M. Of course it is most difficult,
and, as you say, "puzzling" to understand
correctly and distinguish between the various aspects,
called by us the "principles" of the real EGO.
It is the more so as there exists a notable difference in the
numbering of those principles by various Eastern schools,
though at the bottom there is the same identical substratum of
teaching in all of them.
X. Are you thinking of the Vedantins. They divide
our seven "principles" into five only, I believe?
M. They do; but though I would not presume to dispute
the point with a learned Vedantin, I may yet state as my
private opinion that they have an obvious reason for it.
With them it is only that compound spiritual aggregate which consists
of various mental aspects that is called Man at all,
the physical body being in their view something beneath contempt,
and merely an illusion. Nor is the Vedanta the only
philosophy to reckon in this manner. Lao-Tze in his Tao-te-King,
mentions only five principles, because he, like
the Vedantins, omits to include two principles,
namely, the spirit (Atma) and the physical body,
the latter of which, moreover, he calls "the
cadaver." Then there is the Taraka Raja
Yoga School. Its teaching recognizes only three
"principles" in fact; but then, in reality,
their Sthulopadhi, or the physical body in its jagrata
or waking conscious state, their Sukshmopadhi,
the same body in svapna or the dreaming state,
and their Karanopadhi or "causal body,"
or that which passes from one incarnation to another, are
all dual in their aspects, and thus make six. Add
to this Atma, the impersonal divine principle or the immortal
element in Man, undistinguished from the Universal Spirit,
and you have the same seven, again, as in the esoteric
X. Then it seems almost the same as the division made by
mystic Christians: body, soul and spirit?
M. Just the same. We could easily make of the body
the vehicle of the "vital Double"; of the latter
the vehicle of Life or Prana; of Kamarupa or
(animal) soul, the vehicle of the higher and the
lower mind, and make of this six principles,
crowning the whole with the one immortal spirit. In Occultism,
every qualificative change in the state of our consciousness goes
to man a new aspect, and if it prevails and becomes part
of the living and acting EGO, it must
be (and is) given a special name, to distinguish the man
in that particular state from the man he is when he places himself
in another state.
X. It is just that which is so difficult to understand.
M. It seems to me very easy, on the contrary,
once that you have seized the main idea, i.e.,
that man acts on this, or another plane of consciousness,
in strict accordance with his mental and spiritual condition.
But such is the materialism of the age that the more we explain,
the less people seem capable of understanding what we say.
Divide the terrestrial being called man into three chief aspects,
if you like; but, unless you make of him a pure
animal, you cannot do less. Take his objective body;
the feeling principle in him which is only a little higher
than the instinctual element in the animal or the vital
elementary soul; and that which places him so immeasurably
beyond and higher than the animal i.e., his
reasoning soul or "spirit." Well,
if we take these three groups or representative entities,
and subdivide them, according to the occult teaching,
what do we get?
First of all Spirit (in the sense of the Absolute, and
therefore indivisible ALL) or Atma.
As this can neither be located nor conditioned in philosophy,
being simply that which IS, in Eternity,
and as the ALL cannot be absent from even
the tiniest geometrical or mathematical point of the universe
of matter or substance, it ought not to be called,
in truth, a "human" principle at all.
Rather, and at best, it is that point in metaphysical
Space which the human Monad and its vehicle man, occupy
for the period of every life. Now that point is as imaginary
as man himself, and in reality is an illusion, a
maya; but then for ourselves as for other personal
Egos, we are a reality during that fit of illusion called
life, and we have to take ourselves into account in our
own fancy at any rate if no one else does. To make it more
conceivable to the human intellect, when first attempting
the study of Occultism, and to solve the ABC of the mystery
of man, Occultism calls it the seventh principle,
the synthesis of the six, and gives it for vehicle the
Spiritual Soul, Buddhi. Now the latter
conceals a mystery, which is never given to anyone with
the exception of irrevocably pledged chelas, those
at any rate, who can be safely trusted. Of course
there would be less confusion, could it only be told;
but, as this is directly concerned with the power of projecting
one's double consciously and at will, and as this gift
like the "ring of Gyges" might prove very fatal to men
at large and to the possessor of that faculty in particular,
it is carefully guarded. Alone the adepts, who have
been tried and can never be found wanting, have the key
of the mystery fully divulged to them . . .
Let us avoid side issues, however, and hold to the
This divine soul or Buddhi,
then, is the Vehicle of the Spirit. In conjunction,
these two are one, impersonal, and without any attributes
(on this plane, of course), and make two spiritual
"principles." If we pass on to the Human Soul
(manas, the mens) everyone will agree
that the intelligence of man is dual to say the least:
e.g., the high-minded man can hardly become
low-minded; the very intellectual and spiritual-minded
man is separated by an abyss from the obtuse, dull and
material, if not animal-minded man. Why then should
not these men be represented by two "principles" or
two aspects rather? Every man has these two principles in him,
one more active than the other, and in rare cases,
one of these is entirely stunted in its growth; so to say
paralysed by the strength and predominance of the other aspect,
during the life of man. These, then,
are what we call the two principles or aspects of Manas,
the higher and the lower; the former, the higher
Manas, or the thinking, conscious EGO
gravitating toward the Spiritual Soul (Buddhi); and the
latter, or its instinctual principle attracted to Kama,
the seat of animal desires and passions in man. Thus,
we have four "principles" justified; the
last three being (1) the "Double" which we have agreed
to call Protean, or Plastic Soul; the vehicle of
(2) the life principle; and (3) the physical body.
Of course no Physiologist or Biologist will accept these principles,
nor can he make head or tail of them. And this is why,
perhaps, none of them understand to this day either the
functions of the spleen, the physical vehicle of the Protean
Double, or those of a certain organ on the right side of
man, the seat of the above mentioned desires, nor
yet does he know anything of the pineal gland, which he
describes as a horny gland with a little sand in it, and
which is the very key to the highest and divinest consciousness
in man his omniscient, spiritual and all embracing mind.
This seemingly useless appendage is the pendulum which,
once the clock-work of the inner man is wound up,
carries the spiritual vision of the EGO to
the highest planes of perception, where the horizon open
before it becomes almost infinite. . . .
X. But the scientific materialists assert that after the
death of man nothing remains; that the human body simply
disintegrates into its component elements, and that what
we call soul is merely a temporary self-consciousness produced
as a by-product of organic action, which will evaporate
like steam. Is not theirs a strange state of mind?
M. Not strange at all, that I see. If they
say that self-consciousness ceases with the body, then
in their case they simply utter an unconscious prophecy.
For once that they are firmly convinced of what they assert,
no conscious after-life is possible for them.
X. But if human self-consciousness survives death as a
rule, why should there be exceptions?
M. In the fundamental laws of the spiritual world which
are immutable, no exception is possible. But there
are rules for those who see, and rules for those who prefer
to remain blind.
X. Quite so, I understand. It is an aberration
of a blind man, who denies the existence of the sun because
he does not see it. But after death his spiritual eyes
will certainly compel him to see?
M. They will not compel him, nor will he see anything.
Having persistently denied an after-life during this life,
he will be unable to sense it. His spiritual senses having
been stunted, they cannot develop after death, and
he will remain blind. By insisting that he must see
it, you evidently mean one thing and I another.
You speak of the spirit from the Spirit, or the flame from
the Flame of Atma in short and you confuse it with the human
soul Manas. . . . You do not understand me, let
me try to make it clear. The whole gist of your question
is to know whether, in the case of a downright materialist,
the complete loss of self-consciousness and self-perception after
death is possible? Isn't it so? I say: It is possible.
Because, believing firmly in our Esoteric Doctrine,
which refers to the post-mortem period, or the interval
between two lives or births as merely a transitory state,
I say: Whether that interval between two acts of the illusionary
drama of life lasts one year or a million, that post-mortem
state may, without any breach of the fundamental law,
prove to be just the same state as that of a man who is in a dead
X. But since you have just said that the fundamental laws
of the after-death state admit of no exceptions, how can
M. Nor do I say now that they admit of exceptions.
But the spiritual law of continuity applies only to things which
are truly real. To one who has read and understood Mundakya
Upanishad and Vedanta-Sara all this becomes very clear.
I will say more: it is sufficient to understand what we
mean by Buddhi and the duality of Manas to have a very clear perception
why the materialist may not have a self-conscious survival after
death: because Manas, in its lower aspect,
is the seat of the terrestrial mind, and, therefore,
can give only that perception of the Universe which is based on
the evidence of that mind, and not on our spiritual vision.
It is said in our Esoteric school that between Buddhi and Manas,
or Iswara and Pragna,2 there is in reality no
more difference than between a forest and its trees,
a lake and its waters, just as Mundakya teaches.
One or hundreds of trees dead from loss of vitality, or
uprooted, are yet incapable of preventing the forest from
being still a forest. The destruction or post-mortem
death of one personality dropped out of the long series,
will not cause the smallest change in the Spiritual divine Ego,
and it will ever remain the same EGO.
Only, instead of experiencing Devachan it will have
to immediately reincarnate.
X. But as I understand it, Ego-Buddhi represents
in this simile the forest and the personal minds the trees.
And if Buddhi is immortal, how can that which is similar
to it, i.e., Manas-taijasi,3
lose entirely its consciousness till the day of its new incarnation?
I cannot understand it.
M. You cannot, because you will mix up an abstract
representation of the whole with its casual changes of form;
and because you confuse Manas-taijasi, the Buddhi-lit
human soul, with the latter, animalized.
Remember that if it can be said of Buddhi that it is unconditionally
immortal, the same cannot be said of Manas, still
less of taijasi, which is an attribute. No post-mortem
consciousness or Manas-taijasi, can exist apart from
Buddhi, the divine soul, because the first (Manas)
is, in its lower aspect, a qualificative
attribute of the terrestrial personality, and the second
(taijasi) is identical with the first, and
that it is the same Manas only with the light of Buddhi reflected
on it. In its turn, Buddhi would remain only an
impersonal spirit without this element which it borrows from the
human soul, which conditions and makes of it, in
this illusive Universe, as it were something
separate from the universal soul for the whole period of the
cycle of incarnation. Say rather that Buddhi-Manas can
neither die nor lose its compound self-consciousness in Eternity,
nor the recollection of its previous incarnations in which the
two i.e., the spiritual and the human soul,
had been closely linked together. But it is not so in the
case of a materialist, whose human soul not only receives
nothing from the divine soul, but even refuses to recognize
its existence. You can hardly apply this axiom to the attributes
and qualifications of the human soul, for it would be like
saying that because your divine soul is immortal, therefore
the bloom on your cheek must also be immortal; whereas
this bloom, like taijasi, or spiritual radiance,
is simply a transitory phenomenon.
X. Do I understand you to say that we must not mix in our
minds the noumenon with the phenomenon, the cause with
M. I do say so, and repeat that, limited
to Manas or the human soul alone, the radiance of Taijasi
itself becomes a mere question of time; because both immortality
and consciousness after death become for the terrestrial personality
of man simply conditioned attributes, as they depend entirely
on conditions and beliefs created by the human soul itself during
the life of its body. Karma acts incessantly; we
reap in our after-life only the fruit of that which we
have ourselves sown, or rather created, in our terrestrial
X. But if my Ego can, after the destruction of my
body, become plunged in a state of entire unconsciousness,
then where can be the punishment for the sins of my past life?
M. Our philosophy teaches that Karmic punishment reaches
the Ego only in the next incarnation. After death it receives
only the reward for the unmerited sufferings endured during its
just past existence.4 The whole punishment after
death, even for the materialist, consists therefore
in the absence of any reward and the utter loss of the consciousness
of one's bliss and rest. Karma is the child of the terrestrial
Ego, the fruit of the actions of the tree which is the
objective personality visible to all, as much as the fruit
of all the thoughts and even motives of the spiritual "I";
but Karma is also the tender mother, who heals the wounds
inflicted by her during the preceding life, before she
will begin to torture this Ego by inflicting upon him new ones.
If it may be said that there is not a mental or physical suffering
in the life of a mortal, which is not the fruit and consequence
of some sin in this, or a preceding existence, on
the other hand, since he does not preserve the slightest
recollection of it in his actual life, and feels himself
not deserving of such punishment, but believes sincerely
he suffers for no guilt of his own, this alone is quite
sufficient to entitle the human soul to the fullest consolation,
rest and bliss in his post-mortem existence. Death
comes to our spiritual selves ever as a deliverer and friend.
For the materialist, who, notwithstanding his materialism,
was not a bad man, the interval between the two lives will
be like the unbroken and placid sleep of a child; either
entirely dreamless, or with pictures of which he will have
no definite perception. For the believer it will be a dream
as vivid as life and full of realistic bliss and visions.
As for the bad and cruel man, whether materialist or otherwise,
he will be immediately reborn and suffer his hell on earth.
To enter Avitchi is an exceptional and rare occurrence.
X. As far as I remember, the periodical incarnations
of Sutratma5 are likened in some Upanishad to the life
of a mortal which oscillates periodically between sleep and waking.
This does not seem to me very clear, and I will tell you
why. For the man who awakes, another day commences,
but that man is the same in soul and body as he was the day before;
whereas at every new incarnation a full change takes place not
only in his external envelope, sex and personality,
but even in his mental and psychic capacities. Thus the
simile does not seem to me quite correct. The man who arises
from sleep remembers quite clearly what he has done yesterday,
the day before, and even months and years ago. But
none of us has the slightest recollection of a preceding life
or any fact or event concerning it. . . . I may forget
in the morning what I have dreamed during the night, still
I know that I have slept and have the certainty that I lived during
sleep; but what recollection have I of my past incarnation?
How do you reconcile this?
M. Yet some people do recollect their past incarnations.
This is what the Arhats call Samma-Sambuddha or the knowledge
of the whole series of one's past incarnations.
X. But we ordinary mortals who have not reached Samma-Sambuddha,
how can we be expected to realize this simile?
M. By studying it and trying to understand more correctly
the characteristics of the three states of sleep. Sleep
is a general and immutable law for man as for beast, but
there are different kinds of sleep and still more different dreams
X. Just so. But this takes us from our subject.
Let us return to the materialist who, while not denying
dreams, which he could hardly do, yet denies immortality
in general and the survival of his own individuality especially.
M. And the materialist is right for once, at least;
since for one who has no inner perception and faith, there
is no immortality possible. In order to live in the world
to come a conscious life, one has to believe first of all
in that life during one's terrestrial existence. On these
two aphorisms of the Secret Science all the philosophy about the
post-mortem consciousness and the immortality of the soul
is built. The Ego receives always according to its deserts.
After the dissolution of the body, there commences for
it either a period of full clear consciousness, a state
of chaotic dreams, or an utterly dreamless sleep indistinguishable
from annihilation; and these are the three states of consciousness.
Our physiologists find the cause of dreams and visions in an unconscious
preparation for them during the waking hours; why cannot
the same be admitted for the post-mortem dreams? I repeat
it, death is sleep. After death begins,
before the spiritual eyes of the soul, a performance according
to a programme learnt and very often composed unconsciously by
ourselves; the practical carrying out of correct beliefs
or of illusions which have been created by ourselves.
A Methodist, will be Methodist, a Mussulman,
a Mussulman, of course, just for a time -in a perfect
fool's paradise of each man's creation and making These are the
post-mortem fruits of the tree of life. Naturally,
our belief or unbelief in the fact of conscious immortality is
unable to influence the unconditioned reality of the fact itself,
once that it exists; but the belief or unbelief in that
immortality, as the continuation or annihilation of separate
entities, cannot fail to give colour to that fact in its
application to each of these entities. Now do you begin
to understand it?
X. I think I do. The materialist, disbelieving
in everything that cannot be proven to him by his five senses
or by scientific reasoning, and rejecting every spiritual
manifestation, accepts life as the only conscious existence.
Therefore, according to their beliefs so will it be unto
them. They will lose their personal Ego, and will
plunge into a dreamless sleep until a new awakening. Is
M. Almost so. Remember the universal esoteric teaching
of the two kinds of conscious existence: the terrestrial
and the spiritual. The latter must be considered real from
the very fact that it is the region of the eternal, changeless,
immortal cause of all; whereas the incarnating Ego dresses
itself up in new garments entirely different from those of its
previous incarnations, and in which all except its spiritual
prototype is doomed to a change so radical as to leave no trace
X. Stop! . . . Can the consciousness
of my terrestrial Egos perish not only for a time,
like the consciousness of the materialist, but in any case
so entirely as to leave no trace behind?
M. According to the teaching, it must so perish
and in its fulness, all except that principle which,
having united itself with the Monad, has thereby become
a purely spiritual and indestructible essence, one with
it in the Eternity. But in the case of an out and out materialist,
in whose personal "I" no Buddhi has ever reflected itself,
how can the latter carry away into the infinitudes one particle
of that terrestrial personality? Your spiritual "I"
is immortal; but from your present Self it can carry away
into after life but that which has become worthy of immortality,
namely, the aroma alone of the flower that has been mown
X. Well, and the flower, the terrestrial
M. The flower, as all past and future flowers which
blossomed and died, and will blossom again on the mother
bough, the Sutratma, all children of one
root of Buddhi, will return to dust. Your present
"I," as you yourself know, is not the
body now sitting before me, nor yet is it what I would
call Manas-Sutratma but Sutratma Buddhi.
X. But this does not explain to me at all, why you
call life after death immortal, infinite, and real,
and the terrestrial life a simple phantom or illusion;
since even that post-mortem life has limits, however
much wider they may be than those of terrestrial life.
M. No doubt. The spiritual Ego of man moves in Eternity
like a pendulum between the hours of life and death. But
if these hours marking the periods of terrestrial and spiritual
life are limited in their duration, and if the very number
of such stages in Eternity between sleep and awakening,
illusion and reality, has its beginning and its end,
on the other hand the spiritual "Pilgrim" is eternal.
Therefore are the hours of his post-mortem life when,
disembodied he stands face to face with truth and not the mirages
of his transitory earthly existences during the period of that
pilgrimage which we call "the cycle of rebirths" the
only reality in our conception. Such intervals,
their limitation not withstanding, do not prevent the Ego,
while ever perfecting itself, to be following undeviatingly,
though gradually and slowly, the path to its last transformation,
when that Ego having reached its goal becomes the divine ALL.
These intervals and stages help towards this final result instead
of hindering it; and without such limited intervals the
divine Ego could never reach its ultimate goal. This Ego
is the actor, and its numerous and various incarnations
the parts it plays. Shall you call these parts with their
costumes the individuality of the actor himself? Like that actor,
the Ego is forced to play during the Cycle of Necessity up to
the very threshold of Para-nirvana, many parts such
as may be unpleasant to it. But as the bee collects its
honey from every flower, leaving the rest as food for the
earthly worms, so does our spiritual individuality,
whether we call it Sutratma or Ego. It collects from every
terrestrial personality into which Karma forces it to incarnate,
the nectar alone of the spiritual qualities and self-consciousness,
and uniting all these into one whole it emerges from its chrysalis
as the glorified Dhyan Chohan. So much the worse for those
terrestrial personalities from which it could collect nothing.
Such personalities cannot assuredly outlive consciously their
X. Thus then it seems, that for the terrestrial
personality, immortality is still conditional. Is
then immortality itself not unconditional?
M. Not at all. But it cannot touch the non-existent.
For all that which exists as SAT,
ever aspiring to SAT, immortality and
Eternity are absolute. Matter is the opposite pole of spirit
and yet the two are one. The essence of all this,
i.e., Spirit, Force and Matter,
or the three in one, is as endless as it is beginningless;
but the form acquired by this triple unity during its incarnations,
the externality, is certainly only the illusion of our
personal conceptions. Therefore do we call the after-life
alone a reality, while relegating the terrestrial life,
its terrestrial personality included, to the phantom realm
X. But why in such a case not call sleep the reality,
and waking the illusion, instead of the reverse?
M. Because we use an expression made to facilitate the
grasping of the subject, and from the standpoint of terrestrial
conceptions it is a very correct one.
X. Nevertheless, I cannot understand. If
the life to come is based on justice and the merited retribution
for all our terrestrial suffering, how, in the case
of materialists many of whom are ideally honest and charitable
men, should there remain of their personality nothing but
the refuse of a faded flower!
M. No one ever said such a thing. No materialist,
if a good man, however unbelieving, can die forever
in the fulness of his spiritual individuality. What was
said is, that the consciousness of one life can disappear
either fully or partially; in the case of a thorough materialist,
no vestige of that personality which disbelieved remains in the
series of lives.
X. But is this not annihilation to the Ego?
M. Certainly not. One can sleep a dead sleep during
a long railway journey, miss one or several stations without
the slightest recollection or consciousness of it, awake
at another station and continue the journey recollecting other
halting places, till the end of that journey, when
the goal is reached. Three kinds of sleep were mentioned
to you: the dreamless, the chaotic, and the
one so real, that to the sleeping man his dreams become
full realities. If you believe in the latter why can't
you believe in the former? According to what one has believed
in and expected after death, such is the state one will
have. He who expected no life to come will have an absolute
blank amounting to annihilation in the interval between the two
rebirths. This is just the carrying out of the programme
we spoke of, and which is created by the materialist himself.
But there are various kinds of materialists, as you say.
A selfish wicked Egoist, one who never shed a tear for
anyone but himself, thus adding entire indifference the
whole world to his unbelief, must drop at the threshold
of death his personality forever. This personality having
no tendrils of sympathy for the world around, and hence
nothing to hook on to the string of the Sutratma, every
connection between the two is broken with last breath.
There being no Devachan for such a materialists, the Sutratma
will re-incarnate almost immediately. But those materialists
who erred in nothing but their disbelief, will oversleep
but one station. Moreover, the time will come when
the ex-material perceive himself in the Eternity and perhaps repent
that he lost even one day, or station, from the
X. Still would it not be more correct to say that death
is birth new Life or a return once more to the threshold of eternity?
M. You may if you like. Only remember that births
differ, and that there are births of "still-born"
beings, which are failures. More-over with
your fixed Western ideas about material life, the words
"living" and "being" are quite inapplicable
to the pure subjective post-mortem existence. It
is just because of such ideas a few philosophers who are not
read by the many and who lives are too confused to present a distinct
picture of it that all your conceptions of life and death have
finally become so narrow. On the one hand, they
have led to crass materialism, and on the to the still
more material conception of the other life which ritualists have
formulated in their Summer-land. There the souls of men
eat, drink and marry, and live in a Paradise quite
as sensual as that of Mohammed, but even less philosophical.
Nor are average conceptions of the uneducated Christians any better,
e still more material, if possible. What between
truncated Angels, brass trumpets, golden harps,
streets in paradisiacal cities with jewels, and hell-fires,
it seems like a scene at a Christmas pantomime. It is because
of these narrow conceptions that you such difficulty in understanding.
And, it is also just because the life of the disembodied
soul, while possessing all the vividness of reality,
as in certain dreams, is devoid of every grossly objective
form of terrestrial life, that the Eastern philosophers
have compared it with visions during sleep.
Lucifer, January, 1889
1 See "Secret Doctrine" for a clearer
explanation. back to text
2 Iswara is the collective consciousness of
the manifested deity, Brahmâ, i.e.,
the collective consciousness of the Host of Dhyan Chohans;
and Pragna is their individual wisdom. back to text
3 Taijasi means the radiant in consequence of
the union with Buddhi of Manas, the human, illuminated
by the radiance of the divine soul. Therefore Manas-taijasi
may be described as radiant mind; the human reason
lit by the light of the spirit; and Buddhi-Manas is the
representation of the divine plus the human intellect and
self-consciousness. back to text
4 Some Theosophists have taken exception to this phrase,
but the words are those of the Masters, and the meaning
attached to the word "unmerited" is that given above.
In the T.P.S. pamphlet No. 6,
a phrase, criticised subsequently in Lucifer was
used, which was intended to convey the same idea.
In form however it was awkward and open to the criticism directed
against it; but the essential idea was that men often suffer
from the effects of the actions done by others, effects
which thus do not strictly belong to their own Karma, but
to that of other people and for these sufferings they of course
deserve compensation. If it is true to say that nothing
that happens to us can be anything else than Karma or the direct
or indirect effect of a cause it would be a great error to think
that every evil or good which befalls us is due only to
our personal Karma. (Vide further on.) back to
5 Our immortal and reincarnating principle in conjunction
with the Manasic recollections of the preceding lives is called
Sutratma, which means literally the Thread-Soul;
because like the pearls on a thread so is the long series of human
lives strung together on that one thread. Manas must become
taijasi, the radiant, before it can hang
on the Sutratma as a pearl on its thread, and so have full
and absolute perception of itself in the Eternity. As said
before, too close association with the terrestrial mind
of the human soul alone causes this radiance to be entirely lost. back to text