sufi mystics, and indeed of all
It is a faint echo from this plane which makes men seek happiness by union
between themselves and the object of their desire, no matter what that object
may be. Perfect isolation is perfect misery ; to be stripped naked of
everything, to be hanging in the void of space, in utter solitude, nothing
anywhere save the lone individual, shut out from all, shut into the separated
self – imagination can conceive no horror more intense. The antithesis to this
is union, and perfect union is perfect bliss.
As this bliss-aspect of the Self begins to send outwards its vibrations, these
vibrations, as on the planes below, draw round themselves the matter of the
plane on which they are functioning, and thus is formed gradually the buddhic
body, or bliss-body, as it is appropriately termed. (Ânandamayakosha, or
bliss-sheath, of the Vedântins. It is also the body of the sun, the solar body,
of which a little is said in the Upanishads and elsewhere.)
The only way in which the man can contribute to the building of this glorious
form is by cultivating pure, unselfish, all-embracing, beneficent love, love
"that seeketh not its own" – that is, love that is neither partial, nor seeks
any return for its outflowing. This spontaneous outpouring of love is the most
marked of the divine attributes, the love that gives everything, that asks
nothing. Pure love brought the universe into being, pure love maintains it, pure
love draws it upwards towards perfection, towards bliss.
And wherever man pours out love on all who need it, making no difference,
seeking no return, from pure spontaneous joy in the outpouring, there that man
is developing the bliss-aspect of the Deity within him, and is preparing that
body of beauty and joy ineffable into which the Thinker will rise, casting away
the limits of separateness, to find himself, and yet one with all that lives.
This "the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens," whereof wrote St.
Paul, the great Christian Initiate ; and he raised charity, pure love, above all
other virtues, because by that alone can man on earth contribute to that
glorious dwelling. For a similar reason is separateness called "the great
heresy" by the Buddhist, and "union" is the goal of the Hindu ; liberation is
the escape from the limitations that keep us apart, and selfishness is the
root-evil, the destruction whereof is the destruction of all pain.
The fifth plane, the Nirvânic, is the plane of the highest human aspect of the
God within us, and this aspect is named by theosophists Âtmâ, or the Self. It is
the plane of pure existence, of divine powers in their fullest manifestation in
our fivefold universe – what lies beyond on the sixth and seventh planes is
hidden in the unimaginable light of God.
This âtmic, or nirvânic, consciousness, the consciousness belonging to life on
the fifth plane, is the consciousness attained by those lofty Ones, the first
fruits of humanity, who have already completed the cycle of human evolution, and who are called Masters. (Known as Mahâtmâs, great Spirits, and Jivanmuktas, liberated souls, who remain connected with physical bodies for the helping of humanity. Many other great Beings also live on the nirvânic plane.)
They have solved in Themselves the problem of uniting the essence of individuality with non-separateness, and live, immortal Intelligences, perfect in wisdom, in bliss, in power.
When the human Monad comes forth from the LOGOS, it is as though from the
luminous ocean of Âtmâ a tiny thread of light was separated off from the rest by
a film of buddhic matter, and from this hung a spark which becomes enclosed in
an egg-like casing of matter belonging to the formless levels of the mental
"The spark hangs from the flame by the finest thread of Fohat." ( Book of Dzyan, Stanza vii, 5, ; Secret Doctrine, vol. I, p. 66, 1893 ed. ; p. 98 Adyar Edition)
As evolution proceeds, this luminous egg grows larger and more opalescent, and
the tiny thread becomes a wider and wider channel through which more and more of the âtmic life pours down. Finally, they merge – the third with the second, and the twain with the first, as flame merges with flame and no separation can be seen.
The evolution of the fourth and fifth planes belongs to a future period of our
race, but those who choose the harder path of swifter progress may tread it even
now, as will be explained later. (see Chapter XI, on "Man’s Ascent.") On that
path the bliss body is quickly evolved, and a man begins to enjoy the
consciousness of that loftier region, and knows the bliss which comes from the
absence of separative barriers, the wisdom which flows in when the limits of the
intellect are transcended. Then is the wheel escaped from which binds the soul
in the lower worlds, and then is the first foretaste of the liberty which is
found perfected on the nirvânic plane.
The nirvânic consciousness is the antithesis of annihilation; it is existence
raised to a vividness and intensity inconceivable to those who know only the
life of the senses and the mind. As the farthing rush-light to the splendour of
the sun at noon, so is the nirvânic to the earth-bound consciousness, and to
regard it as an annihilation because the limits of the earthly consciousness
have vanished, is as though a man, knowing only the rush-light, should say that
light could not exist without a wick immersed in tallow. That Nirvâna is, has
been born witness to in the past in the Scriptures of the world by Those who
enjoy it and live its glorious life, and is still borne witness to by others of
our race who have climbed that lofty ladder of perfected humanity, and who
remain in touch with earth that the feet of our ascending race may mount its
In Nirvâna dwell the mighty Beings who accomplished Their own human evolution in past universes, and who came forth with the LOGOS when He manifested Himself to bring this universe into existence. They are His ministers in the administration of the worlds, the perfect agents of His will. The Lords of all the hierarchies of the Gods and lower ministrants that we have seen working on the lower planes have here Their abiding-place, for Nirvâna is the heart of the universe, whence all its life-currents proceed. Hence the Great Breath comes forth, the life of all, and thither it is indrawn when the universe has reached its term. There is the Beatific Vision for which mystics long, there the unveiled Glory, the Supreme Goal.
The Brotherhood of Humanity – nay, the Brotherhood of all things – has its sure
foundation on the spiritual planes, the âtmic and buddhic, for here alone is
unity, and here alone perfect sympathy is found. The intellect is the separative
principle in man, that marks off the " I " from the " not I ," that is conscious
of itself, and sees all else as outside itself and alien. It is the combative,
struggling, self-assertive principle, and from the plane of the intellect
downwards the world presents a scene of conflict, bitter in proportion as the
intellect mingles in it. Even the passion-nature is only spontaneously combative
when it is stirred by the feeling of desire and finds anything standing between
itself and the object of its desires; it becomes more and more aggressive as the
mind inspires its activity, for then it seeks to provide for the gratification
of future desires, and tries to appropriate more and more from the stores of
But the intellect is spontaneously combative, its very nature being to assert
itself as different from others, and here we find the root of separateness, the
ever-springing source of divisions among men.
But unity is at once felt when the buddhic plane is reached, as though we
stepped from a separate ray, diverging from all other rays, into the sun itself,
from which radiate all the rays alike.
A being standing in the sun, suffused with its light, and pouring it forth,
would feel no difference between ray and ray, but would pour forth along one as
readily and easily as along another. And so with the man who has once
consciously attained the buddhic plane ; he feels the brotherhood that others
speak of as an ideal, and pours himself out into any one who wants assistance,
giving mental, moral, astral, physical help exactly as it is needed.
He sees all beings as himself, and feels that all he has is theirs as much as
his; nay, in many cases, as more theirs than his, because their need is greater,
their strength being less. So do the elder brothers in a family bear the family
burdens, and shield the little ones from suffering and privation ; to the spirit
of brotherhood weakness is a claim for help and loving protection, not an
opportunity for oppression.
Because They had reached this level and mounted even higher, the great Founders of religions have ever been marked by Their overwelling compassion and tenderness, ministering to the physical as well as to the inner wants of men, to every man according to his need. The consciousness of this inner unity, the
recognition of the One Self dwelling equally in all, is the one sure foundation
of Brotherhood ; all else save this is frangible.
This recognition, moreover, is accompanied by the knowledge that the stage in
evolution reached by different human and non-human beings depends chiefly on
what we may call their age. Some began their journey in time very much later
than others, and, though the powers in each be the same, some have unfolded far more of those powers than others, simply because they have had a longer time for the process than their younger brethren. As well blame and despise the seed because it is not yet a flower, the bud because it is not yet the fruit, the
babe because it is not yet the man, and blame and despise the germinal and baby
souls around us because they have not yet developed to the stage we ourselves
occupy. We do not blame ourselves because we are not yet as Gods ; in time we shall stand where our elder Brothers are standing.
Why should we blame the still younger souls who are not yet as we? The very word brotherhood connotes identity of blood and inequality of development ; and it therefore represents exactly the link between all creatures in the universe –
identity of the essential life, and difference in the stages reached in the
manifestation of that life.
We are one in our origin, one in the method of our evolution, one in our goal,
and the differences of age and stature but give opportunity for the growth of
the tenderest and closest ties. All that a man would do for his brother of the
flesh, dearer to him than himself, is the measure of what he owes to each who
shares with him the one Life. Men are shut out from their brothers’ hearts by
differences of race, of class, of country ; the man who is wise by love rises
above all these petty differences, and sees all drawing their life from the one
source, all as part of his family.
The recognition of this Brotherhood intellectually, and the endeavour to live it
practically, are so stimulative of the higher nature of man, that it was made
the one obligatory object of the Theosophical Society, the single "article of
belief" that all who would enter its fellowship must accept. To live it, even to
a small extent, cleanses the heart and purifies the vision ; to live it
perfectly would be to eradicate all stain of separateness, and to let the pure
shining of the Self irradiate us, as a light through flawless glass.
Never let it be forgotten that this Brotherhood is, whether men ignore it or
deny it. Man’s ignorance does not change the laws of nature, nor vary by one
hair’s breadth her changeless, irresistible march. Her laws crush those who
oppose them, and break into pieces everything which is not in harmony with them.
Therefore can no nation endure that outrages Brotherhood, no civilisation can
last that is built on its antithesis. We have not to make brotherhood ; it
exists. We have to attune our lives into harmony with it, if we desire that we
and our works shall not perish.
It may seem strange to some that the buddhic plane – a thing to them misty and
unreal – should thus influence all planes below it, and that its forces should
ever break into pieces all that cannot harmonise itself with them in the lower
worlds. Yet so it is, for this universe is an expression of spiritual forces,
and they are the guiding, moulding energies pervading all things, and slowly,
surely, subduing all things to themselves.
Hence this Brotherhood, which is a spiritual unity, is a far more real thing
than any outward organisation ; it is a life and not a form, "wisely and sweetly
ordering all things." It may take innumerable forms, suitable to the times, but
the life is one ; happy they who see its presence, and make themselves the
channels of its living force.
The student has now before him the constituents of the human constitution, and
the regions to which these constituents respectively belong; so a brief summary
should enable him to have a clear idea of this complicated whole.
The human Monad is Âtma-Buddhi-Manas, or, as sometimes translated, the Spirit, the Spiritual Soul, and Soul, of man. The fact that these three are but aspects of the Self makes possible man’s immortal existence, and though these three aspects are manifested separately and successively, their substantial unity
renders it possible for the Soul to merge itself in the spiritual Soul, giving
to the latter the precious essence of individuality, and for this individualised
Spiritual Soul to merge itself in the Spirit, colouring it – if the phrase may
be permitted with the hues due to individuality, while leaving uninjured its
essential unity with all other rays of the LOGOS and with the LOGOS Himself.
These three form the seventh, sixth and fifth principles of man, and the
materials which limit and encase them, i.e., which make their manifestation and
activity possible, are drawn respectively from the fifth (nirvânic), the fourth
(buddhic), and the third (mental), planes of our universe. The fifth principle
further takes to itself a lower body on the mental plane, in order to come into
contact with the phenomenal worlds, and thus intertwines itself with the fourth
principle, the desire-nature, or Kâma, belonging to the second or astral plane.
Descending to the first, the physical plane, we have the third, second and first
principles – the specialised life, or Prâna ; the etheric double, its vehicle ;
the dense body, which contacts the coarser materials of the physical world. We
have already seen that sometimes Prâna is not regarded as a "principle," and
then the interwoven desire and mental bodies take rank together as Kâma Manas ; the pure intellect is called the Higher Manas, and the mind apart from desire
The most convenient conception of man is perhaps that which most closely
represents the facts as to the one permanent life and the various forms in which
it works and which condition its energies, causing the variety in manifestation.
Then we see the Self as the one Life, the source of all energies, and the forms
as the buddhic, causal, mental, astral, and physical (etheric and dense) bodies.
( Linga Sharira was the name originally given to the etheric body, and must not
be confused with the Linga Sharira of Hindu philosophy. Sthula Sharira is the
Sanskrit name for the dense body.)
It will be seen that the difference is merely a question of names, and that the
sixth, fifth, fourth, and third "principles" are merely Âtmâ working in the
Buddhic, causal, mental and astral bodies, while the second and first
"principles " are the two lowest bodies themselves. This sudden change in the
method of naming is apt to cause confusion in the mind of the student, and as
H.P. Blavatsky, our revered teacher, expressed much dissatisfaction with the
then current nomenclature as confused and misleading, and desired others and
myself to try and improve it, the above names, as descriptive, simple, and
representing the facts, are here adopted.
The various subtle bodies of man that we have now studied form in their
aggregate what is usually called the "aura" of the human being. This aura has
the appearance of an egg-shaped luminous cloud, in the midst of which is the
dense physical body, and from its appearance it has often been spoken of as
though it were nothing more than such a cloud. What is usually called the aura
is merely such parts of the subtle bodies as extend beyond the periphery of the
dense physical body ; each body is complete in itself, and interpenetrates those
that are coarser than itself ; it is larger or smaller according to its development, and all that part of it that overlaps the surface of the dense body is termed the aura. The aura is thus composed of the overlapping portions of the etheric double, the desire body, the mental body, the causal body, and in rare cases the buddhic body, illuminated by the Âtmic radiance.
It is sometimes dull, coarse and dingy ; sometimes magnificently radiant in
size, light, and colour ; it depends entirely on the stage of evolution reached
by the man, on the development of his different bodies, on the moral and mental
character he has evolved. All his varying passions, desires, and thoughts are
herein written in form, in colour, in light, so that "he that runs may read " if
he has eyes for such script. Character is stamped thereon as well as fleeting
changes, and no deception is there possible as in the mask we call the physical
body. The increase in size and beauty of the aura is the unmistakable mark of
the man’s progress, and tells of the growth and purification of the Thinker and
We are now in a position to study one of the pivotal doctrines of the Ancient
Wisdom, the doctrine of reincarnation. Our view of it will be clearer and more
in congruity with natural order, if we look at it as universal in principle, and
then consider the special case of the reincarnation of the human soul.
In studying it, this special case is generally wrenched from its place in natural order, and is considered as a dislocated fragment, greatly to its detriment. For all evolution consists of an evolving life, passing from form to form as it evolves, and storing up in itself the experiences gained through the forms ; the reincarnation of the human soul is not the introduction of a new principle into evolution, but the adaptation of the universal principle to meet the conditions rendered necessary by the individualisation of the continuously evolving life.
Mr. Lafcadio Hearn ( "Mr. Hearn has lost his way in expressing – but not, I
think, in his inner view – in part of his exposition of the Buddhist statement
of this doctrine, and his use of the word "Ego" will mislead the reader of his
very interesting chapter on this subject, if the distinction between real and
illusory ego is not readily kept in mind.") has put this point well in
considering the bearing of the idea of the pre-existence on the scientific
thought of the West. He says: -
"With the acceptance of the doctrine of evolution, old forms of thought crumbled ; new ideas everywhere arose to take the place of worn-out dogmas ; and we now have the spectacle of a general intellectual movement in directions strangely parallel with Oriental philosophy. The unprecedented rapidity and multiformity of scientific progress during the last fifty years could not have failed to provoke an equally unprecedented intellectual quickening among the
"That the highest and most complex organisms have been developed from the lowest and simplest ; that a single physical basis of life is the substance of the
whole living world ; that no line of separation can be drawn between the animal
and vegetable ; that the difference between life and non-life is only a
difference of degree, not of kind ; that matter is not less incomprehensible
than mind, while both are but varying manifestations of one and the same unknown reality – these have already become the commonplaces of the new philosophy."
"After the first recognition even by theology of physical evolution, it was easy
to predict that the recognition of psychical evolution could not be indefinitely
delayed ; for the barrier erected by old dogma to keep men from looking backward had been broken down. And today for the student of scientific psychology the idea of pre-existence passes out of the realm of theory into the realm of fact, proving the Buddhist explanation of the universal mystery quite as plausible as any other."
"None but very hasty thinkers,’ wrote the late Professor Huxley, ‘will reject it
on the ground of inherent absurdity. Like the doctrine of evolution itself, that
of transmigration has its roots in the world of reality ; and it may claim such
support as the great argument from analogy is capable of supplying." (Evolution
and Ethics, p. 61, ed. 1894 – Kokoro, Hints and Echoes of Japanese Inner Life,
by Lafcadio Hearn, pp. 237-39 london, 1896)."
Let us consider the Monad of form, Âtma-Buddhi. In this Monad, the outbreathed life of the LOGOS, lie hidden all the divine powers, but, as we have seen, they are latent, not manifest and functioning. They are to be gradually aroused by external impacts, it being of the very nature of life to vibrate in answer to vibrations that play upon it.
As all possibilities of vibrations exist in the Monad, any vibration touching it
will arouse its corresponding vibratory powers, and in this way one force after
another will pass from the latent to the active state. (From the static to the
kinetic condition, the physicist would say.) Herein lies the secret of evolution
; the environment acts on the form of the living creature – and all things, be
it remembered, live – and this action, transmitted through the enveloping form
to the life, the Monad, within it, arouses responsive vibrations which thrill
outwards from the Monad through the form, throwing its particles, in turn, into
vibrations, and rearranging them into a shape corresponding, or adapted, to the
This is the action and reaction between the environment and the organism, which
have been recognised by all biologists, and which are considered by some as
giving a sufficient mechanical explanation of evolution. Their patient and
careful observation of these actions and reactions yields, however, no
explanation why the organism should thus react to stimuli, and the Ancient
Wisdom is needed to unveil the secret of evolution, by pointing to the Self in
the heart of all forms, the hidden mainspring of all the movements of nature.
Having grasped this fundamental idea of a life containing the possibility of
responding to every vibration that can reach it from the external universe, the
actual response being gradually drawn forth by the play upon it of external
forces, the next fundamental idea to be grasped is that of the continuity of
life and forms.
Forms transmit their peculiarities to other forms that proceed from them, these
other forms being part of their own substance, separated off to lead an
independent existence. By fission, by budding, by extrusion of germs, by
development of the offspring within the maternal womb, a physical continuity is
preserved, every new form being derived from a preceding form and reproducing its characteristics. ( The student might wisely familiarise himself with the researches of Weissman on the continuity of germ-plasm.)
Science groups these facts under the name of the law of heredity, and its
observations on the transmission of form are worthy of attention, and are
illuminative of the workings of Nature in the phenomenal world. But it must be
remembered that it applies only to the building of the physical body, into which
enter the materials provided by the parents.
Her more hidden workings, those workings of life without which form could not
be, have received no attention, not being susceptible of physical observation,
and this gap can only be filled by the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom, given by
Those who of old used superphysical powers of observation, and verifiable
gradually by every pupil who studies patiently in Their schools.
There is continuity of life as well as continuity of form, and it is the continuing life – with ever more and more of its latent energies rendered active by the stimuli received through successive forms – which resumes into itself the
experiences obtained by its incasings in form ; for when the form perishes, the
life has the record of those experiences in the increased energies aroused by
them, and is ready to pour itself into the new forms derived from the old,
carrying with it this accumulated store.
While it was in the previous form, it played through it, adapting it to express
each newly awakened energy; the form hands on these adaptations, inwrought into its substance, to the separated part of itself that we speak of as its
offspring, which, beings of its substance, must needs have the peculiarities of
that substance; the life pours itself into that offspring with all its awakened
powers, and moulds it yet further ; and so on and on.
Modern science is proving more and more clearly that heredity plays an
ever-decreasing part in the evolution of the higher creatures, that mental and
moral qualities are not transmitted from parents to offspring, and that the
higher qualities the more patent is this fact ‘ the child of the genius is
oft-times a dolt; commonplace parents give birth to a genius.
A continuing substratum there must be, in which mental and moral qualities
inhere, in order that they may increase, else would Nature, in this most
important department of her work, show erratic uncaused production instead of
orderly continuity. On this science is dumb, but the Ancient Wisdom teaches that this continuing substratum is the Monad, which is the receptacle of all results, the storehouse in which all experiences are garnered as increasingly active powers.
These two principles firmly grasped – of the Monad with potentialities becoming
powers, and of the continuity of the life form – we can proceed to the
continuity of life and form – we can proceed to study their working out in
detail, and we shall find that they solve many of the perplexing problems of
modern science, as well as the yet more heart-searching problems confronted by
the philanthropist and the sage.
Let us start by considering the monad as it is first subjected to the impacts
from the formless levels of the mental plane, the very beginning of the evolution of form. Its first faint responsive thrillings draw round it some of the matter of that plane, and we have the gradual evolution of the first elemental kingdom, already mentioned. (See chapter IV, on "The Mental Plane").
The great fundamental types of the Monad are seven in number, sometimes imaged as like the seven colours of the solar spectrum, derived from the three primary. ("As above, so below." We instinctively remember the three LOGOI and the seven primeval Sons of the Fire ; in Christian Symbolism, the Trinity and the "Seven Spirits that are before the throne" ; or in Zoroastrian, Ahuramazda and the seven Ameshaspentas.)
Each of these types has its own colouring of characteristics, and this colouring
persists throughout the aeonian cycle of its evolution, affecting all the series
of living things that are animated by it. Now begins the process of subdivision
in each of these types, that will be carried on, subdividing and ever
subdividing, until the individual is reached.
The currents set up by the commencing outward-going energies of the Monad – to follow one line of evolution will suffice ; the other six are like unto it in
principle – have but brief form-life, yet whatever experience can be gained
through them is represented by an increasedly responsive life in the Monad who
is their source and cause ; as this responsive life consists of vibrations that
are often incongruous with each other, a tendency towards separation is set up
within the Monad, the harmoniously vibrating forces grouping themselves together for, as it were, concerted action, until various sub-Monads, if the epithet may for a moment be allowed, are formed, alike in their main characteristics, but differing in details, like shades of the same colour.
These become, by impacts from the lower levels of the mental plane, the Monads of the second elemental kingdom, belonging to the form region of that plane, and the process continues, the Monad ever adding to its power to respond, each Monad being the inspiring life of countless forms, through which it receives vibrations, and, as the forms disintegrate, constantly vivifying new forms ; the process of subdivision also continues from the cause already described.
Each Monad thus continually incarnates itself in forms, and garners within
itself as awakened powers all the results obtained through the forms it
animates. We may well regard these Monads as the souls of groups of forms; and as evolution proceeds, these forms show more and more attributes, the attributes being the powers of the monadic group-soul manifested through the forms in which it is incarnated.
The innumerable sub-Monads of this second elemental kingdom presently reach a stage of evolution at which they begin to respond to the vibrations of astral
matter, and they begin to act on the astral plane, becoming the Monads of the
third elemental kingdom, and repeating in this grosser world all the processes
already accomplished on the mental plane.
They become more and more numerous as monadic group-souls, showing more and more diversity in detail, the number of forms animated by each becoming less as the specialised characteristics become more and more marked.
Meanwhile, it may be said in passing, the ever-flowing stream of life from the LOGOS supplies new Monads of form on the higher levels, so that the evolution proceeds continuously, and as the more-evolved Monads incarnate in the lower worlds their place is taken by the newly emerged Monads in the higher.
By this ever-repeated process of the reincarnation of the Monads, or Monadic
group-soul, in the astral world, their evolution proceeds, until they are ready
to respond to the impacts upon them from physical matter. When we remember that the ultimate atoms of each plane have their sphere-walls composed of the
coarsest matter of the plane immediately above it, it is easy to see how the
Monads become responsive to impacts from one plane after another.
When, in the first elemental kingdom, the Monad had become accustomed to thrill responsively to the impacts of matter of that plane, it would soon begin to
answer to vibrations received through the coarsest forms of that matter from the
matter of the plane next below. So, in its coatings of matter that were the
forms composed of the coarsest materials of the material plane, it would become susceptible to vibrations of astral atomic matter ; and, when incarnated in forms of the coarsest astral matter, it would similarly become responsive to
atomic physical ether, the sphere-walls of which are constituted of the grossest
Thus the Monad may be regarded as reaching the physical plane ; and there it
begins, or, more accurately, all these monadic group-souls begin, to incarnate
themselves in filmy physical forms, the etheric doubles of the future dense
minerals of the physical world. Into these filmy forms the nature-spirits build
the denser physical materials, and thus minerals of all kinds are formed, the
most rigid vehicles in which the evolving life in-closes itself, and through
which the least of its powers can express themselves. Each monadic group-soul
has its own mineral expressions, the mineral forms in which it is incarnated,
and the specialisation has now reached a high degree. These Monadic group-souls are sometimes called in their totality the mineral Monad or the Monad
incarnating in the mineral kingdom.
From this time forward the awakened energies of the Monad play a less passive
part in evolution. They begin to seek expression actively to some extent when
once aroused into functioning, and to exercise a distinctly moulding influence
over the forms in which they are imprisoned. As they become too active for their
mineral embodiment, the beginnings of the more plastic forms of the vegetable
kingdom manifest themselves, the nature-spirits aiding this evolution throughout
the physical kingdoms. In the mineral kingdom there had already been shown a
tendency towards the definite organisation of form, the laying down of certain
lines ( The axes of growth which determine form. They appear definitely in
crystals ) along which the growth proceeded. This tendency governs henceforth
all the building of forms, and is the cause of the exquisite symmetry of natural
objects, with which every observer is familiar.
The monadic group-souls in the vegetable kingdom undergo division and
subdivision with increasing rapidity, in consequence of the still greater
variety of impacts to which they are subjected, the evolution of families,
genera, and species being due to this invisible subdivision.
When any genus, with its generic monadic group-soul, is subjected to very
varying conditions, i.e., when the forms connected with it receive very
different impacts, a fresh tendency to subdivide is set up in the Monad, and
various species are evolved, each having its own specific group-soul.
When Nature is left to her own working the process is slow, although the
nature-spirits do much towards the differentiation of species ; but when man has
been evolved, and when he begins his artificial systems of cultivation,
encouraging the play of one set of forces, warding off another, then this
differentiation can be brought about with considerable rapidity, and specific
differences are readily evolved. So long as actual division has not taken place
in the monadic group-soul, the subjection of the forms to similar influences may
again eradicate the separative tendency, but when that division is completed the
new species are definitely and firmly established , and are ready to send out
offshoots of their own.
In some of the longer-lived members of the vegetable kingdom the element of
personality begins to manifest itself, the stability of the organism rendering
possible this foreshadowing of individuality. With a tree, living for scores of
years, the recurrence of similar conditions causing similar impacts, the seasons
ever returning year after year, the consecutive motions caused by them, the
rising of the sap, the putting forth of leaves, the touches of the wind, of the
sunbeams, of the rain – all these outer influences with their rhythmical
progression – set up responsive thrillings in the monadic group-soul, and, as
the sequence impresses itself by continual repetition, the recurrence of one
leads to the dim expectation of its oft-repeated successor. Nature evolves no
quality suddenly, and these are the first faint adumbrations of what will later
be memory and anticipation.
In the vegetable kingdom also appear the foreshadowings of sensation, evolving
in its higher members to what the Western psychologist would term "massive"
sensations of pleasure and discomfort. (The "massive" sensation is one that
pervades the organism and is not felt especially in any one part more than in
others. It is the antithesis of the "acute.") It must be remembered that the
Monad has drawn round itself materials of the planes through which it has
descended, and hence is able to contact impacts, from those planes, the
strongest and those most nearly allied to the grossest forms of matter being the
first to make themselves felt.
Sunshine and the chill of its absence at last impress themselves on the monadic
consciousness ; and its astral coating, thrown into faint vibrations, gives rise
to the slight massive kind of sensation spoken of. Rain and drought affecting
the mechanical constitution of the form, and its power to convey vibrations to
the ensouling Monad – are another of the "pairs of opposites," the play of which
arouses the recognition of difference, which is the root alike of all sensation,
and later of all thought. Thus by their repeated plant-reincarnations the monadic group-souls in the vegetable kingdom evolve, until those that ensoul the highest members of the kingdom are ready for the next step.
This step carries them into the animal kingdom, and here they slowly evolve in
their physical and astral vehicles a very distinct personality. The animal,
being free to move about, subjects itself to a greater variety of conditions
than can be experienced by the plant, rooted to a single spot, and this variety,
as ever, promotes differentiation.
The monadic group-soul, however, which animates a number of wild animals of the same species or subspecies, while it receives a great variety of impacts, since
they are for the most part repeated continually and are shared by all the
members of the group, differentiates but slowly.
These impacts aid in the development of the physical and astral bodies, and through them the monadic group-soul gathers much experience. When the form of a member of the group perishes, the experience gathered through that form is accumulated in the monadic group-soul, and may be said to colour it ; the slightly increased life of the monadic group-soul, poured into all the forms which compose its group, shares among all the experiences of the perished form, and in this way continually repeated experiences, stored up in the monadic group-soul, appear as instincts, "accumulated hereditary experiences" in the new forms.
Countless birds having fallen a prey to hawks, chicks just out of the egg will cower at the approach of one of the hereditary enemies, for the life that is incarnated in them knows the danger, and the innate instinct is the expression of its knowledge. In this way are formed the wonderful instincts that guard animals from innumerable habitual perils, while a new danger finds them
unprepared and only bewilders them.
As animals come under the influence of man, the monadic group-souls evolves with greatly increased rapidity, and, from causes similar to those which affect plants under domestication, subdivision of the incarnating life is more readily brought about. Personality evolves and becomes more and more strongly marked ; in the earlier stages it may almost be said to be compound – a whole flock of wild creatures will act as though moved by a single personality, so completely are the forms dominated by the common soul, it, in turn, being affected by the impulse from the external world.
Domesticated animals of the higher types, the elephants, the horse, the cat, the dog, show a more individualised personality – two dogs, for instance, may act very differently under the impact of the same circumstances. The monadic group-soul incarnates in a decreasing number of forms as it gradually approaches the point at which complete individualisation will be reached. The desire-body, or Kâmic vehicle, becomes considerably developed, and persists for some time after the death of the physical body, leading an independent existence in Kâmaloka. At last the decreasing number of forms animated by a monadic group-soul comes down to unity, and it animates a succession of single forms – a condition differing from human reincarnation only by the absence of Manas, with its causal and mental bodies.
The mental matter brought down by the monadic group-souls begins to be susceptible to impacts from the mental plane, and the animal is then ready to receive the third great outpouring of the life of the LOGOS – the tabernacle is ready for the reception of the human Monad.
The human Monad is, as we have seen, triple in its nature, its three aspects being denominated, respectively, the Spirit, the spiritual Soul, and the human Soul, Âtma-Buddhi-Manas. Doubtless, in the course of eons of evolution, the upwardly evolving Monad of form might have unfolded Manas by progressive growth, but both in the human race in the past, and in the animals of the present, such has not been the course of Nature.
When the house was ready the tenant was sent down ; from the higher planes of being the âtmic life descended, veiling itself in Buddhi, as a golden thread ; and its third aspect, Manas, showing itself in the higher levels of the formless world of the mental plane, germinal Manas within the form was fructified, and the embryonic causal body was formed by the union. This is the individualisation of the spirit, the incasing of it in form, and this spirit incased in the causal body is the soul, the individual, the real man. This is his birth hour; for though his essence be eternal, unborn and undying, his birth in time as an individual is definite.
Further, this outpoured life reaches the evolving forms not directly, but by intermediaries. The human race having attained the point of receptivity, certain great Ones, called Sons of Mind – (Manasaputra is the technical name, being merely the Sanskrit for Sons of Mind.) – cast into men the monadic spark of
Âtma-Buddhi-Manas, needed for the formation of the embryonic soul.
And some of these great Ones actually incarnated in human forms, in order to become the guides and teachers of infant humanity. These Sons of Mind had completed Their own intellectual evolution in other worlds, and came to this
younger world, our earth, for the purpose of thus aiding in the evolution of the human race. They are in truth, the spiritual fathers of the bulk of our humanity. Other intelligences of much lower grade, men who had evolved in preceding cycles in another world, incarnated among the descendants of the race
that received its infant souls in the way just described. As this race evolved, the human tabernacles improved, and myriads of souls that were awaiting the opportunity of incarnation, that they might continue their evolution, took birth among its children.
These partially evolved souls are also spoken of in the ancient records as Sons of Mind, for they were possessed of mind, although comparatively it was but little developed – childish souls we may call them, in distinguishment from the
embryonic souls of the bulk of humanity, and the mature souls of the great Teachers.
These child-souls, by reason of their more evolved intelligence, formed the leading types of the ancient world, the classes higher in mentality, and therefore in the power of acquiring knowledge, that dominated the masses of less developed men in antiquity.
And thus arose, in our world, the enormous differences in mental and moral capacity which separate the most highly evolved
from the least evolved races, and which, even within the limits of single race, separate the lofty philosophic thinker from the well-nigh animal type of the most depraved of his own nation. These differences are but differences of the stage of evolution, of the age of the soul, and they have been found to exist throughout the whole of history of humanity on this globe. Go back as far as we
may in historic records, and we may find lofty intelligence and debased ignorance side by side, and the occult records, carrying us backwards, tell a similar story of the early millennia of humanity.
Nor should this distress us, as though some had been unduly favoured and others unduly burdened for the struggle of life. The loftiest soul had its childhood and its infancy, albeit in previous worlds, where other souls were as high above it as others are below it now ; the lowest soul shall climb to where our highest are standing, and souls yet unborn shall occupy its present place in evolution.
Things seem unjust because we wrench our world out of its place in evolution, and set it apart in isolation, with no forerunners and no successors. It is our ignorance that sees the injustice ; the ways of Nature are equal, and she brings to all her children infancy, childhood, and manhood. Nor hers the fault if our
folly demands that all souls shall occupy the same stage of evolution at the same time, and cries "Unjust!" if the demand be not fulfilled.
We shall best understand the evolution of the soul, if we take it up at the point where we left it, when animal-man was ready to receive, and did receive, the embryonic soul. To avoid a possible misapprehension, it may be well to say that there were not henceforth two Monads in man – the one that had built the
human tabernacle, and the one that descended into that tabernacle, and whose lowest aspect was the human soul.
To borrow a simile again from H. P. Blavatsky, as two rays of the sun may pass through a hole in a shutter, and mingling together form but one ray though they had been twain, so is it with these rays from the Supreme Sun, the divine Lord
of our universe. The second ray, as it entered into the human tabernacle, blended with the first, merely adding to it fresh energy and brilliance, and the human Monad, as a unit, began its mighty task of unfolding the higher powers in man of that divine Life whence it came.
The embryonic soul, the Thinker, had at the beginning for its embryonic mental body the mind-stuff envelope that the Monad of form had brought with it, but had not yet organised into any possibility of functioning. It was the mere germ of a mental body, attached to a mere germ of a causal body, and for many a life the
strong desire-nature had its will with the soul, whirling it along the road of its own passions and appetites, and dashing up against it all the furious waves of its own uncontrolled animality.
Repulsive as this early life of the soul may at first seem to some when looked at from the higher stage that we have now attained, it was a necessary one for the germination of the seeds of mind. Recognition of difference, the perception that one thing is different from another, is a preliminary essential to thinking
at all. And, in order to awaken this perception in the as yet unthinking soul, strong and violent contrasts had to strike upon it, so as to force differences upon it – blow after blow of riotous pleasure, blow after blow of crushing pain.
The external world hammered on the soul through the desire nature, till perceptions began to be slowly made, and, after countless repetitions, to be registered. The little gains made in each life were stored up by the Thinker, as we have already seen, and thus slow progress was made.
Slow progress, indeed, for scarcely anything was thought, and hence scarcely anything was done in the way of organising the mental body. Not until many perceptions had been registered in it as mental images was there any material on which mental action, initiated from within, could be based ; this would begin
when two or more of these mental images were drawn together, and some inference, however elementary, was made from them. That inference was the beginning of reasoning, the germ of all the systems of logic which the intellect of man has since evolved or assimilated. These inferences would at first all be made in the service of the desire-nature, for the increasing of pleasure, the lessening of pain ; but each one would increase the activity of the mental body, and would stimulate it into more ready functioning.
It will readily be seen that at this period of his infancy man had no knowledge of good or of evil; right and wrong for him had no existence. The right is that which is in accordance with the divine will, which helps forward the progress of the soul, which tends to the strengthening of the higher nature of man and to the training and subjugation of the lower, the wrong is that which retards
evolution, which retains the soul in the lower stages after he has learned the lessons they have to teach, which tends to the mastery of the lower nature over the higher, and assimilates man to the brute he should be outgrowing instead of to the God he should be evolving.
Ere man could know what was right, he had to learn the existence of the law, and this he could only learn by following all that attracted him in the outer world, by grasping every desirable object, and then by learning from experience, sweet
or bitter, whether his delight was in harmony or in conflict with the law. Let us take an obvious example, the taking of pleasant food, and see how infant man might learn therefrom the presence of a natural law. At the first taking, his hunger was appeased, his taste was gratified, and only pleasure resulted from the experience, for his action was in harmony with law. On another occasion, desiring to increase pleasure, he ate overmuch and suffered in consequence, for he transgressed against the law. A confusing experience to the dawning intelligence, how the pleasurable became painful by excess.
Over and over again he would be led by desire into excess, and each time he would experience the painful consequences, until at last he learned moderation, i.e., he learned to conform his bodily acts in this respect to physical law; for he found that there were conditions which affected him and which he could not control, and that only by observing them could physical happiness be insured.
Similar experiences flowed in upon him through all the bodily organs, with undeviating regularity ; his outrushing desires brought him pleasure or pain just as they worked with the laws of Nature or against them, and, as experience increased, it began to guide his steps, to influence his choice, It was not as though he had to begin his experience anew with every life, for on each new
birth he brought with him mental faculties a little increased, and
I have said that the growth in these early days was very slow, for there was but the dawning of mental action, and when the man left his physical body at death he passed most of his time in Kâmaloka, sleeping through a brief devachanic period of unconscious assimilation of any minute mental experience not yet sufficiently developed for the active heavenly life that lay before him after many days.
Still, the enduring causal body was there, to be the receptacle of his qualities, and to carry them on for further development into his next life on earth. The part played by the monadic group-soul in the earlier stages of evolution is played in man by the causal body, and it is this continuing entity who, in all cases, makes evolution possible. Without him, the accumulation of mental and moral experiences, shown as faculties, would be as impossible as
would be the accumulation of physical experiences, shown as racial and family characteristics without the continuity of physical plasm.
Souls without a past behind them, springing suddenly into existence, out of nothing, with marked mental and moral peculiarities, are a conception as monstrous as would be the corresponding conception of babies suddenly appearing from nowhere, unrelated to anybody, but showing marked racial and family types.
Neither man nor his physical vehicle is uncaused, or caused by the direct power of the LOGOS ; here, as in so many other cases, the invisible things are clearly seen by their analogy with the visible, the visible being, in very truth, nothing more than the images, the reflections, of things unseen.
Without a continuity in the physical plasm, there would be no means for the evolution of physical peculiarities ; without the continuity of the intelligence, there would be no means for the evolution of mental and moral qualities. In both cases, without continuity, evolution would be stopped at its first stage, and the world would be a chaos of infinite and isolated beginnings instead of a cosmos continually becoming.
We must not omit to notice that in these early days much variety is caused in
the type and in the nature of individual progress by the environment which
surrounds the individual. Ultimately all the souls have to develop all their
powers, but the order in which these powers are developed depends on the
circumstances amid which the soul is placed. Climate, the fertility or sterility
of nature, the life of the mountain or of the plain, of the inland forest or the
ocean shore – these things and countless others will call into activity one set
or another of the awakening mental energies.
A life of extreme hardship, of ceaseless struggle with nature, will develop very
different powers from those evolved amid the luxuriant plenty of a tropical
island ; both sets of powers are needed, for the soul is to conquer every region
of nature, but striking differences may thus be evolved even in souls of the
same age, and one may appear to be more advanced than the other, according as the observer estimates most highly the more "practical" or the more
"contemplative" powers of the soul, the active outward-going energies, or the
quiet inward-turned musing faculties. The perfected soul possesses all, but the
soul in the making must develop them successively, and thus arises another cause of the immense variety found among human beings.
For again, it must be remembered that human evolution is individual. In a group
informed by a single monadic group-soul the same instincts will be found in all,
for the receptacle of the experiences is that monadic group-soul, and it pours
its life into all forms dependent upon it.
But each man has his own physical vehicle and one only at a time, and the
receptacle of all experiences is the causal body, which pours its life into its
one physical vehicle, and can affect no other physical vehicle, being connected
with none other. Hence we find differences separating individual men greater,
than the ever separated, closely allied animals, and hence also the evolution of
qualities cannot be studied in men in the mass, but only in the continuing
individual. The lack of power to make such a study leaves science unable to
explain why some men tower above their fellows, intellectual and moral giants,
unable to trace the intellectual evolution of a Shankarâchârya or a Pythagoras,
the moral evolution of a Buddha or of a Christ.
Let us now consider the factors in reincarnation, as a clear understanding of
these is necessary for the explanation of some of the difficulties – such as the
alleged loss of memory – which are felt by those unfamiliar with the idea. We
have seen that man, during his passage through physical death, Kâmaloka and
Devachan, loses one after the other, his various bodies, the physical, the
astral, and the mental. These are all disintegrated, and their particles remix
with the materials of their several planes. The connection of the man with the
physical vehicle is entirely broken off and done with ; but the astral and
mental bodies hand on to the man himself, to the Thinker, the germs of the
faculties and qualities resulting from the activities of the earth-life, and
these are stored within the causal body, the seeds of his next astral and mental
At this stage, then, only the man himself is left, the labourer who has brought
his harvest home, and has lived upon it till it is all worked up into himself.
The dawn of a new life begins, and he must go forth again to his labour until
The new life begins by the vivifying of the mental germs, and they draw upon the
materials of the lower mental levels, till a mental body has grown up from them
that represents exactly the mental stage of the man, expressing all his mental
faculties as organs ; the experiences of the past do not exist as mental images
in this new body; as mental images they perished when the old mind-body
perished, and only their essence, their effects on faculty, remain ; they were
the food of the mind, the materials which it wove into powers, and in the new
body they reappear as powers, they determine its materials, and they form its
organs. When the man, the Thinker, has thus clothed himself with a new body for his coming life on the lower mental levels, he proceeds, by vivifying the astral
germs, to provide himself with an astral body for his life on the astral plane.
This, again, exactly represents his desire-nature, faithfully reproducing the
qualities he evolved in the past, as the seed reproduces its parent tree. Thus
the man stands, fully equipped for his next incarnation, the only memory of
these events of his past being in the causal body, in his own enduring form, the
one body that passes on from life to life.
Meanwhile, action external to himself is being taken to provide him with a
physical body suitable for the expression of his qualities. In past lives he has
made ties with, contracted liabilities towards, other human beings, and some of
these will partly determine his place of birth and his family. – ( This and the
following causes determining the outward circumstances of the new life will be
fully explained in Chapter IX, on "Karma".) He has been a source of happiness or of unhappiness to others ; this is a factor in determining the conditions of his
coming life. His desire-nature is well disciplined, or unregulated and riotous ;
this will be taken into account in the physical heredity of the new body. He has
cultivated certain mental powers, such as the artistic ; this must be considered, as here again physical heredity is an important factor where delicacy of nervous organisation and tactile sensibility are required.
And so on, in endless variety. The man may, certainly will, have in him many
incongruous characteristics, so that only some can find expression in any one
body that could be provided, and a group of his powers suitable for simultaneous expression must be selected. All this is done by certain mighty spiritual Intelligences,( Spoken of by H.P.Blavatsky in the Secret Doctrine. They are the Lipika, the Keepers of the kârmic records, and the Mahârâjas, who direct the practical working out of the decrees of the Lipika.) - often spoken of as the
Lords of Karma, because it is their function to superintend the working out of
causes continually set going by thoughts, desires, and actions. They hold the
threads of destiny which each man has woven, and guide the reincarnating man to the environment determined by his past, unconsciously self-chosen through his past life.
The race, the nation, the family, being thus determined, what may be called the
mould of the physical body – suitable for the expression of the man’s qualities,
and for the working out of the causes he has set going – is given by these great
Ones, and the new etheric double, a copy of this, is built within the mother’s
womb by the agency of an elemental, the thought of the Karmic Lords being its
The dense body is built into the etheric double molecule by molecule, following
it exactly, and here physical heredity has full sway in the materials provided.
Further, the thoughts and passions of surrounding people, especially of the
continually present father and mother, influence the building elemental in its
work, the individuals with whom the incarnating man had formed ties in the past
thus affecting the physical conditions growing up for his new life on earth.
At a very early stage the new astral body comes into connection with the new
etheric double, and exercises considerable influence over its formation, and
through it the mental body works upon the nervous organisation, preparing it to
become a suitable instrument for its own expression in the future. This influence commenced in ante natal life – so that when a child is born its brain-formation reveals the extent and balance of its mental and moral qualities – is continued after birth, and this building of brain and nerves, and their correlation to the astral and mental bodies, go on till the seventh year of childhood, at which age the connection between the man and his physical vehicle is complete, and he may be said to work through it henceforth more than upon it.
Up to this age, the consciousness of the Thinker is more upon the astral plane than upon the physical, and this is often evidenced by the play of psychic faculties in young children. They see invisible comrades and fairy landscapes, hear voices inaudible to their elders, catch charming and delicate fancies from
the astral world. These phenomena generally vanish as the Thinker begins to work effectively through the physical vehicle, and the dreamy child becomes the commonplace boy or girl, oftentimes much to the relief of the bewildered parents, ignorant of the cause of their child’s "queerness."
Most children have at least a touch of this "queerness," but they quickly learn to hide away their fancies and visions from their unsympathetic elders, fearful of blame for "telling stories," or of what the child dreads far more – ridicule.
If parents could see their children’s brains, vibrating under an inextricable mingling of physical and astral impacts, which the children themselves are quite incapable of separating, and receiving sometimes a thrill – so plastic are they – even from the higher regions, giving a vision of ethereal beauty, of heroic
achievement, they would be more patient with, more responsive to, the confused prattlings of the little ones, trying to translate into the difficult medium of unaccustomed words the elusive touches of which they are conscious, and which they try to catch and retain. Reincarnation, believed in and understood, would relieve child life of its most pathetic aspect, the unaided struggle of the soul to gain control over its new vehicles, and to connect itself fully with its densest body without losing power to impress the rarer ones in a way that would enable them to convey to the denser their own more subtle vibrations.
The ascending stages of consciousness through which the Thinker passes as he reincarnates during his long cycle of lives in the three lower worlds are clearly marked out, and the obvious necessity for many lives, in which to experience them, if he is to evolve at all, may carry to the more thoughtful
minds the clearest conviction of the truth of reincarnation.
The first of the stages is that in which all the experiences are sensational, the only contribution made by the mind consisting of the recognition that contact with some object is followed by a sensation of pleasure, while contact with others is followed by a sensation of pain. These objects form mental pictures, and the pictures soon begin to act as a stimulus to seek the objects
associated with pleasure, when those objects are not present, the germs of memory and of mental initiative thus making their appearance. This first rough division of the external world is followed by the more complex idea of the bearing of quantity on pleasure and pain, already referred to.
At this stage of evolution, memory is very short lived, or, in other words, mental images are very transitory. The idea of forecasting the future from the past, even to the most rudimentary extent, has not dawned on the infant Thinker,
and his actions are guided from outside, by the impacts that reach him from the external world, or at furthest by the promptings of his appetites and passions, craving gratification. He will throw away anything for an immediate satisfaction, however necessary the thing may be for his future well being; the need of the moment overpowers every other consideration. Of human souls in thisembryonic condition, numerous examples can be found in books of travel, and the necessity for many lives will be impressed on the mind of any one who studies the mental condition of the least evolved savages, and compares it with the mental condition of even average humanity among ourselves.
Needless to say that the moral capacity is no more evolved than the mental; the
idea of good and evil has not yet been conceived. Not is it possible to convey
to the quite undeveloped mind even elementary notion of either good or bad. Good and pleasant are to it interchangeable terms, as in the well-known case of the Australian savage mentioned by Charles Darwin. Pressed by hunger, the man
speared the nearest living creature that could serve as food, and this happened
to be his wife; a European remonstrated with him on the wickedness of his deed,
but failed to make any impression; for from the reproach that to eat his wife
was very, very bad he only deduced the inference that the stranger thought she
had proved nasty of indigestible, and he put him right by smiling peacefully as
he patted himself after his meal, and declaring in a satisfied way, "She is very
Measure in thought the moral distance between that man and St. Francis of
Assisi, and it will be seen that there must either be evolution of souls as
there is evolution of bodies, or else in the realm of the soul there must be
constant miracle, dislocated creations.
There are two paths along either of which man may gradually emerge from this
embryonic mental condition. He may be directly ruled and controlled by men far
more evolved than himself, or he may be left slowly to grow unaided. The latter
case would imply the passage of uncounted millennia, for, without example and
without discipline, left to the changing impacts of external objects, and to
friction with other men as undeveloped as himself, the inner energies could be
but very slowly aroused.
As a matter of fact, man has evolved by the road of direct precept and example
and of enforced discipline. We have already seen that when the bulk of the
average humanity received the spark which brought the Thinker into being, there
were some of the greater Sons if Mind who incarnated as Teachers, and that there was also a long succession of lesser Sons of Mind, at various stages of
evolution, who came into incarnation as the crest-wave of the advancing tide of
These ruled the less evolved, under the beneficent sway of the great Teachers, and the compelled obedience to elementary rules of right living – very elementary at first, in truth – much hastened the development of mental and moral faculties in the embryonic souls. Apart from all other records the gigantic remains of civilizations that have long since disappeared – evidencing great engineering skill, and intellectual conceptions far beyond anything possible by the mass of the then infant humanity – suffice to prove that there were present on earth men with minds that were capable of greatly planning and greatly executing.
Let us continue the early stage of the evolution of consciousness. Sensation was wholly lord of the mind, and the earliest mental efforts were stimulated by desire. This led the man, slowly and clumsily, to forecast, to plan. He began to recognise a definite association of certain mental images, and, when one
appeared, to expect the appearance of the other that had invariably followed in its wake. He began to draw inferences, and even to initiate action on the faith of these inferences – a great advance. And he began also to hesitate now and
again to follow the vehement promptings of desire, when he found, over and over again, that the gratification demanded was associated in his mind with the subsequent happening of suffering.
This action was much quickened by the pressure upon him of verbally expressed laws; he was forbidden to seize certain gratifications, and was told that suffering would follow disobedience. When he had seized the delight-giving
object and found the suffering follow upon pleasure, the fulfilled declaration made a far stronger impression on his mind than would have been made by the unexpected – and therefore to him fortuitous – happening of the same thing un foretold. Thus conflict continually arose between memory and desire, and the
mind grew more active by the conflict, and was stirred into livelier functioning. The conflict, in fact, marked the transition to the second great stage.
Here began to show itself the germ of will. Desire and will guide a man’s actions, and will has even been defined as the desire which emerges triumphant from the contest of desires. But this is a crude and superficial view, explaining nothing. Desire is the outgoing energy of the Thinker, determined in its direction by the attraction of external objects. Will is the outgoing energy
of the Thinker, determined in its direction by the conclusions drawn by the reason, from past experiences, or by the direct intuition of the Thinker himself. Otherwise put: desire is guided from without – will from within. At the beginning of man’s evolution, desire has complete sovereignty, and hurries him
hither and thither; in the middle of his evolution, desire and will are in continual conflict, and victory lies sometimes with the one, sometimes with the other; at the end of his evolution desire has died, and will rules with unopposed, unchallenged sway.
Until the Thinker, is sufficiently developed to see directly, will is guided by him through the reason; and as the reason can draw its conclusions only from its stock of mental images – its experiences – and that stock is limited, the will constantly commands mistaken actions. The suffering which flows from these mistaken actions increases the stock of mental images, and thus gives the reason an increased store from which to draw its conclusions. Thus progress is made and wisdom is born.
Desire often mixes itself up with will, so that what appears to be determined from within is really largely prompted by the cravings of the lower nature for objects which afford it gratification. Instead of an open conflict between the
two, the lower subtly insinuates itself into the current of the higher and turns its course aside. Defeated in the open field, the desire of the personality thus conspire against their conqueror, and often win by guile what they failed to win by force. During the whole of this second great stage, in which the faculties of
the lower mind are in full course of evolution, conflict is the normal condition, conflict between the rule of sensations and the rule of reason.
The problem to be solved in humanity is the putting an end to conflict while preserving the freedom of the will; to determine the will inevitably to the best, while yet leaving that best as a matter of choice. The best is to be chosen, but by a self-initiated volition, that shall come with all the certainty of a foreordained necessity. The certainty of a compelling law is to be obtained
from countless wills, each one left free to determine its own course.
The solution of that problem is simple when it is known, though the contradiction looks irreconcilable when first presented. Let man be left free to choose his own actions, but let every action bring about an inevitable result; let him run loose amid all objects of desire and seize whatever he will, but let him have
all the results of his choice, be they delightful or grievous. Presently he will freely reject the objects whose possession ultimately causes him pain; he will no longer desire them when he has experienced to the full that their possession ends in sorrow.
Let him struggle to hold the pleasure and avoid the pain, he will none the less be ground between the stones of law, and the lesson will be repeated any number of times found necessary; reincarnation offers us many lives as are needed by the most sluggish learner. Slowly desire for an object that brings suffering in its train will die, and when the thing offers itself in all its attractive glamour it will be rejected, not by compulsion but by free choice.
It is no longer desirable, it has lost its power. Thus with thing after thing; choice more and more runs in harmony with law. "There are many roads of error; the road of truth is one"; when all the paths of error have been trodden, when all have been found to end in suffering, the choice to walk in the way of truth is unswerving, because based on knowledge. The lower kingdoms work harmoniously, compelled by law; man’s kingdom is a chaos of conflicting wills, fighting against, rebelling against law; presently there evolves from it a nobler unity, a harmonious choice of voluntary obedience, an obedience that, being voluntary, based on knowledge and on memory of the results of disobedience, is stable and can be drawn aside by no temptation. Ignorant, inexperienced, man would always have been in danger of falling; as a God, knowing good and evil by experience, his choice of the good is raised forever beyond possibility of change.
Will in the domain of morality is generally entitled conscience, and it is subject to the same difficulties in this domain as in its other activities. So long as actions are in question which have been done over and over again, of which the consequences are familiar either to the reason or to the Thinker himself, the conscience speaks quickly and firmly. But when unfamiliar problems arise as to the working out of which experience is silent, conscience cannot speak with certainty; it has but a hesitating answer from the reason, which can draw only a doubtful inference, and the Thinker cannot speak if his experience does not include the circumstances that have now arisen.
Hence conscience often decides wrongly; that is, the will, failing clear direction from either the reason or the intuition, guides action amiss. Nor can we leave out of consideration the influences which play upon the mind from without, from the thought-forms of others, of friends, of the family, of the community, of the nation. (Chapter 11, "The Astral Plane.") These all surround and penetrate the mind with their own atmosphere, distorting the appearance of everything, and throwing all things our of proportion. Thus influenced, the reason often does not even judge calmly from its own experience, but draws false conclusions as it studies its materials through a distorting medium.
The evolution of moral faculties is very largely stimulated by the affections, animal and selfish as these are during the infancy of the Thinker. The laws of morality are laid down by the enlightened reason, discerning the laws by which Nature moves, and bringing human conduct into consonance with the Divine Will.
But the impulse to obey these laws, when no outer force compels, has its roots in love, in that hidden divinity in man which seeks to pour itself out to give itself to others. Morality begins in the infant Thinker when he is first moved by love to wife, to child, to friend, to do some action that serves the loved one without any thought of gain to himself thereby. It is the first conquest over the lower nature, the complete subjugation of which is the achievement of moral perfection.
Hence the importance of never killing out or striving to weaken, the affection, as is done in many of the lower kinds of occultism. However impure and gross the affections may be, they offer possibilities of moral evolution from which the cold-hearted and self-isolated have shut themselves out. It is an easier task to
purify than to create love, and this is why "the sinners" have been said by great Teachers to be nearer to the kingdom of heaven than the Pharisees and Scribes.
The third great stage of consciousness sees the development of the higher intellectual powers; the mind no longer dwells entirely on mental images obtained from sensations, no longer reasons on purely concrete objects, nor is concerned with the attributes which differentiate one from another. The Thinker having learned clearly to discriminate between objects by dwelling upon their unlikenesses, now begins to group them together by some attribute which appears in a number of objects otherwise dissimilar and makes a link between them.
He draws out, abstracts, his common attribute, and sets all objects that posses it, apart from the rest which are without it; and in this way he evolves the power of recognising identity amid diversity, a step toward the much later recognition of the One underlying the man, he thus classifies all that is around
him, developing the synthetic faculty, and learning to construct as well as analyse. Presently he takes another step, and conceives of the common property as an idea, apart from all the objects in which it appears, and thus constructs a higher kind of mental image of a concrete object – the image of an idea that has no phenomenal existence in the worlds of form, but which exists on the higher levels of the mental plane, and affords material on which the Thinker himself can work.
The lower mind reaches the abstract idea by reason, and in thus doing accomplishes its loftiest flight, touching the threshold of the formless world, and dimly seeing that which lies beyond. The Thinker sees these ideas, and lives among them habitually, and when the power of abstract reasoning is developed and exercised the Thinker is becoming effective in his own world, and is beginning his life of active functioning in his own sphere.
Such men care little for the life of the senses, care little for external observation, or for mental application to images of external objects; their powers are indrawn, and no longer rush outwards in the search for satisfaction.
They dwell calmly within themselves, engrossed with the problems of philosophy, with the deepest aspects of life and thought, seeking to understand causes rather than troubling themselves with effects, and approaching nearer and nearer to the recognition of the One that underlies all the diversities of external Nature.
In the fourth stage of consciousness that One is seen, and with the transcending the barrier set up by the intellect the consciousness spreads out to embrace the world, seeing all things in itself and as parts of itself, and seeing itself as a ray of the LOGOS, and therefore as one with Him. Where is then the Thinker?
He has become
Consciousness, and, while the spiritual Soul can at will use any of his lower
vehicles, he is no longer limited to their use, nor needs them for this full
and conscious life. Then is compulsory reincarnation over and the man has
destroyed death; he has verily achieved immortality. Then has he become "a
pillar in the
To complete this part of our study, we need to understand the successive quickenings of the vehicles of consciousness, the bringing them one by one into activity as the harmonious instruments of the human Soul.
We have seen that from the very beginning of his separate life the Thinker has possessed coatings of mental, astral, etheric, and dense physical matter. These form the media by which his life vibrates outwards, the bridge of consciousness, as we may call it, along which all impulses from the Thinker may reach the dense
physical body, all impacts from the outer world may reach him.
But this general use of the successive bodies as parts of a connected whole is a very different thing from the quickening of each in turn to serve as a distinct vehicle of consciousness, independently of those below it, and it is this quickening of the vehicles that we have now to consider. The lowest vehicle, the
dense physical body, is the first one to be brought into harmonious working order; the brain and the nervous system have to be elaborated and to be rendered delicately responsive to every thrill which is within their gamut of vibratory power. In the early stages, while the physical dense body is composed of the grosser kinds of matter, this gamut is extremely limited, and the physical organ of the mind can respond only to the slowest vibrations sent down.
It answers far more promptly, as is natural, to the impacts from the external world caused by objects similar in materials to itself. Its quickening as a vehicle of consciousness consists in its being made responsive to the vibrations that are initiated from within, and the rapidity of this quickening depends on the co-operation of the lower nature with the higher, its loyal subordination of itself in the service of its inner ruler.
When after many, many life-periods, it dawns upon the lower nature that it exists for the sake of the soul, that all its value depends on the help it can bring to the soul, that it can win immortality only by merging itself in the soul, then its evolution proceeds in giant strides. Before this, the evolution has been unconscious; at first, the gratification of the lower nature was the object of life, and, while this was a necessary preliminary for calling out the energies of the Thinker, it did nothing directly to render the body a vehicle of consciousness; the direct working upon it begins when the life of the man establishes its centre in the mental body, and when thought commences to dominate sensation.
The exercise of the mental powers works on the brain and the nervous system, and the coarser materials are gradually expelled to make room for the finer, which can vibrate in unison with the thought-vibrations sent to them. The brain becomes finer in constitution, and increases by ever more complicated
convolutions the amount of surface available for the coating of nervous matter adapted to respond to thought-vibrations. The nervous system becomes more delicately balanced, more sensitive, more alive to every thrill of mental activity. And when the recognition of its function as an instrument of the Soul,
spoken of above, has come, then active co-operation in performing this function sets in. The personality begins deliberately to discipline itself, and to set the permanent interests of the immortal individual above its own transient gratifications.
It yields up the time that might be spent in the pursuit of lower pleasures to the evolution of mental powers; day by day time is set apart for serious study; the brain is gladly surrendered to receive impacts from within instead of from without, is trained to answer to consecutive thinking, and is taught to refrain
from throwing up its own useless disjointed images, made by past impressions.
It is taught to remain at rest when it is not wanted by its master; to answer, not to initiate vibrations. (One of the signs that it is being accomplished is the cessation of the confused jumble of fragmentary images which are set up during sleep by the independent activity of the physical brain. When the brain is
coming under control this kind of dream is very seldom experienced.)
Further, some discretion and discrimination will be used as to the food-stuffs which supply physical materials to the brain. The use of the coarser kinds will be discontinued, such as animal flesh and blood and alcohol, and pure food will build up a pure body. Gradually the lower vibrations will find no materials
capable of responding to them, and the physical body thus becomes more and more entirely a vehicle of consciousness, delicately responsive to all the thrills of thought and keenly sensitive to the vibrations sent outwards by the Thinker.
The etheric double so closely follows the constitution of the dense body that it is not necessary to study separately its purification and quickening; it does not normally serve as a separate vehicle of consciousness, but works synchronously with its dense partner, and when separated from it either by accident or by death, it responds very feebly to the vibrations initiated from
within. It function in truth is not to serve as a vehicle of mental-consciousness, but as a vehicle of Prâna, of specialised life-force, and its dislocation from the denser particles to which it conveys the life-currents is therefore disturbing and mischievous.
The astral body is the second vehicle of consciousness to be vivified, and we have already seen the changes through which it passes as it becomes organised for the work. (see Chapter II, "The Astral Plane".). When it is thoroughly organised, the consciousness which has hitherto worked within it, imprisoned by it, when in sleep it has left the physical body and is drifting about in the astral world, begins not only to receive the impressions through it of astral objects that form the so-called dream-consciousness, but also to perceive astral objects by its senses – that is, begins to relate the impressions received to
the objects which give rise to those impressions.
These perceptions are at first confused, just as are the perceptions at first made by the mind through a new physical baby-body, and they have to be corrected by experience in the one case as in the other. The Thinker has gradually to discover the new powers which he can use through this subtler vehicle, and by which he can control the astral elements and defend himself against astral dangers. He is not left alone to face this new world unaided, but is taught and helped and – until he can guard himself – protected by those who are more experienced than himself in the ways of the astral world. Gradually the new
vehicle of consciousness comes completely under his control, and life on the astral plane is as natural and as familiar as life on the physical.
The third vehicle of consciousness, the mental body, is rarely, if ever, vivified for independent action without the direct instruction of a teacher, and its functioning belongs to the life of the disciple at the present stage of human evolution. (See Chapter XI, "Man’s Ascent"). As we have already seen, it is rearranged for separate functioning (See Chapter IV, "The Mental Plane"), on the mental plane, and here again experience and training are needed ere it comes fully under its owner’s control. A fact – common to all these three vehicles of consciousness, but more apt to mislead perhaps in the subtler than in the denser, because it is generally forgotten in their case, while it is so obvious that it is remembered in the denser – is that they are subject to evolution, and that with their higher evolution their powers to receive and to respond to vibrations increase.
How many more shades of a colour are seen by a trained eye than by an untrained. How many overtones are heard by a trained ear, where the untrained hears only the single fundamental note. As the physical senses grow more keen the world becomes fuller and fuller, and where the peasant is conscious only his furrow and his plough, the cultured mind is conscious of hedgerow flower and quivering aspen, of rapturous melody down-dropping from the skylark and the whirring of tiny wings through the adjoining wood, of the scudding of rabbits under the curled fronds of the bracken, and the squirrels playing with each other through the branches of the beeches, of all the gracious movements of wild things, of all the fragrant odours of filed and woodland, of all the changing glories of the cloud-flecked sky, and of all the chasing lights and shadows on the hills. Both the peasant and the cultured have eyes, both have brains, but of what differing powers of observation, of what differing powers to receive impressions.
Thus also in other worlds. As the as the astral and mental bodies begin to function as separate vehicles of consciousness, they are in, as it were, the peasant stage of receptivity, and only fragments of the astral and mental worlds, with their strange and elusive phenomena, make their way into consciousness; but they evolve rapidly, embracing more and more, and conveying to consciousness a more and more accurate reflection of its environment. Here, as everywhere else, we have to remember that our knowledge is not the limit of Nature’s powers, and that in the astral and mental worlds, as in the physical, we are still children, picking up a few shells cast up by the waves, while the treasures hid in the ocean are still unexplored.
The quickening of the causal body as a vehicle of consciousness follows in due course the quickening of the mental body, and opens up to a man a yet more marvelous state of consciousness, stretching backwards into an illimitable past, onwards into the reaches of the future. Then the Thinker not only possesses the
memory of his own past and can trace his growth through the long succession of his incarnate and excarnate lives, but he can also roam at will through the storied past of the earth, and learn the weighty lessons of world-experience, studying the hidden laws that guide evolution and the deep secrets of life hidden in the bosom of Nature.
In that lofty vehicle of consciousness he can each the veiled Isis, and lift a corner of her down-dropped veil; for there he can face her eyes without being blinded by her lightening glances, and he can see in the radiance that flows from her the causes of the world’s sorrow and its ending, with heart pitiful and
compassionate, but no longer wrung with helpless pain. Strength and calm and wisdom come to those who are using the causal body as a vehicle of consciousness, and who behold with opened eyes the glory of the Good law.
When the buddhic body is quickened as a vehicle of consciousness the man enters into the bliss of non-separateness, and knows in full and vivid realisation his unity with all that is.
As the predominant element of consciousness in the causal body is knowledge, and ultimately wisdom, so the predominant element of consciousness in the buddhic body is bliss and love.
The serenity of wisdom chiefly marks the one, while the tenderest compassion streams forth inexhaustibly from the other; when to these is added the godlike and unruffled strength that marks the functioning of Âtma, then humanity is crowned with divinity, and the God-man is manifest in all the plenitude of his power, of his wisdom, of his love.
The handing down to the lower vehicles of such part of the consciousness belonging to the higher as they are able to receive does not immediately follow on the successive quickening of the vehicles. In this matter individuals differ very widely, according to their circumstances and their work, for this quickening of the vehicles above the physical rarely occurs till probationary
discipleship is reached, ( See Chapter XI, "Man’s Ascent"), and then the duties to be discharged depend on the needs of the time.
The disciple, and even the aspirant for discipleship, is taught to hold all his powers entirely for the service of the world, and the sharing of the lower consciousness in the knowledge of the higher is for the most part determined by the needs of the work in which the disciple is engaged. It is necessary that the disciple should have the full use of his vehicles of consciousness on the higher
planes, as much of his work can be accomplished only in them; but the conveying of knowledge of that work to the physical vehicle, which is in no way concerned in it, is a matter of no importance and the conveyance or non-conveyance is generally determined by the effect that the one course or the other would have on the efficiency of his work on the physical plane.
The strain on the physical body when the higher consciousness compels it to vibrate responsively is very great, at the present stage of evolution, and unless the external circumstances are very favourable this strain is apt to cause nervous disturbance, hyper-sensitiveness with its attendant evils.
Hence most of those who are in full possession of the quickened higher vehicles of consciousness, and whose most important work is done out of the body, remain apart from the busy haunts of men, if they desire to throw down into the physical consciousness the knowledge they use on the higher planes, thus
preserving the sensitive physical vehicle from the rough usage and clamour of ordinary life.
The main preparation to be made for receiving in the physical vehicle the vibrations of the higher consciousness are: its purification from grosser materials by pure food and pure life; the entire subjugation of the passions, and the cultivation of an even, balanced temper and mind, unaffected by the
turmoil and vicissitudes of external life ; the habit of quiet meditation on lofty topics, turning the mind away from the objects of the senses, and from the mental images arising from them, and fixing it on higher things ; the cessation of hurry, especially of that restless, excitable hurry of the mind, which keeps the brain continually at work and flying from one subject to another ; the genuine love for the things of the higher world, that makes them more attractive than the objects of the lower, so that the mind rests contentedly in their companionship as in that of a well-loved friend.
In fact, the preparations are much the same as those necessary for the conscious separation of "soul" from "body" and those were elsewhere stated by me as follows:
The student –
"Must begin by practising extreme temperance in all things, cultivating an equable and serene state of mind, his life must be clean and his thoughts pure, his body held in strict subjection to the soul, and his mind trained to occupy itself with noble and lofty themes; he must habitually practise compassion,
sympathy, helpfulness to others, with indifference to troubles and pleasures affecting himself, and he must cultivate courage, steadfastness, and devotion.
In fact, he must live the religion and ethics that other people for the most part only talk. Having by persevering practice learned to control his mind to some extent so that he is able to keep it fixed on one line of thought for some little time, he must begin its more rigid training, by a daily practice of concentration on some difficult or abstract subject, or on some lofty object of
devotion; this concentration means the firm fixing of the mind on one single point, without wandering, and without yielding to any distraction caused by external objects, by the activity of the senses, or by that of the mind itself.
It must be braced up to an unswerving steadiness and fixity, until gradually it will learn so to withdraw its attention form the outer world and from the body that the senses will remain quiet and still, while the mind is intensely alive with all its energies drawn inwards to be launched at a single point of thought, the highest to which it can attain.
When it is able to hold itself thus with comparative ease it is ready for a further step, and by a strong but calm effort of the will it can throw itself beyond the highest thought it can reach while working in the physical brain, and in the effort will rise and unite itself with the higher consciousness and find
itself free of the body. When this is done there is no sense of sleep or dream nor any loss of consciousness; the man finds himself outside his body, but as though he merely slipped off a weighty encumbrance, nor as though he had lost any part of himself; he is not really "disembodied", but had risen out of the
gross body ‘in a body of light’ which obeys his slightest thought and serves as a beautiful and perfect instrument for carrying out his will. In this he is free of the subtle worlds, but will need to train his faculties long and carefully for reliable work under the new conditions.
"Freedom from the body may be obtained in other ways; by the rapt intensity of devotion or by special methods that may be imparted by a great teacher to his disciple.
Whatever the way, the end is the same – the setting free of the soul in full consciousness, able to examine its new surroundings in regions beyond the treading of the flesh of the man of flesh. At will it can return to the body and re-enter it, and under these circumstances it can impress on the brain-mind, and
thus retain while in the body, the memory of the experiences it has undergone." [ Conditions of life after death" Nineteenth Century of Nov. 1896 ]
Those who have grasped the main ideas sketched in the foregoing pages will feel that these ideas are in themselves the strongest proof that reincarnation is a fact in nature. It is necessary in order that the vast evolution implied in the phrase, " the evolution of the soul," may be accomplished. The only alternative – putting aside for the moment the materialistic idea that the soul is only the aggregate of the vibrations of a particular kind of physical matter – is that each soul is a new creation, made when a babe is born, and stamped with virtuous or with vicious tendencies, endowed with ability or with stupidity, by the arbitrary whim of the creative power.
As the Muhammadan would say, his fate is hung round his neck at birth, for a man’s fate depends on his character and his surroundings, and a newly created soul flung into the world must be doomed to happiness or misery according to the
circumstances environing him and the character stamped upon him.
Predestination in its most offensive form is the alternative of reincarnation. Instead of looking on men as slowly evolving, so that the brutal savage of today will in time evolve the noblest qualities of saint and hero, and thus, seeing in the world a wisely planned and wisely directed process of growth, we shall be
obliged to see in it a chaos of most unjustly treated sentient beings, awarded happiness or misery, knowledge or ignorance, virtue or vice, wealth or poverty, genius or idiocy, by an arbitrary external will, unguided by either justice or
mercy – a veritable pandemonium, irrational and unmeaning.
And this chaos is supposed to be the higher part of the cosmos, in the lower regions of which are manifested all the orderly and beautiful workings of a law that ever evolves higher and more complex form from the lower and the simpler, that obviously "makes for righteousness," for harmony and for beauty.
If it be admitted that the soul of the savage is destined to live and evolve, and that he is not doomed for eternity to his present infant state, but that his evolution will take place after death and in other worlds, then the principle of soul-evolution is conceded, and the question of the place of evolution alone remains. Were all souls on earth at the same stage of evolution, much might be
said for the contention that further worlds are needed for the evolution of souls beyond the infant stage.
But we have around us souls that are far advanced, and that were born with noble mental and moral qualities. But parity of reasoning, we must suppose them to have been evolved in other worlds ere their one birth in this, and we cannot but wonder why an earth that offers varied conditions, fit for little-developed and
also for advanced souls, should be paid only one flying visit by souls at every stage of development, all the rest of their evolution being carried on in worlds similar to this, equally able to afford all the conditions needed to evolve the souls of different stages of evolution, as we find them to be when they are born here.
The Ancient Wisdom teaches, indeed, that the soul progresses through many worlds, but it also teaches that he is born in each of these worlds over and over again, until he has completed the evolution possible in that world. The worlds themselves, according to its teaching, form an evolutionary chain, and
each plays its own part as a field for certain stages of evolution.
Our own world offers a field suitable for the evolution of the mineral, vegetable, animal and human kingdoms, and therefore collective or individual reincarnation goes on upon it in all these kingdoms. Truly, further evolution lies before us in other worlds, but in the divine order they are not open to us until we have
learned and mastered the lessons of our own world has to teach.
There are many lines of thought that lead us to the same goal of reincarnation, as we study the world around us. The immense differences that separate man from man have already been noticed as implying an evolutionary past behind each soul; and attention has been drawn to these differentiating the individual
reincarnation of men – all of whom belong to a single species – from the reincarnation of monadic group-souls in the lower kingdoms.
The comparatively small differences that separate the physical bodies of men, all being externally recognisable as men, should be contrasted with the immense differences that separate the lowest savage and the noblest human type in mental and moral
capacities. Savages are often splendid in physical development and with large cranial contents, but how different their minds from that of a philosopher or saint!
If high mental and moral qualities are regarded as the accumulated results of civilised living, then we are confronted with the fact that the ablest men of the present are over-topped by the intellectual giants of the past, and that none of our own day reaches the moral altitude of some historical saints.
Further, we have to consider that genius has neither parent nor child; that it
appears suddenly and not as the apex of a gradually improving family, and is itself generally sterile, or, if a child be born to it, it is a child of the body, not of the mind.
Still more significantly, a musical genius is for the most part born in a musical family, because that form of genius needs for its manifestation a nervous organisation of a peculiar kind, and nervous organisation falls under the law of heredity. But how often in such a family its object seems over when it has provided a body for a genius, and it then flickers out and vanishes in a few generations into the obscurity of average humanity. Where are the descendants of Bach, of Beethoven, of Mozart, of Mendelssohn, equal to their sires? Truly genius does not descend from father to son, like the family types of the Stuart and the Bourbon.
On what ground, save that or reincarnation, can the "infant prodigy" be accounted for? Take as an instance the case of the child who became Dr.Young, the discoverer of the undulatory theory of light, a man whose greatness is scarcely yet sufficiently widely recognised. As a child of two he could read "with considerable fluency", and before he was four he had read through the Bible twice; at seven he began arithmetic, and mastered Walkingham’s Tutor’s Assistant before he had reached the middle of it under his tutor, and a few years later we find him mastering, while at school, Latin, Greek, Hebrew,
mathematics, book-keeping, French, Italian, turning and telescope-making and delighting in Oriental literature.
At fourteen he was to be placed under private tuition with a boy a year and a half younger, but, the tutor first engaged failing to arrive, Young taught the other boy. (Life of Dr. Thomas Young, by G. Peacock, D.D.). Sir William Rowan Hamilton showed power even more precocious. He began to learn Hebrew when he was barely three, and "at the age of seven he was pronounced by one of the Fellows of Trinity College, Dublin, to have shown a greater knowledge of the language than many candidates for a fellowship. At the age of thirteen he had acquired considerable knowledge of at least thirteen languages.
Among these, besides the classical and the modern European languages, were
included Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit, Hindustani, and even Malay….. He wrote, at
the age of fourteen, a complimentary letter to the Persian Ambassador, who
happened to visit Dublin; and the latter said that he had not thought there was
a man in Britain who could have written such a document in the Persian language.
A relative of his says: "I remember him a little boy of six, when he would
answer a difficult mathematical question, and run off gaily to his little cart.
At twelve he engaged Colburn, the American ‘calculating boy,’ who was then being exhibited as a curiosity in Dublin, and he had not always the worst of the
encounter." When he was eighteen, Dr. Brinkley (Royal Astronomer of Ireland)
said of him in 1823: "This young man, I do not say will be, but is, the first
mathematician of his age." "At college his career was perhaps unexampled.
Among a number of competitors of more than ordinary merit, he was first in every subject, and at every examination. (North British Review, September 1866).
Let the thoughtful student compare these boys with a semi-idiot, or even with an
average lad, note how, starting with these advantages, they become leaders of
thought, and then ask himself whether such souls have no past behind them.
Family likenesses are generally explained as being due to the "law of heredity,"
but differences in mental and in moral character are continually found within a
family circle, and these are left unexplained. Reincarnation explains the
likenesses by the fact that a soul in taking birth is directed to a family which
provides by its physical heredity a body suitable to express his characteristics; and it explains the unlikenesses by attaching the mental and moral character to the individual himself, while showing that ties set up in the past have led him to take birth in connection with some other individual of that family. (See Chapter IX, on "Karma").
A "matter of significance in connection with twins is that during infancy they
will often be indistinguishable from each other, even to the keen eye of the
mother and of nurse; whereas, later in life, when Manas has been working on his
physical encasement, he will have so modified it that the physical likeness
lessens and the differences of character stamp themselves on the mobile
features." [ Reincarnation by Annie Besant, ] Physical likeness with mental and
moral unlikeness seems to imply the meeting of two different lines of causation.
The striking dissimilarity found to exist between people of about equal
intellectual power in assimilating particular kinds of knowledge is another
"pointer" to reincarnation. A truth is recognised at once by one, while the
other fails to grasp it even after long and careful observation. Yet the very
opposite may be the case when another truth is presented to them, and it may be
seen by the second and missed by the first. "Two students are attracted to
Theosophy and begin to study it, at a year’s end one is familiar with its main conceptions and can apply them, while the other is struggling in a maze. To the one each principle seemed familiar on presentation ; to the other new, unintelligible, strange.
The believer in reincarnation understands that the teaching is old to the one, and new to the other; one learns quickly because he remembers, he is but recovering past knowledge; the other learns slowly because his experience has not included these truths of nature, and he is acquiring them toil fully for the
first time.[ Reincarnation by annie Besant, ] " So also ordinary intuition is "merely recognition of a fact familiar in a past life, though met with for the first time in the present," another sign of the road along which the individual has traveled in the past.
The main difficulty with many people in the reception of the doctrine of reincarnation is their own absence of memory of their past. Yet they are every day familiar with the fact that they have forgotten very much even of their lives in their present bodies, and that the early years of childhood are blurred and those of infancy a blank. They must also know that events of the past which have entirely slipped out of their normal consciousness are yet hidden away in dark caves of memory and ban be brought out again vividly in some forms of disease or under the influence of mesmerism.
A dying man has been known to speak a language heard only in infancy, and unknown to him during a long life; in delirium, events long forgotten have presented themselves vividly to the consciousness. Nothing is really forgotten; but much is hidden out of sight of the limited vision of our waking consciousness, the most limited form of our consciousness, although the only
consciousness recognised by the vast majority. Just as memory of some of the present life is in-drawn beyond the reach of this waking consciousness, and makes itself known again only when the brain is hypersensitive and thus able to respond to vibrations that usually beat against it unheeded, so is the memory of
the past lives stored up our of reach of the physical consciousness. It is all with the Thinker, who alone persists from life to life; he has the whole book of memory within his reach, for he is the only " I " that has passed through all the experiences recorded therein.
Moreover, he can impress his own memories of the past on his physical vehicle, as soon as it has been sufficiently purified to answer his swift and subtle vibrations, and then the man of flesh can share his knowledge of the storied past. The difficulty of memory does not lie in forgetfulness, for the lower vehicle, the physical body, has never passed through the previous lives of its
owner; it lies in the absorption of the present body in its present environment, in its coarse unresponsiveness to the delicate thrills in which alone the soul can speak. Those who would remember the past must not have their interests centred in the present, and they must purify and refine the body till it is able to receive impressions from the subtler spheres.
Memory of their own past lives, however, is possessed by a considerable number of people who have achieved the necessary sensitiveness of the physical organism, and to these of course, reincarnation is no longer a theory, but has become a matter of personal knowledge. They have learned how much richer life
becomes when memories of past lives pout into it, when the friends of this brief day are found to be the friends of the long-ago, and old remembrances strengthen the ties of the fleeting present. Life gains security and dignity when it is seen with a long vista behind it, and when the loves of old reappear in the
loves of today. Death fades into its proper place as a mere incident in life, a change from one scene to another, like a journey that separates bodies but cannot sunder friend from friend. The links of the present are found to be part of a golden chain that stretches backwards, and the future can be faced with a glad security in the thought that these links will endure through days to come, and form part of that unbroken chain.
Now and then we find children who have brought over a memory of their immediate past, for the most part when they have died in childhood and are reborn almost immediately. In the West such cases are rarer than in the East, because in the West the first words of such a child would be met with disbelief, and he would quickly lose faith in his own memories. In the East, where belief in reincarnation is almost universal, the child’s remembrances are listened to, and where the opportunity serves they have been verified.
There is another important point with respect to memory that will repay consideration. The memory of past events remains, as we have seen, with the Thinker only, but the results of those events embodied in faculties are at the service of the lower man.
If the whole of these past events were thrown down into the physical brain, a vast mass of experiences in no classified order,
without arrangement, the man could not be guided by the out come of the past, nor utilise it for present help. Compelled to make a choice between two lines of action, he would have to pick, out of the un-arranged facts from his past, events similar in character, trace out their results, and after long and weary
study arrive at some conclusion – a conclusion very likely to be vitiated by the overlooking of some important factor, and reached long after the need for decision had passed.
All the events, trivial and important, of some hundreds of lives would form a
rather unwieldy and chaotic mass for reference in an emergency that demanded a
swift action. The far more effective plan of Nature leaves to the Thinker the
memory of the events, provides a long period of excarnate existence for the
mental body, during which all events are tabulated and compared and their
results are classified; then these results are embodied as faculties, and these
faculties form the next mental body of the Thinker.
In this way, the enlarged and improved faculties are available for immediate
use, and, the faculties of the past being in them, a decision can be come to, in
accordance with those results and without any delay. The clear quick insight and
prompt judgment are nothing else than the outcome of past experiences, moulded into an effective form for use; they are surely more useful instruments than would be a mass of unassimilated experiences, out of which the relevant ones would have to be selected and compared, and from which inferences would have to be drawn, on each separate occasion on which a choice arises.
From all these lines of thought, however, the mind turns back to rest on the
fundamental necessity for reincarnation if life is to be made intelligible, and
if injustice and cruelty are not to mock the helplessness of man. With
reincarnation man is a dignified, immortal being, evolving towards a divinely
glorious end; without it, he is a tossing straw on the stream of chance
circumstances , irresponsible for his character, for his actions, for his
With it, he may look forward with fearless hope, however low in the scale of
evolution he may be today, for he is on the ladder to divinity, and the climbing
to its summit is only a question of time; without it, he has no reasonable
ground of assurance as to progress in the future, nor indeed any reasonable
ground of assurance in a future at all. Why should a creature without a past
look forward to a future?He may be a mere bubble on the ocean of time. Flung
into the world from non-entity, with qualities of good or evil, attached to him
without reason or desert, why should he strive to make the best of them? Will
not his future, if he have one, be as isolated, as uncaused, as unrelated as his
present? In dropping reincarnation from its beliefs, the modern world has
deprived God of His justice and has bereft man of his security; he may be
"lucky" or "unlucky" but the strength and dignity conferred by reliance on a
changeless law are rent away from him, and he is left tossing helplessly on an
un-navigable ocean of life.
Having traced the evolution of the soul by the way of reincarnation, we are now
in a position to study the great law of causation under which rebirths are
carried on, the law which is named Karma. Karma is a Sanskrit word, literally
meaning "action"; as all actions are effects flowing from preceding causes, and
as each effect becomes a cause of future effects, this idea of cause and effect
is an essential part of the idea of action, and the word action, or karma, is
therefore used for causation, or for the unbroken linked series of causes and
effects that make up all human activity.
Hence the phrase is sometimes used of an event, "This is my karma," i.e., "This
event is the effect of a cause set going by me in the past." No one life is
isolated! It is the child of all the lives before it, the parent of all the
lives that follow it, in the total aggregate of the lives that make up the
continuing existence of the individual.
There is no such thing as "chance" or as "accident"; every event is linked to a
preceding cause, to a following effect; all thoughts, deeds, circumstances are
causally related to the past and will causally influence the future; as our
ignorance shrouds from our vision alike the past and the future, events often
appear to us to come suddenly from the void, to be "accidental," but this
appearance is illusory and is due entirely to our lack of knowledge. Just as the
savage, ignorant of the laws of the physical universe, regards physical events
as uncaused, and the results of unknown physical laws as "miracles"; so do many, ignorant of moral and mental laws, regard moral and mental events as uncaused, and the results of unknown moral and mental laws as good and bad "luck."
When at first this idea of inviolable, immutable law is a realm hitherto vaguely
ascribed to chance dawns upon the mind, it is apt to result in a sense of
helplessness, almost of moral and mental paralysis. Man seems to be held in the
grip of an iron destiny, and the resigned "kismet" of the Moslem appears to be
the only philosophical utterance. Just so might the savage feel when the idea of
physical law first dawns on his startled intelligence, and he learns that every
movement of his body, every movement in external nature, is carried on under
Gradually he learns that natural laws only lay down conditions under which all
workings must be carried on, but do not prescribe the workings; so that man
remains ever free at the centre, while limited in his external activities by the
conditions of the plane on which those activities are carried on. He learns
further that while the conditions master him, constantly frustrating his
strenuous efforts, so long as he is ignorant of them, or, knowing them, fights
against them, he masters them and they become his servants and helpers when he understands them, knows their directions, and calculates their forces.
In truth science is possible only on the physical plane because its laws are
inviolable, immutable. Were there no such things as natural laws, there could be
no sciences. An investigator makes a number of experiments, and from the results of these he learns how Nature works; knowing this, he can calculate how to bring about a certain desired result, and if he fail in achieving that result he knows that he has omitted some necessary condition – either his knowledge is
imperfect, or he has made a miscalculation. He reviews his knowledge, revises
his methods, recasts his calculations, with a serene and complete certainty that
if he ask his question rightly Nature will answer him with unvarying precision.
Hydrogen and oxygen will not give him water today and prussic acid tomorrow;
fire will not burn him today and freeze him tomorrow. If water be a fluid today
and a solid tomorrow, it is because the conditions surrounding it have been
altered, and the reinstatement of the original conditions will bring about the
Every new piece of information about the laws of Nature is not a fresh
restriction but a fresh power, for all these energies of Nature become forces
which he can use in proportion as he understands them. Hence the saying that
"knowledge is power," for exactly in proportion to his knowledge can he utilise
these forces; by selecting those with which he will work, by balancing one
against another, by neutralising opposing energies that would interfere with his
object, he can calculate beforehand the result, and bring about what he
Understanding and manipulating causes, he can predict effects, and thus the very
rigidity of nature which seemed at first to paralyse human action can be used to
produce and infinite variety of results. Perfect rigidity in each separate force
makes possible perfect flexibility in their combinations. For the forces being
of every kind, moving in every direction, and each being calculable, a selection
can be made and the selected forces so combined as to yield any desired result.
The object to be gained being determined, it can be infallibly obtained by a
careful balancing of forces in the combination put together as a cause. But, be
it remembered, knowledge is requisite thus to guide events, to bring about
desired results. The ignorant man stumbles helplessly along, striking himself
against the immutable laws and seeing his efforts fail, while the man of
knowledge walks steadily forward, foreseeing, causing, preventing, adjusting,
and bringing about that at which he aims, not because he is lucky but because he
understands. The one is the toy, the slave of Nature, whirled along by her
forces: the other is her master, using her energies to carry him onwards in the
direction chosen by his will.
That which is true of the physical realm of law is true of the moral and mental
worlds, equally realms of law. Here also the ignorant is a slave, the sage is a
monarch; here also the inviolability, the immutability, that were regarded as
paralysing, are found to be the necessary conditions of sure progress and of
clear-sighted direction of the future. Man can become the master of his destiny
only because that destiny lies in a realm of law, where knowledge can build up
the science of the soul and place in the hands of man the power of controlling
his future – of choosing alike his future character and his future
circumstances.The knowledge of karma that threatened to paralyse, becomes an
inspiring, a supporting, an uplifting force.
Karma is then, the law of causation, the law of cause and effect. It was put
pointedly by the Christian Initiate, S. Paul: "Be not deceived, God is not
mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap."(Galatians, vi, 7).
Man is continually sending out forces on all the planes on which he functions;
these forces – themselves in quantity and quality the effects of his past
activities – are causes which he sets going in each world he inhabits; they
bring about certain definite effects both on himself and on others, and as these
causes radiate forth from himself as centre over the whole field of his
activity, he is responsible for the results they bring about.
As a magnet has its "magnetic field," an area within which all its forces play,
larger or smaller according to its strength, so has every man a field of
influence within which play the forces he emits, and these forces work in curves
that return to their forth-sender, that re-enter the centre whence they emerged.
As the subject is a very complicated one, we will sub-divide it, and then study
the subdivisions one by one.
Three classes of energies are sent forth by man in his ordinary life, belonging respectively to the three worlds that he inhabits; mental energies on the mental plane, giving rise to the causes we call thoughts; desire energies on the astral plane, giving rise to those we call desires; physical energies aroused by these, and working on the physical plane, giving rise to the causes we call action.
We have to study each of these in its workings, and to understand the class of effects to which each gives rise, if we wish to trace intelligently the part that each plays in the perplexed and complicated combinations we set up, called in their totality "our Karma." When a man, advancing more swiftly than his
fellows, gains the ability to function on higher planes, he then becomes the centre of higher forces, but for the present we may leave these out of account and confine ourselves to ordinary humanity, treading the cycle of reincarnation in the three worlds.
In studying these three classes of energies we shall have to distinguish between their effect on the man who generates them and their effect on others who come within the field of his influence; for a lack of understanding on this point often leaves the student in a slough of hopeless bewilderment.
Then we must remember that every force works on its own plane and reacts on the planes below it in proportion to its intensity, the plane on which it is generated gives it its special characteristics, and in its reaction on lower planes it sets up vibrations in their finer or coarser materials according to
its own original nature.The motive which generates the activity determines the plane to which the force belongs.
Next it will be necessary to distinguish between ripe karma, ready to show itself as inevitable events in the present life; the karma of character, showing itself in tendencies that are the outcome of accumulated experiences, and that are capable of being modified in the present life by the same power (the Ego)
that created them in the past; the karma that is now making, and will give rise to future events and future character. ( These divisions are familiar to the student as Prarabdha (commenced, to be worked out in the life); Sanchita (accumulated), a part of which is seen in the tendencies, Kriyamana, (in course of making).
Further, we have to realise that while a man makes his own individual karma he also connects himself thereby with others, thus becoming a member of various groups – family, national, racial – and as a member he shares in the collective karma of each of these groups.
It will be seen that the study of karma is one of much complexity; however, by grasping the main principles of its working as set out above, a coherent idea of its general bearing may be obtained without much difficulty, and its details can be studied at leisure as opportunity offers. Above all, let it never be forgotten, whether details are understood or not, that each man makes his own karma, creating alike his own capacities and his own limitations; and that working at any time with these self-created capacities, and within these self-created limitations, he is still himself, the living soul, and can strengthen or weaken his capacities, enlarge or contract his limitations.
The chains that bind him are of his own forging, and he can file them away or rivet them more strongly; the house he lives in is of his own building, and he can improve it, let it deteriorate, or rebuild it, as he will. We are ever working in plastic clay and can shape it to our fancy, but the clay hardens and becomes as iron, retaining the shape we gave it. A proverb from the Hitopadesha
runs, as translated by Sir Edwin Arnold:
"Look! The clay dries into iron, but the potter moulds the clay;
Destiny today is the master – Man was master yesterday. "
Thus we are all masters of our tomorrows, however much we are hampered today by the results of our yesterdays.
Let us now take in order the divisions already set out under which karma may be studied.
Three classes of causes, with their effects on their creator and on those he influences.The first of these classes is composed of our thoughts. Thought is the most potent factor in the creation of human karma, for in thought the energies of the SELF are working in mental matter, the matter which, in its finer kinds, forms the individual vehicle, and even in its coarser kinds
responds swiftly to every vibration of self-consciousness. The vibrations which we call thought, the immediate activity of the Thinker, give rise to forms of mind-stuff, or mental images, which shape and mould his mental body, as we have already seen; every thought modifies this mental body, and the mental faculties in each successive life are made by the thinkings of the previous lives.
A man can have no thought-power, no mental ability, that he has not himself created by patiently repeated thinkings; on the other hand, no mental image that he has thus created is lost, but remains as material for faculty, and the aggregate of any group of mental images is built into a faculty which grows stronger with every additional thinking, or creation of a mental image, of the same kind.
Knowing this law, the man can gradually make for himself the mental character he desires to possess and he can do it as definitely and as certainly as a bricklayer can build a wall. Death does not stop his work, but by setting him free from the encumbrance of the body facilitates the process of working up his mental images into the definite organ we call a faculty, and he brings this back with him to his next birth on the physical plane, part of the brain of the new body being moulded so as to serve as the organ of this faculty, in a way to be explained presently.
All these faculties together form the mental body for his opening life on earth, and his brain and nervous system are shaped to give his mental body expression on the physical plane. Thus the mental images created in one life appear as mental characteristics and tendencies in another, and for this reason it is written in one of the Upanishads: "Man is a creature of reflection: that which he reflects on in this life he becomes the same hereafter." (Chhandogyopanishad IV, xiv,1). Such is the law, and it places the building of our mental character entirely in our own hands; if we build well, ours the advantage and the credit; if we build badly, ours the loss and blame. Mental character, then, is a case of individual karma in its action on the individual who generates it.
This same man that we are considering, however, affects other by his thoughts. For these mental images that form his own mental body set up vibrations, thus reproducing themselves in secondary forms. These generally, being mingled with
desire, take up some astral matter, and I have therefore elsewhere (see Karma, - Theosophical Manual No. IV) called these secondary thought-forms – astro-mental images. Such forms leave their creator and lead a quasi-independent life – still keeping up a magnetic tie with their progenitor.
They come into contact with and affect others, in this way setting up karmic links between these others and himself; thus they largely influence his future environment. In such fashion are made the ties which draw people together for good or evil in later lives; which surround us with relatives, friends, and
enemies; which bring across our path helpers and hinderers, people who benefit and who injure us, people who love us without our winning in this life, and who hate us though in this life we have done nothing to deserve their hatred.
Studying the results, we grasp a great principle – that while our thoughts produce our mental and moral character in their action on ourselves, they help to determine our human associates in the future by their effects on others.
The second great class of energies is composed of our desires – our out-goings after objects that attract us in the external world: as a mental element always enters into these in man, we may extend the term "mental images " to include them, although they express themselves chiefly in astral matter. These in their
action on their progenitor mould and form his body of desire, or astral body, shape his fate when he passes into Kamaloka after death, and determine the nature of his astral body in his next rebirth.
When the desires are bestial, drunken, cruel, unclean, they are the fruitful causes of congenital diseases, of weak and diseased brains, giving rise to epilepsy, catalepsy, and nervous diseases of all kinds, of physical malformations and deformities, and, in extreme cases, of monstrosities. Bestial appetites of an abnormal kind or intensity may set up links in the astral world which for a time chain the Egos, clothed in astral bodies shaped by these appetites, to the astral bodies of animals to which these appetites properly belong, thus delaying their reincarnation; where this fate is escaped, the bestially shaped astral body will sometimes impress its characteristics on the forming physical body of the babe during ante natal life, and produce the semi-human horrors that are occasionally born.
Desires – because they are outgoing energies that attach themselves to objects – always attract the man towards an environment in which they may be gratified. Desires for earthly things, linking the soul to the outer world, draw him
towards the place where the objects of desire are most readily obtainable, and therefore it is said that a man is born according to his desires. ( See Brihadaranyakopanishad,IV,iv, 5,7,and context). They are one of the causes that determine the place of rebirth.
The astro-mental images caused by desires affect others as do those generated by thoughts. They, therefore, also link us with other souls, and often by the strongest ties of love and hatred, for at the present stage of human evolution an ordinary man’s desires are generally stronger and more sustained than his
thoughts. They thus play a great part in determining his human surroundings in future lives, and may bring into those lives persons and influences of whose connection with himself he is totally unconscious.
Suppose a man by sending out a thought of bitter hatred and revenge has helped to form in another the impulse which results in a murder; the creator of that thought is linked by his karma to the committer of the crime, although they have never met on the physical plane, and the wrong he has done to him, by helping to impel him to a crime , will come back as an injury in the infliction of which the whilhom criminal will play his part. Many a "bolt from the blue" that is felt is utterly undeserved is the effect of such a cause, and the soul thereby learns and registers a lesson while the lower consciousness is writhing under a
sense of injustice.
Nothing can strike a man that he has not deserved, but his absence of memory does not cause a failure in the working of the law. We thus learn that our desires in their action on ourselves produce our desire-nature, and through it largely affect our physical bodies in our next birth; that they play a great
part in determining the place of rebirth; and by their effect on others they help to draw around us our human associates in future lives.
The third great class of energies, appearing on the physical plane as actions,
generate much karma by their effects on others, but only slightly affect
directly the Inner
the most part exhausted in their happening. Indirectly they affect him in proportion as he is moved by them to fresh thoughts and desires or emotions, but the generating force lies in these and not
in the actions themselves.
Again, if actions are often repeated, they set up a habit of the body which acts as a limitation to the expression of the Ego in the outer world; this, however, perishes with the body, thus limiting the karma of the action to a single life so far as its effect on the soul is concerned. But it far otherwise when we come
to study the effects of actions on others, the happiness or unhappiness caused by these, and the influence exercised by these as examples.They link us to others by this influence and are thus a third factor in determining our future human associates, while they are the chief factor in determining what may be
called our non-human environment. Broadly speaking, the favourable or unfavourable nature of the physical surroundings into which we are born depends on the effect of our previous actions in spreading happiness or unhappiness among other people. The physical results on others of actions on the physical plane work out karmically in repaying to the actor good or bad surroundings in a future life.
If he has made people physically happy, by sacrificing wealth or time or trouble, this action karmically brings him favourable physical circumstances conducive to physical happiness. If he has caused people wide-spread physical misery, he will reap karmically from his action wretched physical circumstances
conducive to physical suffering. And this is so, whatever may have been his motive in either case – a fact which leads us to consider the law that:
Every force works on its own plane. If a man sows happiness for others on the physical plane, he will reap conditions favourable to happiness for himself on that plane, and his motive in sowing it does not affect the result . A man might sow wheat with the object of speculating with it to ruin his neighbour, but his
bad motive would not make the wheat grains grow up as dandelions. Motive is a mental or astral force, according as it arises from will or desire, and it reacts on moral and mental character or on the desire-nature severally.
The causing of physical happiness by an action is a physical force and works on the physical plane. "By his actions" man affects his neighbours on the physical plane; he spreads happiness around him or he causes distress, increasing or
diminishing the sum of human welfare. This increase or diminution of happiness may be due to very different motives – good, bad, or mixed. A man may do an act that gives widespread enjoyment from sheer benevolence, from a longing to give happiness to his fellow creatures.
Let us say that from such a motive he presents a park to a town for the free use of its inhabitants; another may do a similar act from mere ostentation, from desire to attract attention from those who can bestow social honours (say, he might give it as purchase-money for a title); a third may give a park from mixed
motives, partly unselfish, partly selfish. The motives will severally affect these three men’s characters in their future incarnations, for improvement, for degradation, for small results.
But the effect of the action is causing happiness to large numbers of people does not depend on the motive of the giver; the people enjoy the park equally, no matter what may have prompted its gift, and this enjoyment, due to the action of the giver, establishes for him a karmic claim on Nature, a debt due to him that will be scrupulously paid. He will receive a physically comfortable or luxurious environment, as he has given widespread physical enjoyment, and his sacrifice of physical wealth will bring him his due reward, the karmic fruit of
This is his right. But the use he makes of his position, the happiness he derives from his wealth and his surroundings, will depend chiefly on his character, and here again the just reward accrues to him, each seed bearing its
appropriate harvest. Truly, the ways of Karma are equal. It does not withhold
from the bad man the result which justly follows from an action which spreads
happiness, and it also deals out to him the deteriorated character earned by his
bad motive, so that in the midst of wealth he will remain discontented and
Nor can the good man escape physical suffering if he cause physical misery by
mistaken actions done from good motive; the misery he caused will bring him
misery in his physical surroundings, but his good motive, improving his
character, will give him a source of perennial happiness within himself, and he
will be patient and contented amid his troubles. Many a puzzle maybe answered by applying these principles to the facts we see around us.
These respective effects of motive and of the results (or fruits) of actions are
due to the fact that each force has the characteristics of the plane on which it
was generated, and the higher the plane the more potent and the more persistent
the force. Hence motive is far more important than action, and a mistaken action
done with a good motive is productive of more good to the doer than a
well-chosen action done with a bad motive. The motive, reacting on the
character, gives rise to a long series of effects, for the future actions guided
by that character will all be influenced by its improvement or its deterioration
‘ whereas the action, bringing on its doer physical happiness or unhappiness,
according to its results on others, has in it no generating force, but is
exhausted in its results.
If bewildered as to the path of right action by a conflict of apparent duties,
the knower of karma diligently tries to choose the best path, using his reason
and judgment to the utmost; he is scrupulously careful about his motive,
eliminating selfish considerations and purifying his heart; then he acts
fearlessly, and if his action turn out to be a blunder he willingly accepts the
suffering which results from his mistake as a lesson which will be useful in the
future. Meanwhile, his high motive has ennobled his character for all time to
This general principle that the force belongs to the plane on which it is
generated is one of far-reaching import. If it be liberated with the motive of
gaining physical objects, it works on the physical plane and attaches the actor
and attaches the actor thereto. If it have no motive save the divine service, it
is set free on the spiritual plane, and therefore cannot attach the individual,
since the individual is asking for nothing.
The Three Kinds of Karma
Ripe Karma is that which is ready for reaping and which is therefore inevitable. Out of all the karma of the past there is a certain amount which can be exhausted within the limits of a single life; there are some kinds of karma that are so incongruous that they could not be worked out in a single physical body, but would require very different types of body for their expression; there are liabilities contracted towards other souls, and all these souls will not be in incarnation at the same time; there is karma that must be worked out in some particular nation or particular social position, while the same man has other karma that needs an entirely different environment.
Part only, therefore, of his total karma can be worked out in a given life, and this part is selected by the Great Lords of Karma – of whom something will presently be said – and the soul is guided to incarnate in a family, a nation, a place, a body, suitable for the exhaustion of that aggregate of causes which can
be worked out together. This aggregate of causes fixes the length of that particular life; gives to the body its characteristics, its powers, and its limitations; brings into contact with the man the souls incarnated within that life-period to whom he has contracted obligations, surrounding him with relatives, friends, and enemies; marks out the social conditions into which he
is born, with their accompanying advantages and disadvantages; selects the mental energies he can show forth by moulding the organisation of the brain and nervous system with which he has to work; puts together the causes that result in troubles and joys in his outer career and that can be brought into a single life.
All this is the "ripe karma," and this can be sketched out in a horoscope cast by a competent astrologer. In all this the man has no power of choice; all is fixed by the choices he has made in the past, and he must discharge to the uttermost farthing the liabilities he has contracted.
The physical, astral and mental bodies which the soul takes on for a new life-period are, as we have seen, the direct result of his past, and they form a most important part of this ripe karma. They limit the soul on every side, and his past rises up in judgment against him, marking out the limitations which he
has made for himself. Cheerfully to accept these, and diligently to work at their improvement, is the part of the wise man, for he cannot escape from them.
There is another kind of ripe karma that is of very serious importance – that of inevitable actions. Every action is the final expression of a series of thoughts; to borrow an illustration from chemistry, we obtain a saturated solution of thought by adding thought after thought of the same kind, until another thought – or even an impulse, a vibration, from without – will produce
the solidification of the whole; the action which expresses the thoughts. If we persistently reiterate thoughts of the same kind, say of revenge, we at last reach the point of saturation, and any impulse will solidify these into action and a crime results. Or we may have persistently reiterated thoughts of help to another to the point of saturation, and when the stimulus of opportunity touches us they crystallise out as an act of heroism.
A man may bring over with him some ripe karma of this kind, and the first vibration that touches such a mass of thoughts ready to solidify into action will hurry him without his renewed volition, unconsciously, into the commission of the act. He cannot stop to think; he is in the condition in which the first
vibration of the mind causes action; poised on the very point of balancing, the slightest impulse sends him over. Under these circumstances a man will marvel at his own commission of some crime, or at his own performance of some sublime act of self-devotion. He says: " I did it without thinking," unknowing that he had thought so often that he had made that action inevitable. When a man has willed to do an act many times, he at last fixes his will irrevocably, and it is only a question of opportunity when he will act.
So long he can think, his freedom of choice remains, for he can set the new though against the old and gradually wear it out by the reiteration of opposing thoughts; but when the next thrill of the soul in response to a stimulus means action, the power of choice is exhausted.
Herein lies the solution of the old problem of necessity and free will; man by the exercise of free will gradually creates necessities for himself, and between the two extremes lie all the combinations of free will and necessity which make the struggles within ourselves of which we are conscious.
We are continually making habits by the repetitions of purposive actions guided by the will; then the habit becomes a limitation, and we perform the action automatically. Perhaps we are then driven to the conclusion that the habit is a bad one, and we begin laboriously to unmake it by thoughts of the opposite kind, and, after many an inevitable lapse into it, the new thought-current turns the stream, and we regain our full freedom, often again gradually to make another fetter.
So old thought-forms persist and limit our thinking capacity, showing as individual and as national prejudices. The majority do not know that they are thus limited, and go on serenely in their chains, ignorant of their bondage; those who learn the truth about their own nature become free. The constitution
of our brain and nervous system is one of the most marked necessities in life; these we have made inevitable by our past thinkings, and they now limit us and we often chafe against them. They can be improved slowly and gradually; the limits can be expanded, but they cannot be suddenly transcended.
Another form of this ripe karma is where some past evil-thinking has made a crust of evil habits around a man which imprisons him and makes an evil life; the actions are the inevitable outcome of his past, as just explained, and they have been held over, even through several lives, in consequence of those lives
not offering opportunities for their manifestation. Meanwhile the soul has been growing and has been developing noble qualities.
In one life this crust of past evil is thrown out by opportunity, and because of this the soul cannot show his later development; like a chicken ready to be hatched, he is hidden within the
imprisoning shell, and only the shell is visible to the external eye.
After a time that karma is exhausted, and some apparently fortuitous event – a word from a great Teacher, a book, a lecture – breaks the shell and the souls comes forth free.
These are the rare, sudden, but permanent "conversions," the "miracles of divine grace," of which we hear; all perfectly intelligible to the knower of karma, and felling within the realm of the law. The accumulated karma that shows itself as
character is, unlike the ripe, always subject to modifications. It may be said to consist of tendencies, strong or weak, according to the thought-force that has gone to their making, and these can be further strengthened or weakened by fresh streams of thought-force sent to work with or against them.
If we find in ourselves tendencies of which we disapprove, we can set ourselves to work to eliminate them; often we fail to withstand temptation, overborne by the strong out-rushing stream of desire, but the longer we can hold out against
it, even though we fail in the end, the nearer are we to overcoming it. Every such failure is a step towards success, for the resistance wears away part of the energy, and there is less of it available for the future. The karma which is in the course of making has been already studied.
When a group of people is considered karmically, the play of karmic forces upon each member of the group introduces a new factor into the karma of the individual. We know that when a number of forces play on a point, the motion of the point is not in the direction of any one of these forces, but in the
direction which is the result of their combination. So the karma of a group is the resultant of the interacting forces of the individuals composing it, and all the individuals are carried along in the direction of that resultant.
An Ego is drawn by his individual karma into a family, having set up in previous lives ties which closely connect him with some of the other Egos composing it; the family has inherited property from a grandfather who is wealthy; an heir turns up, descended from the grandfather’s elder brother, who had been supposed to have died childless, and the wealth passes to him and leaves the father of the family heavily indebted; it is quite possible that our Ego had had no connection in the past with this heir, to whom in past lives the father had contracted some obligation which has resulted in this catastrophe, and yet he is threatened with suffering by his action, being involved with family karma.
If, in his own individual past, there was a wrong-doing which can be exhausted by suffering caused by the family karma, he is left involved in it; if not, he is by some "unforeseen circumstances" lifted out of it, perchance by some benevolent stranger who feels an impulse to adopt and educate him, the stranger being one who in the past was his debtor.
Yet more clearly does this come out, in the working of such things as railway accidents, shipwrecks, floods, cyclones, etc. A train is wrecked, the catastrophe being immediately due to the action of the drivers, the guards, the railway directors, the makers or employees of that line, who thinking themselves
wronged, send clustering thoughts of discontent and anger against it as a whole.
Those who have in their accumulated karma – but not necessarily in their ripe karma – the debt of a life suddenly cut short, may be allowed to drift into this accident and pay their debt; another, intending to go by the train, but with no such debt in his past, is "providentially" saved by being late for it.
Collective karma may throw a man into the troubles consequent on his nation going to war, and here again he may discharge his debts of his past not necessarily within the ripe karma of his then life. In no case can a man suffer that which he has not deserved, but, if an unforeseen opportunity should arise to discharge a past obligation, it is well to pay it and be rid of it for evermore.
The "Lords of Karma" are the great spiritual Intelligences who keep the karmic Records and adjust the complicated workings of karmic law. They are described by H.P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine as the Lipika, the Recorders of Karma, and the Maharajas (The Mahadevas, or Chaturdevas of the Hindus) – and Their hosts, who are "the agents of Karma upon earth." The Lipika are They who know the karmic record of every man, and who with omniscient wisdom select and combine portions of that record to form the plan of a single life; They give the "idea" of the physical body which is to be the garment of the reincarnating soul, expressing his capacities and his limitations; this is taken by the Maharajas and worked into a detailed model, which is committed to one of Their inferior agents to be copied; this copy is the etheric double , the matrix of the dense body, the materials for these being drawn from the mother and subject to physical heredity.
The race, the country, the parents, are chosen for their capacity to provide suitable materials for the physical body of the incoming Ego, and suitable surroundings for his early life. The physical heredity of the family affords certain types and has evolved certain peculiarities of material combinations;
hereditary diseases, hereditary finenesses of nervous organisation, imply definite combinations of physical matter, capable of transmission.
An Ego who has evolved peculiarities in his mental and astral bodies, needing special physical peculiarities for their expression, is guided to parents whose physical heredity enables them to meet these requirements. Thus an Ego with high artistic faculties devoted to music would be guided to take his physical body in a musical family, in which the materials supplied for building the etheric double and the dense body would have been made ready to adapt themselves to his needs, and the hereditary type of nervous system would furnish the delicate apparatus necessary for the expression of his faculties.
An Ego of very evil type would be guided to a coarse and vicious family, whose bodies were built of the coarsest combinations, such as would make a body able to respond to the impulses from his mental and astral bodies. An Ego who had allowed his astral body and lower mind to lead him into excesses, and had yielded to drunkenness, for instance, would be led to incarnate in a family whose nervous systems were weakened by excess, and would be born from drunken parents, who would supply
diseased materials for his physical envelope. The guidance of the Lords of Karma thus adjust means to ends, and insures the doing of justice; the Ego brings with him his karmic possessions of faculties and desires, and he receives a physical body suited to be their vehicle.
As the soul must return to earth until he has discharged all his liabilities, thus exhausting all his individual karma, and as in each life thoughts and desires generate fresh karma, the question may arise in the mind: "How can this constantly renewing bond be put an end to ? How can the soul attain his liberation?" Thus we come to the "ending of karma," and have to investigate how this may be.
The binding element in karma is the first thing to be clearly grasped. The outward going energy of the soul attaches itself to some object, and the soul is drawn back by this tie to the place where that attachment may be realised by union with the object of desire, so long as the soul attaches himself to any object, he must be drawn to the place where that object can be enjoyed. Good karma binds the soul as much as does bad, for any desire, whether for objects here or in Devachan, must draw the soul to the place of gratification.
Action is prompted by desire, an act is done not for the sake of doing the act, but for the sake of obtaining by the act something that is desired, of acquiring its results, or, as it is technically called, of enjoying its fruit. Men work, not because they want to dig, or build, or weave, but because they want the fruits of digging, building, and weaving, in the shape of money or of goods. A barrister pleads, not because he wants to set forth the dry details of a case, but because he wants wealth and fame, and rank.Men around us are labouring for something, and the spur to their activity lies in the fruit it brings them and not in the labour. Desire for the fruit of action moves them to activity, and
enjoyment of that fruit rewards their exertions.
Desire is, then , the binding element in karma, and when the soul no longer desires any object in earth or in heaven, his tie to the wheel of reincarnation that turns in the three worlds is broken. Action itself has no power to hold the soul, for with the completion of the action it slips into the past. But the
ever-renewed desire for fruit constantly spurs the soul into fresh activities, and thus new chains are continually being forged.
Nor should we feel any regret when we see men constantly driven to action by the whip of desire, for desire overcomes sloth, laziness, inertia – (the student will remember that these show the dominance of the tamasic guna, and while it is dominant men do not emerge from the lowest of the three stages of their evolution) – and prompts men to the activity that yields them experience.
the savage, idly dozing on the grass; he is moved to activity by hunger, the desire for food,, and is driven to exert patience, skill, and endurance to gratify his desire. Thus he develops mental qualities, but when his hunger is satisfied he sinks again into a dozing animal. How entirely have mental qualities been evolved by the promptings of desire, and how useful have proved
desires for fame, for posthumous renown. Until man is approaching divinity he needs the urgings of desires, and the desires simply grow purer and less selfish as he climbs upwards. But none the less desires bind him to rebirth, and if he
would be free he must destroy them.
When a man begins to long for liberation, he is taught to practise "renunciation of the fruits of action"; that is, he gradually eradicates in himself the wish to possess any object; he at first voluntarily and deliberately denies himself the object, and thus habituates himself to do contentedly without it; after a time he no longer misses it, and he finds the desire for it is disappearing from his mind. At this stage he is very careful not to neglect any work which is duty because he has become indifferent to the results it brings to him, and he trains himself in discharging every duty with earnest attention, while remaining entirely indifferent to the fruits it brings forth.When he attains perfection in this, and neither desires nor dislikes any object, he ceases to generate karma; ceasing to ask anything from the earth or from Devachan, he is not drawn to either; he wants nothing that either can give him, and all links between himself and them are broken off. This is the ceasing of individual karma, so far as the generation of new karma is concerned.
But the soul has to get rid of old chains as well as to cease from the forging of new, and these old chains must be either allowed to wear out gradually or must be broken deliberately. For this breaking, knowledge is necessary, a knowledge which can look back into the past, and see the causes there set going, causes which are working out their effects in the present.
Let us suppose that a person, thus looking backward over his past lives, sees certain causes which will bring about an event which is still in the future; let us suppose further that these causes are thoughts of hatred for an injury inflicted on himself, and that they will cause suffering a year hence to the wrong-doer; such a person can introduce a new cause to intermingle with the causes working from the past, and he may counteract them with strong thoughts of love and goodwill that will exhaust them, and will thus prevent their bringing about the otherwise inevitable event, which would, in its turn, have generated
new karmic trouble. Thus he may neutralise forces coming out of the past by sending against them forces equal and opposite, and may in this way "burn up his karma by knowledge." In similar fashion he may bring to an end karma generated in his present life that would normally work out in future lives.
Again, he may be hampered by liabilities contracted to other souls in the past,
wrongs he has done to them, duties he owes them. By the use of his knowledge he can find those souls, whether in this world or in either of the other two, and
seek opportunities of serving them. There may a soul incarnated during his own
life-period to whom he owes some karmic debt; he may seek out that soul and pay his debt, thus setting himself free from a tie which, left to the course of
events, would have necessitated his own reincarnation, or would have hampered
him in a future life. Strange and puzzling lines of action adopted by occultists
have sometimes this explanation – the man of knowledge enters into close
relations with some person who is considered by the ignorant bystanders and
critics to be quite outside the companionships that are fitting for him; but
that occultist is quietly working out a karmic obligation which would otherwise
hamper and retard his progress.
Those who do not possess knowledge enough to review their past lives may yet
exhaust many causes that they have set going in the present life; they can
carefully go over all that they can remember, and note where they have wronged
any or where any has wronged them, exhausting the first cases by pouring out
thoughts of love and service, and performing acts of service to the injured
person, where possible on the physical plane also; and in the second cases
sending forth thoughts of pardon and good will. Thus they diminish their karmic
liabilities and bring near the day of liberation.
Unconsciously, pious people who obey the precept of all great Teachers of
religion to return good for evil are exhausting karma generated in the present
that would otherwise work out in the future. No one can weave with them a bond
of hatred if they refuse to contribute any stands of hatred to the weaving, and
persistently neutralise every force of hatred with one of love. Let a soul
radiate in every direction love and compassion, and thoughts of hatred can find
nothing to which they can attach themselves.
"The Prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me." All great Teachers
knew the law and based on it Their precepts, and those who through reverence and devotion to Them obey Their directions profit under the law, although they know nothing of the details of its working. An ignorant man who carries out
faithfully the instructions given him by a scientist can obtain results by his
working with the laws of Nature, despite his ignorance of them, and the same
principle holds good in worlds beyond the physical. Many who have not time to
study, and perforce accept on the authority of experts rules which guide their
daily conduct in life, may thus unconsciously be discharging their karmic
In countries where reincarnation and karma are taken for granted by every
peasant and labourer, the belief spreads a certain quiet acceptance of
inevitable troubles that conduces much to the calm and contentment of ordinary
life. A man overwhelmed by misfortunes rails neither against God nor against his
neighbours, but regards his troubles as the results of his own past mistakes and
He accepts them resignedly and makes the best of them, and thus escapes much of the worry and anxiety with which those who know not the law aggravate troubles already sufficiently heavy. He realises that his future lives depend on his own exertions, and that the law which brings him pain will bring him just joy as
inevitably if he sows the seed of good. Hence a certain patience and a philosophic view of life, tending directly to social stability and to general contentment.
The poor and ignorant do not study profound and detailed metaphysics, but they grasp thoroughly these simple principles – that every man is reborn on earth time after time, and that each successive life is moulded by those that precede it. To them rebirth is as sure and as inevitable as the rising and setting of
the sun; it is part of the course of nature, against which it is idle to repine or to rebel.
When Theosophy has restored these ancient truths to their rightful place in western thought, they will gradually work their way among all classes of society in Christendom, spreading understanding of the nature of life and acceptance of the result of the past. Then too will vanish the restless discontent which arises chiefly from the impatient and hopeless feeling that life is unintelligible, unjust, and unmanageable, and it will be replaced by the quiet strength and patience which come from an illumined intellect and a knowledge of the law, and which characterise the reasoned and balanced activity of those who feel that they are building for eternity.
THE LAW OF SACRIFICE
The study of the Law of Sacrifice follows naturally on the study of the Law of Karma, and the understanding of the former, it was once remarked by a Master, is as necessary for the world as the understanding of the latter. By an act of Self-sacrifice the LOGOS became manifest for the emanation of the universe, by
sacrifice the universe is maintained, and by sacrifice man reaches perfection. (The Hindu will remember the opening words of the Brihadaranyakopanishad, that the dawn is in sacrifice; the Zoroastrian will recall how Ahura Mazda came forth from an act of sacrifice; the Christian will think of the Lamb – the symbol of the LOGOS – slain from the foundation of the world.) Hence every religion that springs from Ancient Wisdom has sacrifice as a central teaching, and some of the profoundest truths of occultism are rooted in the law of sacrifice.
An attempt to grasp, however feebly, the nature of the sacrifice of the LOGOS may prevent us from falling into the very general mistake that sacrifice is an essentially painful thing; whereas the very essence of sacrifice is a voluntary and glad pouring forth of life that others may share in it; and pain only arises when there is discord in the nature of the sacrificer, between the higher whose joy is in giving and the lower whose satisfaction lies in grasping and holding.It is that discord alone that introduces the element of pain, and in the supreme Perfection, in the LOGOS, no discord could arise; the One is the perfect chord of Being, of infinite melodious concords, all tuned to a single note, in which Life and Wisdom and Bliss are blended into one keynote of Existence.
The sacrifice of the LOGOS lay in His voluntarily
circumscribing His infinite life in order that He might manifest. Symbolically, in the infinite ocean of light, with centre everywhere and with circumference nowhere, there arises a
full-orbed sphere of living light, a LOGOS, and the surface of that sphere is His will to limit Himself that He may become manifest, His veil ( This is the Self-limiting power of the LOGOS, His Maya, the limiting principle by which all forms are brought forth. His Life appears as "Spirit," His Maya as "Matter," and
these are never disjoined during manifestation.)in which He incloses Himself that within it a universe may take form.
That for which the sacrifice is made is not yet in existence; its future being lies in the "thought" of the LOGOS alone; to him it owes its conception and will own its manifold life. Diversity could not arise in the "partless Brahman" save for this voluntary sacrifice of Deity taking on Himself form in order to emanate myriad forms, each dowered with a spark of His life and therefore with the power evolving into His image. "The primal sacrifice that causes the birth of beings is named action (karma)," it is said (Bhagavad Gîtâ, viii,3.), and this coming forth into activity from the bliss of perfect repose of self-existence has ever been recognised as the sacrifice of the LOGOS.
That sacrifice continues throughout the term of the universe, for the life of the LOGOS is the sole support of every separated " life " and He limits His life in each of the myriad forms to which He gives birth, bearing all the restraints and limitations implied in each form. From any one of these He could burst forth
at any moment, the infinite Lord, filling the universe with His glory; but only by sublime patience and slow and gradual expansion can each form be led upward until it becomes a self-dependent centre of boundless power like Himself. Therefore does He cabin Himself in forms, and bear all imperfection till
perfection is attained, and His creature is like unto Himself and one with Him, but with its own thread of memory.
Thus this pouring out of His life into forms is part of the original sacrifice, and has in it the bliss of the eternal Father sending forth His offspring as separated lives, that each may evolve an identity that shall never perish, and yield its own note blended with all others to swell the eternal song of bliss, intelligence and life.
This marks the essential nature of sacrifice. Whatever other elements may become mixed with the central idea; it is the voluntary pouring out of life that others may partake of it, to bring others into life and to sustain them in it till they
become self-dependent, and this is but one expression of divine joy. There is always joy in the exercise of activity which is the expression of the power of the actor; the bird takes joy in the outpouring of song, and quivers with the mere rapture of singing; the painter rejoices in the creation of his genius, in
the putting into form of his idea; the essential activity of the divine life must lie in giving, for there is nothing higher than itself from which it can receive; if it is to be active at all – and manifested life is active motion – it must pour itself out. Hence the sign of the spirit is giving, for spirit is the active divine life in every form.
But the essential activity of matter, on the other hand, lies in receiving; by receiving life-impulses it is organised into forms; by receiving them these are maintained; on their withdrawal they fall to pieces. All its activity is of this nature of receiving, and only by receiving can it endure as a form. Therefore it
is always grasping, clinging, seeking to hold for its own; the persistence of the form depends on its grasping and retentive power, and it will therefore seek to draw into itself all it can, and will grudge every fraction with which it parts. Its joy will be in seizing and holding; to it giving is like courting death.
It is very easy from this standpoint, to see how the notion arose that sacrifice was suffering. While the divine life found its delight in exercising its activity of giving, and even when embodied in form cared not if the form perished by the giving, knowing it to be only its passing expression and the means of its separated growth; the form which felt its life-forces pouring away from it cried out in anguish, and sought to exercise its activity in holding, thus resisting the outward flow. The sacrifice diminished the life-energies the form claimed as its own; or even entirely draine