Q. Is moral elevation, then, the principal thing insisted upon in your Society?
A. Undoubtedly! He who would be a true Theosophist must bring himself to live as one.
Q. If so, then, as I remarked before, the behavior of some members strangely belies this fundamental rule.
A. Indeed it does. But this cannot be helped among us, any more than amongst those who call themselves Christians and act like fiends. This is no fault of our statutes and rules, but that of human nature. Even in some exoteric public branches, the members pledge themselves on their "Higher Self" to live the life prescribed by Theosophy. They have to bring their Divine Self to guide their every thought and action, every day and at every moment of their lives. A true Theosophist ought "to deal justly and walk humbly."
Q. What do you mean by this?
A. Simply this: the one self has to forget itself for the many selves. Let me answer you in the words of a true Philaletheian, an F.T.S., who has beautifully expressed it in The Theosophist:
What every man needs first is to find himself, and then take an honest inventory of his subjective possessions, and, bad or bankrupt as it may be, it is not beyond redemption if we set about it in earnest.
But how many do? All are willing to work for their own development and progress; very few for those of others. To quote the same writer again:
Men have been deceived and deluded long enough; they must break their idols, put away their shams, and go to work for themselves-nay, there is one little word too much or too many, for he who works for himself had better not work at all; rather let him work himself for others, for all. For every flower of love and charity he plants in his neighbor's garden, a loathsome weed will disappear from his own, and so this garden of the gods-Humanity-shall blossom as a rose. In all Bibles, all religions, this is plainly set forth-but designing men have at first misinterpreted and finally emasculated, materialized, besotted them. It does not require a new revelation. Let every man be a revelation unto himself. Let once man's immortal spirit take possession of the temple of his body, drive out the money-changers and every unclean thing, and his own divine humanity will redeem him, for when he is thus at one with himself he will know the "builder of the Temple."
Q. This is pure Altruism, I confess.
A. It is. And if only one Fellow of the T.S. out of ten would practice it ours would be a body of elect indeed. But there are those among the outsiders who will always refuse to see the essential difference between Theosophy and the Theosophical Society, the idea and its imperfect embodiment. Such would visit every sin and shortcoming of the vehicle, the human body, on the pure spirit which sheds thereon its divine light. Is this just to either? They throw stones at an association that tries to work up to, and for the propagation of, its ideal with most tremendous odds against it. Some vilify the Theosophical Society only because it presumes to attempt to do that in which other systems-Church and State Christianity preeminently-have failed most egregiously; others because they would fain preserve the existing state of things: Pharisees and Sadducees in the seat of Moses, and publicans and sinners revelling in high places, as under the Roman Empire during its decadence. Fair-minded people, at any rate, ought to remember that the man who does all he can, does as much as he who has achieved the most, in this world of relative possibilities. This is a simple truism, an axiom supported for believers in the Gospels by the parable of the talents given by their Master: the servant who doubled his two talents was rewarded as much as that other fellow-servant who had received five. To every man it is given "according to his several ability."
Q. Yet it is rather difficult to draw the line of demarcation between the abstract and the concrete in this case, as we have only the latter to form our judgment by.
A. Then why make an exception for the T.S.? Justice, like charity, ought to begin at home. Will you revile and scoff at the "Sermon on the Mount" because your social, political and even religious laws have, so far, not only failed to carry out its precepts in their spirit, but even in their dead letter? Abolish the oath in Courts, Parliament, Army and everywhere, and do as the Quakers do, if you will call yourselves Christians. Abolish the Courts themselves, for if you would follow the Commandments of Christ, you have to give away your coat to him who deprives you of your cloak, and turn your left cheek to the bully who smites you on the right. "Resist not evil, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you," for "whosoever shall break one of the least of these Commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven," and "whosoever shall say 'Thou fool' shall be in danger of hell fire." And why should you judge, if you would not be judged in your turn? Insist that between Theosophy and the Theosophical Society there is no difference, and forthwith you lay the system of Christianity and its very essence open to the same charges, only in a more serious form.
Q. Why more serious?
A. Because, while the leaders of the Theosophical Movement, recognizing
fully their shortcomings, try all they can do to amend their ways
and uproot the evil existing in the Society; and while their rules
and bylaws are framed in the spirit of Theosophy, the Legislators
and the Churches of nations and countries which call themselves
Christian do the reverse. Our members, even the worst among them,
are no worse than the average Christian. Moreover, if the Western
Theosophists experience so much difficulty in leading the true Theosophical
life, it is because they are all the children of their generation.
Every one of them was a Christian, bred and brought up in the sophistry
of his Church, his social customs, and even his paradoxical laws.
He was this before he became a Theosophist, or rather, a member
of the Society of that name, as it cannot be too often repeated
that between the abstract ideal and its vehicle there is a most
The Abstract and the Concrete
Q. Please elucidate this difference a little more.
A. The Society is a great body of men and women, composed of the most heterogeneous elements. Theosophy, in its abstract meaning, is Divine Wisdom, or the aggregate of the knowledge and wisdom that underlie the Universe-the homogeneity of eternal good; and in its concrete sense it is the sumtotal of the same as allotted to man by nature, on this earth, and no more. Some members earnestly endeavor to realize and, so to speak, to objectivize Theosophy in their lives; while others desire only to know of, not to practice it; and others still may have joined the Society merely out of curiosity, or a passing interest, or perhaps, again, because some of their friends belong to it. How, then, can the system be judged by the standard of those who would assume the name without any right to it? Is poetry or its muse to be measured only by those would-be poets who afflict our ears? The Society can be regarded as the embodiment of Theosophy only in its abstract motives; it can never presume to call itself its concrete vehicle so long as human imperfections and weaknesses are all represented in its body; otherwise the Society would be only repeating the great error and the outflowing sacrilege of the so-called Churches of Christ. If Eastern comparisons may be permitted, Theosophy is the shoreless ocean of universal truth, love, and wisdom, reflecting its radiance on the earth, while the Theosophical Society is only a visible bubble on that reflection. Theosophy is divine nature, visible and invisible, and its Society human nature trying to ascend to its divine parent. Theosophy, finally, is the fixed eternal sun, and its Society the evanescent comet trying to settle in an orbit to become a planet, ever revolving within the attraction of the sun of truth. It was formed to assist in showing to men that such a thing as Theosophy exists, and to help them to ascend towards it by studying and assimilating its eternal verities.
Q. I thought you said you had no tenets or doctrines of your own?
A. No more we have. The Society has no wisdom of its own to support or teach. It is simply the storehouse of all the truths uttered by the great seers, initiates, and prophets of historic and even prehistoric ages; at least, as many as it can get. Therefore, it is merely the channel through which more or less of truth, found in the accumulated utterances of humanity's great teachers, is poured out into the world.
Q. But is such truth unreachable outside of the society? Does not every Church claim the same?
A. Not at all. The undeniable existence of great initiates-true "Sons of God"-shows that such wisdom was often reached by isolated individuals, never, however, without the guidance of a master at first. But most of the followers of such, when they became masters in their turn, have dwarfed the Catholicism of these teachings into the narrow groove of their own sectarian dogmas. The commandments of a chosen master alone were then adopted and followed, to the exclusion of all others-if followed at all, note well, as in the case of the Sermon on the Mount. Each religion is thus a bit of the divine truth, made to focus a vast panorama of human fancy which claimed to represent and replace that truth.
Q. But Theosophy, you say, is not a religion?
A. Most assuredly it is not, since it is the essence of all religion and of absolute truth, a drop of which only underlies every creed. To resort once more to metaphor. Theosophy, on earth, is like the white ray of the spectrum, and every religion only one of the seven prismatic colors. Ignoring all the others, and cursing them as false, every special colored ray claims not only priority, but to be that white ray itself, and anathematizes even its own tints from light to dark, as heresies. Yet, as the sun of truth rises higher and higher on the horizon of man's perception, and each colored ray gradually fades out until it is finally reabsorbed in its turn, humanity will at last be cursed no longer with artificial polarizations, but will find itself bathing in the pure colorless sunlight of eternal truth. And this will be Theosophia.
Q. Your claim is, then, that all the great religions are derived from Theosophy, and that it is by assimilating it that the world will be finally saved from the curse of its great illusions and errors?
A. Precisely so. And we add that our Theosophical Society is the humble seed which, if watered and left to live, will finally produce the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil which is grafted on the Tree of Life Eternal. For it is only by studying the various great religions and philosophies of humanity, by comparing them dispassionately and with an unbiased mind, that men can hope to arrive at the truth. It is especially by finding out and noting their various points of agreement that we may achieve this result. For no sooner do we arrive-either by study, or by being taught by someone who knows-at their inner meaning, than we find, almost in every case, that it expresses some great truth in Nature.
Q. We have heard of a Golden Age that was, and what you describe would be a Golden Age to be realized at some future day. When shall it be?
A. Not before humanity, as a whole, feels the need of it. A maxim in the Persian Javidan Khirad says:
Truth is of two kinds-one manifest and self-evident; the other demanding incessantly new demonstrations and proofs.
It is only when this latter kind of truth becomes as universally obvious as it is now dim, and therefore liable to be distorted by sophistry and casuistry; it is only when the two kinds will have become once more one, that all people will be brought to see alike.
Q. But surely those few who have felt the need of such truths must have made up their minds to believe in something definite? You tell me that, the Society having no doctrines of its own, every member may believe as he chooses and accept what he pleases. This looks as if the Theosophical Society was bent upon reviving the confusion of languages and beliefs of the Tower of Babel of old. Have you no beliefs in common?
A. What is meant by the Society having no tenets or doctrines of its own is, that no special doctrines or beliefs are obligatory on its members; but, of course, this applies only to the body as a whole. The Society, as you were told, is divided into an outer and an inner body. Those who belong to the latter have, of course, a philosophy, or-if you so prefer it-a religious system of their own.
Q. May we be told what it is?
A. We make no secret of it. It was outlined a few years ago in
The Theosophist and Esoteric Buddhism, and may be found still more
elaborated in The Secret Doctrine. It is based on the oldest philosophy
of the world, called the Wisdom-Religion or the Archaic Doctrine.
If you like, you may ask questions and have them explained.
On God and Prayer
Q. Do you believe in God?
A. That depends what you mean by the term.
Q. I mean the God of the Christians, the Father of Jesus, and the Creator: the Biblical God of Moses, in short.
A. In such a God we do not believe. We reject the idea of a personal, or an extra-cosmic and anthropomorphic God, who is but the gigantic shadow of man, and not of man at his best, either. The God of theology, we say-and prove it-is a bundle of contradictions and a logical impossibility. Therefore, we will have nothing to do with him.
Q. State your reasons, if you please.
A. They are many, and cannot all receive attention. But here are a few. This God is called by his devotees infinite and absolute, is he not?
Q. I believe he is.
A. Then, if infinite-i.e., limitless-and especially if absolute, how can he have a form, and be a creator of anything? Form implies limitation, and a beginning as well as an end; and, in order to create, a Being must think and plan. How can the absolute be supposed to think-i.e., to have any relation whatever to that which is limited, finite, and conditioned? This is a philosophical, and a logical absurdity. Even the Hebrew Cabala rejects such an idea, and therefore, makes of the one and the Absolute Deific
Principle an infinite Unity called Ain-Soph *)
*)Ain-Soph (Greek: toh pan, epeiros), the boundless or limitless,
in and of nature, the non-existing that IS, but that is not a Being.
In order to create, the Creator has to become active; and as this is impossible for absoluteness, the infinite principle had to be shown becoming the cause of evolution (not creation) in an indirect way-i.e., through the emanation from itself (another absurdity, due this time to the translators of the Cabala) of the Sephiroth.
How can the non-active eternal principle emanate or emit? The Parabrahman of the Vedantins does nothing of the kind; nor does the Ain-Soph of the Chaldean Cabala. It is an eternal and periodical law which causes an active and creative force (the logos) to emanate from the ever-concealed and incomprehensible one principle at the beginning of every Mah -Manvantara, or new cycle of life.
Q. How about those Cabalists, who, while being such, still believe in Jehovah, or the Tetragrammaton?
A. They are at liberty to believe in what they please, as their belief or disbelief can hardly affect a self-evident fact. The Jesuits tell us that two and two are not always four to a certainty, since it depends on the will of God to make 2 × 2 = 5. Shall we accept their sophistry for all that?
Q. Then you are Atheists?
A. Not that we know of, and not unless the epithet of "Atheist" is to be applied to those who disbelieve in an anthropomorphic God. We believe in a Universal Divine Principle, the root of all, from which all proceeds, and within which all shall be absorbed at the end of the great cycle of Being.
Q. This is the old, old claim of Pantheism. If you are Pantheists, you cannot be Deists; and if you are not Deists, then you have to answer to the name of Atheists.
A. Not necessarily so. The term Pantheism is again one of the many abused terms, whose real and primitive meaning has been distorted by blind prejudice and a one-sided view of it. If you accept the Christian etymology of this compound word, and form it of pan , "all," and theos , "god," and then imagine and teach that this means that every stone and every tree in Nature is a God or the one God, then, of course, you will be right, and make of Pantheists fetish-worshippers, in addition to their legitimate name. But you will hardly be as successful if you etymologize the word Pantheism esoterically, and as we do.
Q. What is, then, your definition of it?
A. Let me ask you a question in my turn. What do you understand by Pan, or Nature?
Q. Nature is, I suppose, the sumtotal of things existing around us; the aggregate of causes and effects in the world of matter, the creation or universe.
A. Hence the personified sum and order of known causes and effects; the total of all finite agencies and forces, as utterly disconnected from an intelligent Creator or Creators, and perhaps "conceived of as a single and separate force"-as in your encyclopedias?
Q. Yes, I believe so.
A. Well, we neither take into consideration this objective and material nature, which we call an evanescent illusion, nor do we mean by Nature, in the sense of its accepted derivation from the Latin Natura (becoming, from nasci, to be born). When we speak of the Deity and make it identical, hence coeval, with Nature, the eternal and uncreate nature is meant, and not your aggregate of flitting shadows and finite unrealities. We leave it to the hymn-makers to call the visible sky or heaven, God's Throne, and our earth of mud His footstool. Our deity is neither in a paradise, nor in a particular tree, building, or mountain: it is everywhere, in every atom of the visible as of the invisible Cosmos, in, over, and around every invisible atom and divisible molecule; for it is the mysterious power of evolution and involution, the omnipresent, omnipotent, and even omniscient creative potentiality.
Q. Stop! Omniscience is the prerogative of something that thinks, and you deny to your Absoluteness the power of thought.
A. We deny it to the absolute, since thought is something limited and conditioned. But you evidently forget that in philosophy absolute unconsciousness is also absolute consciousness, as otherwise it would not be absolute.
Q. Then your Absolute thinks?
A. No, it does not; for the simple reason that it is Absolute Thought itself. Nor does it exist, for the same reason, as it is absolute existence, and Be-ness, not a Being. Read the superb Cabalistic poem by Solomon Ben Jehudah Gabirol, in the Kether-Malchut, and you will understand:
Thou art one, the root of all numbers, but not as an element of numeration; for unity admits not of multiplication, change, or form.
Thou art one, and in the secret of Thy unity the wisest of men are lost, because they know it not.
Thou art one, and Thy unity is never diminished, never extended, and cannot be changed.
Thou art one, and no thought of mine can fix for Thee a limit, or define Thee.
Thou art, but not as one existent, for the understanding and vision of mortals cannot attain to Thy existence, nor determine for Thee the where, the how and the why .
In short, our Deity is the eternal, incessantly evolving, not creating, builder of the universe; that universe itself unfolding out of its own essence, not being made. It is a sphere, without circumference, in its symbolism, which has but one ever-acting attribute embracing all other existing or thinkable attributes-itself. It is the one law, giving the impulse to manifested, eternal, and immutable laws, within that never-manifesting, because absolute law, which in its manifesting periods is The ever-Becoming.
Q. I once heard one of your members remarking that Universal Deity, being everywhere, was in vessels of dishonor, as in those of honor, and, therefore, was present in every atom of my cigar ash! Is this not rank blasphemy?
A. I do not think so, as simple logic can hardly be regarded as
blasphemy. Were we to exclude the Omnipresent Principle from one
single mathematical point of the universe, or from a particle of
matter occupying any conceivable space, could we still regard it
Is it Necessary to Pray?
Q. Do you believe in prayer, and do you ever pray?
A. We do not. We act, instead of talking.
Q. You do not offer prayers even to the Absolute Principle?
A. Why should we? Being well-occupied people, we can hardly afford to lose time in addressing verbal prayers to a pure abstraction. The Unknowable is capable of relations only in its parts to each other, but is non-existent as regards any finite relations. The visible universe depends for its existence and phenomena on its mutually acting forms and their laws, not on prayer or prayers.
Q. Do you not believe at all in the efficacy of prayer?
A. Not in prayer taught in so many words and repeated externally, if by prayer you mean the outward petition to an unknown God as the addressee, which was inaugurated by the Jews and popularized by the Pharisees.
Q. Is there any other kind of prayer?
A. Most decidedly; we call it will-prayer, and it is rather an internal command than a petition.
Q. To whom, then, do you pray when you do so?
A. To "our Father in heaven"-in its esoteric meaning.
Q. Is that different from the one given to it in theology?
A. Entirely so. An Occultist or a Theosophist addresses his prayer to his Father which is in secret, not to an extra-cosmic and therefore finite God; and that "Father" is in man himself.
Q. Then you make of man a God?
A. Please say "God" and not a God. In our sense, the inner man is the only God we can have cognizance of. And how can this be otherwise? Grant us our postulate that God is a universally diffused, infinite principle, and how can man alone escape from being soaked through by, and in, the Deity? We call our "Father in heaven" that deific essence of which we are cognizant within us, in our heart and spiritual consciousness, and which has nothing to do with the anthropomorphic conception we may form of it in our physical brain or its fancy: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of (the absolute) God dwelleth in you?"
One often finds in Theosophical writings conflicting statements about the Christos principle in man. Some call it the sixth principle (Buddhi), others the seventh (Atma). If Christian Theosophists wish to make use of such expressions, let them be made philosophically correct by following the analogy of the old Wisdom-Religion symbols. We say that Christos is not only one of the three higher principles, but all the three regarded as a Trinity. This Trinity represents the Holy Ghost, the Father, and the Son, as it answers to abstract spirit, differentiated spirit, and embodied spirit. Krishna and Christ are philosophically the same principle under its triple aspect of manifestation. In the Bhagavad-Gita we find Krishna calling himself indifferently Atma, the abstract Spirit, Kshetrajńa, the Higher or reincarnating Ego, and the Universal Self, all names which, when transferred from the Universe to man, answer to Atma, Buddhi, and Manas. The Anugita is full of the same doctrine.
Yet, let no man anthropomorphize that essence in us. Let no Theosophist, if he would hold to divine, not human truth, say that this "God in secret" listens to, or is distinct from, either finite man or the infinite essence-for all are one. Nor, as just remarked, that a prayer is a petition. It is a mystery rather; an occult process by which finite and conditioned thoughts and desires, unable to be assimilated by the absolute spirit which is unconditioned, are translated into spiritual wills and the will; such process being called "spiritual transmutation." The intensity of our ardent aspirations changes prayer into the "philosopher's stone," or that which transmutes lead into pure gold. The only homogeneous essence, our "will-prayer" becomes the active or creative force, producing effects according to our desire.
Q. Do you mean to say that prayer is an occult process bringing about physical results?
A. I do. Will-Power becomes a living power. But woe unto those Occultists and Theosophists, who, instead of crushing out the desires of the lower personal ego or physical man, and saying, addressing their Higher Spiritual Ego immersed in Atma-Buddhic light, "Thy will be done, not mine," etc., send up waves of will-power for selfish or unholy purposes! For this is black magic, abomination, and spiritual sorcery. Unfortunately, all this is the favorite occupation of our Christian statesmen and generals, especially when the latter are sending two armies to murder each other. Both indulge before action in a bit of such sorcery, by offering respectively prayers to the same God of Hosts, each entreating his help to cut its enemies' throats.
Q. David prayed to the Lord of Hosts to help him smite the Philistines and slay the Syrians and the Moabites, and "the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went." In that we only follow what we find in the Bible.
A. Of course you do. But since you delight in calling yourselves Christians, not Israelites or Jews, as far as we know, why do you not rather follow that which Christ says? And he distinctly commands you not to follow "them of old times," or the Mosaic law, but bids you do as he tells you, and warns those who would kill by the sword, that they, too, will perish by the sword. Christ has given you one prayer of which you have made a lip prayer and a boast, and which none but the true Occultist understands. In it you say, in your dead-sense meaning: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," which you never do. Again, he told you to love your enemies and do good to them that hate you. It is surely not the "meek prophet of Nazareth" who taught you to pray to your "Father" to slay, and give you victory over your enemies! This is why we reject what you call "prayers."
Q. But how do you explain the universal fact that all nations and peoples have prayed to, and worshiped a God or Gods? Some have adored and propitiated devils and harmful spirits, but this only proves the universality of the belief in the efficacy of prayer.
A. It is explained by that other fact that prayer has several other meanings besides that given it by the Christians. It means not only a pleading or petition, but meant, in days of old, far more an invocation and incantation. The mantra, or the rhythmically chanted prayer of the Hindus, has precisely such a meaning, as the Brahmins hold themselves higher than the common devas or "Gods." A prayer may be an appeal or an incantation for malediction, and a curse (as in the case of two armies praying simultaneously for mutual destruction) as much as for blessing. And as the great majority of people are intensely selfish, and pray only for themselves, asking to be given their "daily bread" instead of working for it, and begging God not to lead them "into temptation" but to deliver them (the memorialists only) from evil, the result is, that prayer, as now understood, is doubly pernicious: (a) It kills in man self-reliance; (b) It develops in him a still more ferocious selfishness and egotism than he is already endowed with by nature. I repeat, that we believe in "communion" and simultaneous action in unison with our "Father in secret"; and in rare moments of ecstatic bliss, in the mingling of our higher soul with the universal essence, attracted as it is towards its origin and center, a state, called during life Samadhi, and after death, Nirvana. We refuse to pray to created finite beings-i.e., gods, saints, angels, etc., because we regard it as idolatry. We cannot pray to the absolute for reasons explained before; therefore, we try to replace fruitless and useless prayer by meritorious and good-producing actions.
Q. Christians would call it pride and blasphemy. Are they wrong?
A. Entirely so. It is they, on the contrary, who show Satanic pride in their belief that the Absolute or the Infinite, even if there was such a thing as the possibility of any relation between the unconditioned and the conditioned-will stoop to listen to every foolish or egotistical prayer. And it is they again, who virtually blaspheme, in teaching that an Omniscient and Omnipotent God needs uttered prayers to know what he has to do! This-understood esoterically-is corroborated by both Buddha and Jesus. The one says:
Seek nought from the helpless Gods-pray not! but rather act; for darkness will not brighten. Ask nought from silence, for it can neither speak nor hear.
And the other-Jesus-recommends: "Whatsoever ye shall ask in
my name (that of Christos) that will I do." Of course, this
quotation, if taken in its literal sense, goes against our argument.
But if we accept it esoterically, with the full knowledge of the
meaning of the term Christos which to us represents Atma-Buddhi-Manas,
the "self," it comes to this: the only God we must recognize
and pray to, or rather act in unison with, is that spirit of God
of which our body is the temple, and in which it dwelleth.
Prayer Kills Self-Reliance
Q. But did not Christ himself pray and recommend prayer?
A. It is so recorded, but those "prayers" are precisely of that kind of communion just mentioned with one's "Father in secret." Otherwise, and if we identify Jesus with the universal deity, there would be something too absurdly illogical in the inevitable conclusion that he, the "very God himself" prayed to himself, and separated the will of that God from his own!
Q. One argument more; an argument, moreover, much used by some Christians. They say,
I feel that I am not able to conquer any passions and weaknesses in my own strength. But when I pray to Jesus Christ I feel that he gives me strength and that in His power I am able to conquer.
A. No wonder. If "Christ Jesus" is God, and one independent and separate from him who prays, of course everything is, and must be possible to "a mighty God." But, then, where's the merit, or justice either, of such a conquest? Why should the pseudo-conqueror be rewarded for something done which has cost him only prayers? Would you, even a simple mortal man, pay your laborer a full day's wage if you did most of his work for him, he sitting under an apple tree, and praying to you to do so, all the while? This idea of passing one's whole life in moral idleness, and having one's hardest work and duty done by another-whether God or man-is most revolting to us, as it is most degrading to human dignity.
Q. Perhaps so, yet it is the idea of trusting in a personal Savior to help and strengthen in the battle of life, which is the fundamental idea of modern Christianity. And there is no doubt that, subjectively, such belief is efficacious; i.e., that those who believe do feel themselves helped and strengthened.
A. Nor is there any more doubt, that some patients of "Christian" and "Mental Scientists"-the great "Deniers"-are also sometimes cured; nor that hypnotism, and suggestion, psychology, and even mediumship, will produce such results, as often, if not oftener. You take into consideration, and string on the thread of your argument, successes alone. And how about ten times the number of failures? Surely you will not presume to say that failure is unknown even with a sufficiency of blind faith, among fanatical Christians?
Q. But how can you explain those cases which are followed by full success? Where does a Theosophist look to for power to subdue his passions and selfishness?
A. To his Higher Self, the divine spirit, or the God in him, and to his Karma. How long shall we have to repeat over and over again that the tree is known by its fruit, the nature of the cause by its effects? You speak of subduing passions, and becoming good through and with the help of God or Christ. We ask, where do you find more virtuous, guiltless people, abstaining from sin and crime, in Christendom or Buddhism-in Christian countries or in heathen lands? Statistics are there to give the answer and corroborate our claims. According to the last census in Ceylon and India, in the comparative table of crimes committed by Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Eurasians, Buddhists, etc., etc., on two millions of population taken at random from each, and covering the misdemeanors of several years, the proportion of crimes committed by the Christian stands as 15 to 4 as against those committed by the Buddhist population. No Orientalist, no historian of any note, or traveler in Buddhist lands, from Bishop Bigandet and Abbé Huc, to Sir William Hunter and every fair-minded official, will fail to give the palm of virtue to Buddhists before Christians. Yet the former (not the true Buddhist Siamese sect, at all events) do not believe in either God or a future reward, outside of this earth. They do not pray, neither priests nor laymen. "Pray!" they would exclaim in wonder, "to whom, or what?"
Q. Then they are truly Atheists.
A. Most undeniably, but they are also the most virtue-loving and virtue-keeping men in the whole world. Buddhism says: Respect the religions of other men and remain true to your own; but Church Christianity, denouncing all the gods of other nations as devils, would doom every non-Christian to eternal perdition.
Q. Does not the Buddhist priesthood do the same?
A. Never. They hold too much to the wise precept found in the Dhammapada to do so, for they know that,
If any man, whether he be learned or not, consider himself so great
as to despise other men, he is like a blind man holding a candle-blind
himself, he illumines others.
On the Source of the Human Soul
Q. How, then, do you account for man being endowed with a Spirit and Soul? Whence these?
A. From the Universal Soul. Certainly not bestowed by a personal God. Whence the moist element in the jelly-fish? From the Ocean which surrounds it, in which it lives and breathes and has its being, and whither it returns when dissolved.
Q. So you reject the teaching that Soul is given, or breathed into man, by God?
A. We are obliged to. The "Soul" spoken of in Genesis is, as therein stated, the "living Soul" or Nephesh (the vital, animal soul) with which God (we say "nature" and immutable law) endows man like every animal. Is not at all the thinking soul or mind; least of all is it the immortal Spirit.
Q. Well, let us put it otherwise: is it God who endows man with a human rational Soul and immortal Spirit?
A. Again, in the way you put the question, we must object to it. Since we believe in no personal God, how can we believe that he endows man with anything? But granting, for the sake of argument, a God who takes upon himself the risk of creating a new Soul for every new-born baby, all that can be said is that such a God can hardly be regarded as himself endowed with any wisdom or prevision. Certain other difficulties and the impossibility of reconciling this with the claims made for the mercy, justice, equity and omniscience of that God, are so many deadly reefs on which this theological dogma is daily and hourly broken.
Q. What do you mean? What difficulties?
A. I am thinking of an unanswerable argument offered once in my presence by a Singhalese Buddhist priest, a famous preacher, to a Christian missionary-one in no way ignorant or unprepared for the public discussion during which it was advanced. It was near Colombo, and the Missionary had challenged the priest Megattivati to give his reasons why the Christian God should not be accepted by the "heathen." Well, the Missionary came out of that forever memorable discussion second best, as usual.
Q. I should be glad to learn in what way.
A. Simply this: the Buddhist priest premised by asking the padre whether his God had given commandments to Moses only for men to keep, but to be broken by God himself. The missionary denied the supposition indignantly. Well, said his opponent,
. you tell us that God makes no exceptions to this rule, and that no Soul can be born without his will. Now God forbids adultery, among other things, and yet you say in the same breath that it is he who creates every baby born, and he who endows it with a Soul. Are we then to understand that the millions of children born in crime and adultery are your God's work? That your God forbids and punishes the breaking of his laws; and that, nevertheless, he creates daily and hourly souls for just such children? According to the simplest logic, your God is an accomplice in the crime; since, but for his help and interference, no such children of lust could be born. Where is the justice of punishing not only the guilty parents but even the innocent babe for that which is done by that very God, whom yet you exonerate from any guilt himself?
The missionary looked at his watch and suddenly found it was getting too late for further discussion.
Q. You forget that all such inexplicable cases are mysteries, and that we are forbidden by our religion to pry into the mysteries of God.
A. No, we do not forget, but simply reject such impossibilities.
Nor do we want you to believe as we do. We only answer the questions
you ask. We have, however, another name for your "mysteries."
The Buddhist Teachings on the Above
Q. What does Buddhism teach with regard to the Soul?
A. It depends whether you mean exoteric, popular Buddhism, or its esoteric teachings. The former explains itself in The Buddhist Catechism in this wise:
Soul it considers a word used by the ignorant to express a false idea. If everything is subject to change, then man is included, and every material part of him must change. That which is subject to change is not permanent, so there can be no immortal survival of a changeful thing.
This seems plain and definite. But when we come to the question that the new personality in each succeeding rebirth is the aggregate of "Skandhas," or the attributes, of the old personality, and ask whether this new aggregation of Skandhas is a new being likewise, in which nothing has remained of the last, we read that:
In one sense it is a new being, in another it is not. During this life the Skandhas are continually changing, while the man A.B. of forty is identical as regards personality with the youth A.B. of eighteen, yet by the continual waste and reparation of his body and change of mind and character, he is a different being. Nevertheless, the man in his old age justly reaps the reward or suffering consequent upon his thoughts and actions at every previous stage of his life. So the new being of the rebirth, being the same individuality as before (but not the same personality), with but a changed form, or new aggregation of Skandhas, justly reaps the consequences of his actions and thoughts in the previous existence.
This is abstruse metaphysics, and plainly does not express disbelief in Soul by any means.
Q. Is not something like this spoken of in Esoteric Buddhism?
A. It is, for this teaching belongs both to Esoteric Budhism or Secret Wisdom, and to the exoteric Buddhism, or the religious philosophy of Gautama Buddha.
Q. But we are distinctly told that most of the Buddhists do not believe in the Soul's immortality?
A. No more do we, if you mean by Soul the personal Ego, or life-Soul-Nephesh. But every learned Buddhist believes in the individual or divine Ego. Those who do not, err in their judgment. They are as mistaken on this point, as those Christians who mistake the theological interpolations of the later editors of the Gospels about damnation and hellfire, for verbatim utterances of Jesus. Neither Buddha nor "Christ" ever wrote anything themselves, but both spoke in allegories and used "dark sayings," as all true Initiates did, and will do for a long time yet to come. Both Scriptures treat of all such metaphysical questions very cautiously, and both, Buddhist and Christian records, sin by that excess of exotericism; the dead letter meaning far overshooting the mark in both cases.
Q. Do you mean to suggest that neither the teachings of Buddha nor those of Christ have been heretofore rightly understood?
A. What I mean is just as you say. Both Gospels, the Buddhist and the Christian, were preached with the same object in view. Both reformers were ardent philanthropists and practical altruists-preaching most unmistakably Socialism of the noblest and highest type, self-sacrifice to the bitter end. "Let the sins of the whole world fall upon me that I may relieve man's misery and suffering!" cries Buddha. "I would not let one cry whom I could save!" exclaims the Prince-beggar, clad in the refuse rags of the burial-grounds. "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest," is the appeal to the poor and the disinherited made by the "Man of Sorrows," who hath not where to lay his head. The teachings of both are boundless love for humanity, charity, forgiveness of injury, forgetfulness of self, and pity for the deluded masses; both show the same contempt for riches, and make no difference between meum and tuum. Their desire was, without revealing to all the sacred mysteries of initiation, to give the ignorant and the misled, whose burden in life was too heavy for them, hope enough and an inkling into the truth sufficient to support them in their heaviest hours. But the object of both Reformers was frustrated, owing to excess of zeal of their later followers. The words of the Masters having been misunderstood and misinterpreted, behold the consequences!
Q. But surely Buddha must have repudiated the soul's immortality, if all the Orientalists and his own Priests say so!
A. The Arhats began by following the policy of their Master and the majority of the subsequent priests were not initiated, just as in Christianity; and so, little by little, the great esoteric truths became almost lost. A proof in point is, that, out of the two existing sects in Ceylon, the Siamese believes death to be the absolute annihilation of individuality and personality, and the other explains Nirvana, as we Theosophists do.
Q. But why, in that case, do Buddhism and Christianity represent the two opposite poles of such belief?
A. Because the conditions under which they were preached were not the same. In India the Brahmins, jealous of their superior knowledge, and excluding from it every caste save their own, had driven millions of men into idolatry and almost fetishism. Buddha had to give the death-blow to an exuberance of unhealthy fancy and fanatical superstition resulting from ignorance, such as has rarely been known before or after. Better a philosophical atheism than such ignorant worship for those:
Who cry upon their gods and are not heard,
Or are not heeded .
-and who live and die in mental despair. He had to arrest first of all this muddy torrent of superstition, to uproot errors before he gave out the truth. And as he could not give out all, for the same good reason as Jesus, who reminds his disciples that the Mysteries of Heaven are not for the unintelligent masses, but for the elect alone, and therefore "spake he to them in parables"-so his caution led Buddha to conceal too much. He even refused to say to the monk Vacchagotta whether there was, or was not an Ego in man. When pressed to answer, "the Exalted one maintained silence."
Buddha gives to Ananda, his initiated disciple, who inquires for the reason of this silence, a plain and unequivocal answer in the dialogue translated by Oldenburg from the Samyutta-Nikaya:
If I, Ananda, when the wandering monk Vacchagotta asked me: "Is there the Ego?" had answered "The Ego is," then that, Ananda, would have confirmed the doctrine of the Samanas and Brahmans, who believed in permanence. If I, Ananda, when the wandering monk Vacchagotta asked me, "Is there not the Ego?" had answered, "The Ego is not," then that, Ananda, would have confirmed the doctrine of those who believed in annihilation. If I, Ananda, when the wandering monk Vacchagotta asked me, "Is there the Ego?" had answered, "The Ego is," would that have served my end, Ananda, by producing in him the knowledge: all existences (dhamma) are non-ego? But if I, Ananda, had answered, "The Ego is not," then that, Ananda, would only have caused the wandering monk Vacchagotta to be thrown from one bewilderment to another: "My Ego, did it not exist before? But now it exists no longer!"
This shows, better than anything, that Gautama Buddha withheld such difficult metaphysical doctrines from the masses in order not to perplex them more. What he meant was the difference between the personal temporary Ego and the Higher Self, which sheds its light on the imperishable Ego, the spiritual "I" of man.
Q. This refers to Gautama, but in what way does it touch the Gospels?
A. Read history and think over it. At the time the events narrated
in the Gospels are alleged to have happened, there was a similar
intellectual fermentation taking place in the whole civilized world,
only with opposite results in the East and the West. The old gods
were dying out. While the civilized classes drifted in the train
of the unbelieving Sadducees into materialistic negations and mere
dead-letter Mosaic form in Palestine, and into moral dissolution
in Rome, the lowest and poorer classes ran after sorcery and strange
gods, or became hypocrites and Pharisees. Once more the time for
a spiritual reform had arrived. The cruel, anthropomorphic and jealous
God of the Jews, with his sanguinary laws of "an eye for eye
and tooth for tooth," of the shedding of blood and animal sacrifice,
had to be relegated to a secondary place and replaced by the merciful
"Father in Secret." The latter had to be shown, not as
an extra-Cosmic God, but as a divine Savior of the man of flesh,
enshrined in his own heart and soul, in the poor as in the rich.
No more here than in India, could the secrets of initiation be divulged,
lest by giving that which is holy to the dogs, and casting pearls
before swine, both the Revealer and the things revealed should be
trodden under foot. Thus, the reticence of both Buddha and Jesus-whether
the latter lived out the historic period allotted to him or not,
and who equally abstained from revealing plainly the Mysteries of
Life and Death-led in the one case to the blank negations of Southern
Buddhism, and in the other, to the three clashing forms of the Christian
Church and the 300 sects in Protestant England alone.
The Unity of All in All
Q. Having told me what God, the Soul and Man are not, in your views, can you inform me what they are, according to your teachings?
A. In their origin and in eternity the three, like the universe and all therein, are one with the absolute Unity, the unknowable deific essence I spoke about some time back. We believe in no creation, but in the periodical and consecutive appearances of the universe from the subjective onto the objective plane of being, at regular intervals of time, covering periods of immense duration.
Q. Can you elaborate the subject?
A. Take as a first comparison and a help towards a more correct
conception, the solar year, and as a second, the two halves of that
year, producing each a day and a night of six months' duration at
the North Pole. Now imagine, if you can, instead of a Solar year
of 365 days, eternity. Let the sun represent the universe, and the
polar days and nights of six months each-days and nights lasting
each 182 trillions and quadrillions of years, instead of 182 days
each. As the sun arises every morning on our objective horizon out
of its (to us) subjective and antipodal space, so does the Universe
emerge periodically on the plane of objectivity, issuing from that
of subjectivity-the antipodes of the former. This is the "Cycle
of Life." And as the sun disappears from our horizon, so does
the Universe disappear at regular periods, when the "Universal
night" sets in. The Hindus call such alternations the "Days
and Nights of Brahm ," or the time of Manvantara and that of
Pralaya (dissolution). The Westerns may call them Universal Days
and Nights if they prefer. During the latter (the nights) All is
in All; every atom is resolved into one Homogeneity.
Evolution and Illusion
Q. But who is it that creates each time the Universe?
A. No one creates it. Science would call the process evolution; the pre-Christian philosophers and the Orientalists called it emanation: we, Occultists and Theosophists, see in it the only universal and eternal reality casting a periodical reflection of itself on the infinite Spatial depths. This reflection, which you regard as the objective material universe, we consider as a temporary illusion and nothing else. That alone which is eternal is real.
Q. At that rate, you and I are also illusions.
A. As flitting personalities, today one person, tomorrow another-we are. Would you call the sudden flashes of the aurora borealis, the Northern lights, a "reality," though it is as real as can be while you look at it? Certainly not; it is the cause that produces it, if permanent and eternal, which is the only reality, while the other is but a passing illusion.
Q. All this does not explain to me how this illusion called the universe originates; how the conscious to be, proceeds to manifest itself from the unconsciousness that is.
A. It is unconsciousness only to our finite consciousness. Verily may we paraphrase St. John and say:
. and (Absolute) light (which is darkness) shineth in darkness (which is illusionary material light); and the darkness comprehendeth it not.
This absolute light is also absolute and immutable law. Whether by radiation or emanation-we need not quarrel over terms-the universe passes out of its homogeneous subjectivity onto the first plane of manifestation, of which planes there are seven, we are taught. With each plane it becomes more dense and material until it reaches this, our plane, on which the only world approximately known and understood in its physical composition by Science, is the planetary or Solar system-one sui generis, we are told.
Q. What do you mean by sui generis?
A. I mean that, though the fundamental law and the universal working of laws of Nature are uniform, still our Solar system (like every other such system in the millions of others in Cosmos) and even our Earth, has its own program of manifestations differing from the respective programs of all others. We speak of the inhabitants of other planets and imagine that if they are men, i.e., thinking entities, they must be as we are. The fancy of poets and painters and sculptors never fails to represent even the angels as a beautiful copy of man-plus wings. We say that all this is an error and a delusion; because, if on this little earth alone one finds such a diversity in its flora, fauna, and mankind-from the seaweed to the cedar of Lebanon, from the jellyfish to the elephant, from the Bushman and negro to the Apollo Belvedere-alter the conditions cosmic and planetary, and there must be as a result quite a different flora, fauna, and mankind. The same laws will fashion quite a different set of things and beings even on this our plane, including in it all our planets. How much more different then must be external nature in other Solar systems, and how foolish is it to judge of other stars and worlds and human beings by our own, as physical science does!
Q. But what are your data for this assertion?
A. What science in general will never accept as proof-the cumulative testimony of an endless series of Seers who have testified to this fact. Their spiritual visions, real explorations by, and through, physical and spiritual senses untrammeled by blind flesh, were systematically checked and compared one with the other, and their nature sifted. All that was not corroborated by unanimous and collective experience was rejected, while that only was recorded as established truth which, in various ages, under different climes, and throughout an untold series of incessant observations, was found to agree and receive constantly further corroboration. The methods used by our scholars and students of the psycho-spiritual sciences do not differ from those of students of the natural and physical sciences, as you may see. Only our fields of research are on two different planes, and our instruments are made by no human hands, for which reason perchance they are only the more reliable. The retorts, accumulators, and microscopes of the chemist and naturalist may get out of order; the telescope and the astronomer's horological instruments may get spoiled; our recording instruments are beyond the influence of weather or the elements.
Q. And therefore you have implicit faith in them?
A. Faith is a word not to be found in theosophical dictionaries: we say knowledge based, on observation and experience. There is this difference, however, that while the observation and experience of physical science lead the Scientists to about as many "working" hypotheses as there are minds to evolve them, our knowledge consents to add to its lore only those facts which have become undeniable, and which are fully and absolutely demonstrated. We have no two beliefs or hypotheses on the same subject.
Q. Is it on such data that you came to accept the strange theories we find in Esoteric Buddhism?
A. Just so. These theories may be slightly incorrect in their minor
details, and even faulty in their exposition by lay students; they
are facts in nature, nevertheless, and come nearer the truth than
any scientific hypothesis.
On The Septenary Constitution of Our Planet
Q. I understand that you describe our earth as forming part of a chain of earths?
A. We do. But the other six "earths" or globes, are not on the same plane of objectivity as our earth is; therefore we cannot see them.
Q. Is that on account of the great distance?
A. Not at all, for we see with our naked eye planets and even stars at immeasurably greater distances; but it is owing to those six globes being outside our physical means of perception, or plane of being. It is not only that their material density, weight, or fabric are entirely different from those of our earth and the other known planets; but they are (to us) on an entirely different layer of space, so to speak; a layer not to be perceived or felt by our physical senses. And when I say "layer," please do not allow your fancy to suggest to you layers like strata or beds laid one over the other, for this would only lead to another absurd misconception. What I mean by "layer" is that plane of infinite space which by its nature cannot fall under our ordinary waking perceptions, whether mental or physical; but which exists in nature outside of our normal mentality or consciousness, outside of our three-dimensional space, and outside of our division of time. Each of the seven fundamental planes (or layers) in space-of course as a whole, as the pure space of Locke's definition, not as our finite space-has its own objectivity and subjectivity, its own space and time, its own consciousness and set of senses. But all this will be hardly comprehensible to one trained in the modern ways of thought.
Q. What do you mean by a different set of senses? Is there anything on our human plane that you could bring as an illustration of what you say, just to give a clearer idea of what you may mean by this variety of senses, spaces, and respective perceptions?
A. None; except, perhaps, that which for Science would be rather a handy peg on which to hang a counter argument. We have a different set of senses in dreamlife, have we not? We feel, talk, hear, see, taste and function in general on a different plane; the change of state of our consciousness being evidenced by the fact that a series of acts and events embracing years, as we think, pass ideally through our mind in one instant. Well, that extreme rapidity of our mental operations in dreams, and the perfect naturalness, for the time being, of all the other functions, show us that we are on quite another plane. Our philosophy teaches us that, as there are seven fundamental forces in nature, and seven planes of being, so there are seven states of consciousness in which man can live, think, remember and have his being. To enumerate these here is impossible, and for this one has to turn to the study of Eastern metaphysics. But in these two states-the waking and the dreaming-every ordinary mortal, from a learned philosopher down to a poor untutored savage, has a good proof that such states differ.
Q. You do not accept, then, the well-known explanations of biology and physiology to account for the dream state?
A. We do not. We reject even the hypotheses of your psychologists, preferring the teachings of Eastern Wisdom. Believing in seven planes of Kosmic being and states of Consciousness, with regard to the Universe or the Macrocosm, we stop at the fourth plane, finding it impossible to go with any degree of certainty beyond. But with respect to the Microcosm, or man, we speculate freely on his seven states and principles.
Q. How do you explain these?
A. We find, first of all, two distinct beings in man; the spiritual
and the physical, the man who thinks, and the man who records as
much of these thoughts as he is able to assimilate. Therefore we
divide him into two distinct natures; the upper or the spiritual
being, composed of three principles or aspects; and the lower or
the physical quaternary, composed of four-in all seven.
The Septenary Nature of Man
Q. Is it what we call Spirit and Soul, and the man of flesh?
A. It is not. That is the old Platonic division. Plato was an Initiate,
and therefore could not go into forbidden details; but he who is
acquainted with the archaic doctrine finds the seven in Plato's
various combinations of Soul and Spirit. He regarded man as constituted
of two parts-one eternal, formed of the same essence as the Absoluteness,
the other mortal and corruptible, deriving its constituent parts
from the minor "created" Gods. Man is composed, he shows,
of (1) A mortal body, (2) An immortal principle, and (3) A "separate
mortal kind of Soul." It is that which we respectively call
the physical man, the Spiritual Soul or Spirit, and the animal Soul
(the Nous and psuche). This is the division adopted by Paul, another
Initiate, who maintains that there is a psychical body which is
sown in the corruptible (astral soul or body), and a spiritual body
that is raised in incorruptible substance. Even James corroborates
the same by saying that the "wisdom" (of our lower soul)
descendeth not from the above, but is terrestrial ("psychical,"
"demoniacal," see the Greek text) while the other is heavenly
wisdom. Now so plain is it that Plato and even Pythagoras, while
speaking but of three principles, give them seven separate functions,
in their various combinations, that if we contrast our teachings
this will become quite plain. Let us take a cursory view of these
seven aspects by drawing two tables.
Theosophical Division of the Lower Quaternary
Sanskrit Term Exoteric Meaning Explanation
Rupa, or Sthula-sarira Physical body Is the vehicle of all the
other principles during life.
Prana Life, or Vital principle Necessary only to a, c,
d, and the functions of the lower Manas, which
embrace all those limited to the (physical) brain.
(c) Linga- sarira Astral Body The Double, the phantom body.
(d) Kamarupa The seat of animal desires and passions This is the
center of the animal man, where lies the line of demarcation which
separates the mortal man from the immortal entity.
Theosophical Division of the Upper Imperishable Triad
Sanskrit Term Exoteric Meaning Explanation
(e) Manas-a dual principle in its functions. Mind, Intelligence: which is the higher human mind, whose light, or radiation links the Monad, for the lifetime, to the mortal man. The future state and the Karmic destiny of man depend on whether Manas gravitates more downward to Kamarupa, the seat of the animal passions, or upwards to Buddhi, the Spiritual Ego. In the later case, the higher consciousness of the individual Spiritual aspirations of mind (Manas), assimilating Buddhi, are absorbed by it and form the Ego, which goes into Devachanic bliss.
(f) Buddhi The Spiritual Soul The vehicle of pure universal spirit.
(g) Atma Spirit One with the Absolute, as its radiation.
In Mr. Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism d, e, and f, are respectively
called the Animal, the Human, and the Spiritual Souls, which answers
as well. Though the principles in Esoteric Buddhism are numbered,
this is, strictly speaking, useless. The dual Monad alone ( Atma-Buddhi)
is susceptible of being thought of as the two highest numbers (the
sixth and seventh). As to all others, since that principle only
which is predominant in man has to be considered as the first and
foremost, no numeration is possible as a general rule. In some men
it is the higher Intelligence (Manas or the fifth) which dominates
the rest; in others the Animal Soul (Kamarupa) that reigns supreme,
exhibiting the most bestial instincts, etc.
Now what does Plato teach? He speaks of the interior man as constituted
of two parts-one immutable and always the same, formed of the same
substance as Deity, and the other mortal and corruptible. These
"two parts" are found in our upper Triad, and the lower
Quaternary (see table above, ). He explains that when the Soul,
psuche, "allies herself to the Nous (divine spirit or substance
*)), she does everything aright and felicitously;" but the
case is otherwise when she attaches herself to Anoia, (folly, or
the irrational animal Soul). Here, then, we have Manas (or the Soul
in general) in its two aspects: when attaching itself to Anoia (our
Kamarupa, or the "Animal Soul" in Esoteric Buddhism) it
runs towards entire annihilation, as far as the personal Ego is
concerned; when allying itself to the Nous ( Atma-Buddhi) it merges
into the immortal, imperishable Ego, and then its spiritual consciousness
of the personal that was, becomes immortal.
*) St. Paul calls Plato's nous 'spirit';but since this spirit is 'substance', Buddhi is meant then and not Atma; philosophically speaking this (Atma) cannot be called 'substance'. We count Atma as a human 'principle' in order to not create yet more confusion. In reality it is not a 'human' but the universal absolute principle of which buddhi, the soul-spirit, is the vehicle. [reversely translated
note from Dutch translation - editor]
The Distinction Between Soul and Spirit
Q. Do you really teach, as you are accused of doing by some Spiritualists and French Spiritists, the annihilation of every personality?
A. We do not. But as this question of the duality-the individuality of the Divine Ego, and the personality of the human animal-involves that of the possibility of the real immortal Ego appearing in Seance rooms as a "materialized spirit," which we deny as already explained, our opponents have started the nonsensical charge.
Q. You have just spoken of psuche running towards its entire annihilation if it attaches itself to Anoia. What did Plato, and do you mean by this?
A. The entire annihilation of the personal consciousness, as an exceptional and rare case, I think. The general and almost invariable rule is the merging of the personal into the individual or immortal consciousness of the Ego, a transformation or a divine transfiguration, and the entire annihilation only of the lower quaternary. Would you expect the man of flesh, or the temporary personality, his shadow, the "astral," his animal instincts and even physical life, to survive with the "spiritual Ego" and become everlasting, eternal? Naturally all this ceases to exist, either at, or soon after corporeal death. It becomes in time entirely disintegrated and disappears from view, being annihilated as a whole.
Q. Then you also reject resurrection in the flesh?
A. Most decidedly we do! Why should we, who believe in the archaic esoteric philosophy of the Ancients, accept the unphilosophical speculations of the later Christian theology, borrowed from the Egyptian and Greek exoteric Systems of the Gnostics?
Q. The Egyptians revered Nature-Spirits, and deified even onions: your Hindus are idolaters, to this day; the Zoroastrians worshiped, and do still worship, the Sun; and the best Greek philosophers were either dreamers or materialists-witness Plato and Democritus. How can you compare!
A. It may be so in your modern Christian and even Scientific catechism; it is not so for unbiased minds. The Egyptians revered the "One-Only-One," as Nout; and it is from this word that Anaxagoras got his denomination Nous, or as he calls it, nous autokrates , "the Mind or Spirit Self-potent", the archetes kinedeos , the leading motor, or primum-mobile of all. With him the Nous was God, and the logos was man, his emanation. The Nous is the spirit (whether in Kosmos or in man), and the logos, whether Universe or astral body, the emanation of the former, the physical body being merely the animal. Our external powers perceive phenomena; our Nous alone is able to recognize their noumena. It is the logos alone, or the noumenon, that survives, because it is immortal in its very nature and essence, and the logos in man is the Eternal Ego, that which reincarnates and lasts forever. But how can the evanescent or external shadow, the temporary clothing of that divine Emanation which returns to the source whence it proceeded, be that which is raised in incorruptibility?
Q. Still you can hardly escape the charge of having invented a new division of man's spiritual and psychic constituents; for no philosopher speaks of them, though you believe that Plato does.
A. And I support the view. Besides Plato, there is Pythagoras, who also followed the same idea.
Plato and Pythagoras distribute the soul into two parts, the rational (noetic) and irrational (agnoia); that part of the soul of man which is rational is eternal; for though it be not God, yet it is the product of an eternal deity, but that part of the soul which is divested of reason (agnoia) dies.
The modern term Agnostic comes from Agnosis, a cognate word. We wonder why Mr. Huxley, the author of the word, should have connected his great intellect with "the soul divested of reason" which dies? Is it the exaggerated humility of the modern materialist?
Pythagoras described the Soul as a self-moving Unit (monad) composed
of three elements, the Nous (Spirit), the phren (mind), and the
thumos (life, breath or the Nephesh of the Cabalists) which three
correspond to our " Atma-buddhi," (higher Spirit-Soul),
to Manas (the Ego), and to Kamarupa in conjunction with the lower
reflection of Manas. That which the Ancient Greek philosophers termed
Soul, in general, we call Spirit, or Spiritual Soul, Buddhi, as
the vehicle of Atma (the Agathon, or Plato's Supreme Deity). The
fact that Pythagoras and others state that phren and thumos are
shared by us with the brutes, proves that in this case the lower
Manasic reflection (instinct) and Kamarupa (animal living passions)
are meant. And as Socrates and Plato accepted the clue and followed
it, if to these five, namely, Agathon (Deity or Atma), Psuche (Soul
in its collective sense), Nous (Spirit or Mind), Phren (physical
mind), and Thumos (Kamarupa or passions) we add the eidolon of the
Mysteries, the shadowy form or the human double, and the physical
body, it will be easy to demonstrate that the ideas of both Pythagoras
and Plato were identical with ours. Even the Egyptians held to the
Septenary division. In its exit, they taught, the Soul (Ego) had
to pass through its seven chambers, or principles, those it left
behind, and those it took along with itself. The only difference
is that, ever bearing in mind the penalty of revealing Mystery-doctrines,
which was death, they gave out the teaching in a broad outline,
while we elaborate it and explain it in its details. But though
we do give out to the world as much as is lawful, even in our doctrine
more than one important detail is withheld, which those who study
the esoteric philosophy and are pledged to silence, are alone entitled
The Greek Teachings
Q. We have magnificent Greek and Latin, Sanskrit and Hebrew scholars. How is it that we find nothing in their translations that would afford us a clue to what you say?
A. Because your translators, their great learning notwithstanding, have made of the philosophers, the Greeks especially, misty instead of mystic writers. Take as an instance Plutarch, and read what he says of "the principles" of man. That which he describes was accepted literally and attributed to metaphysical superstition and ignorance. Let me give you an illustration in point. Says Plutarch:
Man is compound; and they are mistaken who think him to be compounded of two parts only. For they imagine that the understanding (brain intellect) is a part of the soul (the upper Triad), but they err in this no less than those who make the soul to be a part of the body, i.e., those who make of the Triad part of the corruptible mortal quaternary. For the understanding (nous) as far exceeds the soul, as the soul is better and diviner than the body. Now this composition of the soul ( psuche) with the understanding (nous) makes reason; and with the body (or thumos, the animal soul) passion; of which the one is the beginning or principle of pleasure and pain, and the other of virtue and vice. Of these three parts conjoined and compacted together, the earth has given the body, the moon the soul, and the sun the understanding to the generation of man.
This last sentence is purely allegorical, and will be comprehended only by those who are versed in the esoteric science of correspondences and know which planet is related to every principle. Plutarch divides the latter into three groups, and makes of the body a compound of physical frame, astral shadow, and breath, or the triple lower part, which "from earth was taken and to earth returns"; of the middle principle and the instinctual soul, the second part, derived from and through and ever influenced by the moon; and only of the higher part or the Spiritual Soul, with the atmic and Manasic elements in it does he make a direct emanation of the Sun, who stands here for Agathon the Supreme Deity. This is proven by what he says further as follows:
Now of the deaths we die, the one makes man two of three and the other one of (out of) two. The former is in the region and jurisdiction of Demeter, whence the name given to the Mysteries, telein , resembled that given to death, teleutan. The Athenians also heretofore called the deceased sacred to Demeter. As for the other death, it is in the moon or region of Persephone.
Here you have our doctrine, which shows man a septenary during life; a quintile just after death, in Kamaloka; and a threefold Ego, Spirit-Soul, and consciousness in Devachan. This separation, first in "the Meadows of Hades," as Plutarch calls the Kamaloka, then in Devachan, was part and parcel of the performances during the sacred Mysteries, when the candidates for initiation enacted the whole drama of death, and the resurrection as a glorified spirit, by which name we mean Consciousness. This is what Plutarch means when he says:
And as with the one, the terrestrial, so with the other celestial Hermes doth dwell. This suddenly and with violence plucks the soul from the body; but Proserpina mildly and in a long time disjoins the understanding from the soul.
(Proserpina, or Persephone, stands here for postmortem Karma, which is said to regulate the separation of the lower from the higher principles: the Soul, as Nephesh, the breath of animal life, which remains for a time in Kamaloka, from the higher compound Ego, which goes into the state of Devachan, or bliss.)
For this reason she is called Monogenes, only begotten, or rather begetting one alone; for the better part of man becomes alone when it is separated by her. Now both the one and the other happens thus according to nature. It is ordained by Fate (Fatum or Karma) that every soul, whether with or without understanding (mind), when gone out of the body, should wander for a time, though not all for the same, in the region lying between the earth and moon (Kamaloka). For those that have been unjust and dissolute suffer then the punishment due to their offenses; but the good and virtuous are there detained till they are purified, and have, by expiation, purged out of them all the infections they might have contracted from the contagion of the body, as if from foul health, living in the mildest part of the air, called the Meadows of Hades, where they must remain for a certain prefixed and appointed time. And then, as if they were returning from a wandering pilgrimage or long exile into their country, they have a taste of joy, such as they principally receive who are initiated into Sacred Mysteries, mixed with trouble, admiration, and each one's proper and peculiar hope.
This is Nirvanic bliss, and no Theosophist could describe in plainer though esoteric language the mental joys of Devachan, where every man has his paradise around him, erected by his consciousness. But you must beware of the general error into which too many even of our Theosophists fall. Do not imagine that because man is called septenary, then quintuple and a triad, he is a compound of seven, five, or three entities; or, as well expressed by a Theosophical writer, of skins to be peeled off like the skins of an onion. The principles, as already said, save the body, the life, and the astral eidolon, all of which disperse at death, are simply aspects and states of consciousness. There is but one real man, enduring through the cycle of life and immortal in essence, if not in form, and this is Manas, the Mind-man or embodied Consciousness. The objection made by the materialists, who deny the possibility of mind and consciousness acting without matter is worthless in our case. We do not deny the soundness of their argument; but we simply ask our opponents,
Are you acquainted with all the states of matter, you who knew hitherto but of three? And how do you know whether that which we refer to as absolute consciousness or Deity forever invisible and unknowable, be not that which, though it eludes forever our human finite conception, is still universal Spirit-matter or matter-Spirit in its absolute infinitude?
It is then one of the lowest, and in its manvantaric manifestations fractioned-aspects of this Spirit-matter, which is the conscious Ego that creates its own paradise, a fool's paradise, it may be, still a state of bliss.
Q. But what is Devachan?
A. The "land of gods" literally; a condition, a state of mental bliss. Philosophically a mental condition analogous to, but far more vivid and real than, the most vivid dream. It is the state after death of most mortals.