On the Fate of the Lower Principles
Q. You spoke of Kamaloka, what is it?
A. When the man dies, his lower three principles leave him forever; i.e., body, life, and the vehicle of the latter, the astral body or the double of the living man. And then, his four principles-the central or middle principle, the animal soul or Kamarupa, with what it has assimilated from the lower Manas, and the higher triad find themselves in Kamaloka. The latter is an astral locality, the limbus of scholastic theology, the Hades of the ancients, and, strictly speaking, a locality only in a relative sense. It has neither a definite area nor boundary, but exists within subjective space; i.e., is beyond our sensuous perceptions. Still it exists, and it is there that the astral eidolons of all the beings that have lived, animals included, await their second death. For the animals it comes with the disintegration and the entire fading out of their astral particles to the last. For the human eidolon it begins when the Atma-Buddhi-Manasic triad is said to "separate" itself from its lower principles, or the reflection of the ex-personality, by falling into the Devachanic state.
Q. And what happens after this?
A. Then the Kamarupic phantom, remaining bereft of its informing thinking principle, the higher Manas, and the lower aspect of the latter, the animal intelligence, no longer receiving light from the higher mind, and no longer having a physical brain to work through, collapses.
Q. In what way?
A. Well, it falls into the state of the frog when certain portions of its brain are taken out by the vivisector. It can think no more, even on the lowest animal plane. Henceforth it is no longer even the lower Manas, since this "lower" is nothing without the "higher."
Q. And is it this nonentity which we find materializing in Seance rooms with Mediums?
A. It is this nonentity. A true nonentity, however, only as to reasoning or cogitating powers, still an Entity, however astral and fluidic, as shown in certain cases when, having been magnetically and unconsciously drawn toward a medium, it is revived for a time and lives in him by proxy, so to speak. This "spook," or the Kamarupa, may be compared with the jelly-fish, which has an ethereal gelatinous appearance so long as it is in its own element, or water (the medium's specific aura), but which, no sooner is it thrown out of it, than it dissolves in the hand or on the sand, especially in sunlight. In the medium's Aura, it lives a kind of vicarious life and reasons and speaks either through the medium's brain or those of other persons present. But this would lead us too far, and upon other people's grounds, whereon I have no desire to trespass. Let us keep to the subject of reincarnation.
Q. What of the latter? How long does the incarnating Ego remain in the Devachanic state?
A. This, we are taught, depends on the degree of spirituality and the merit or demerit of the last incarnation. The average time is from ten to fifteen centuries, as I already told you.
Q. But why could not this Ego manifest and communicate with mortals as Spiritualists will have it? What is there to prevent a mother from communicating with the children she left on earth, a husband with his wife, and so on? It is a most consoling belief, I must confess; nor do I wonder that those who believe in it are so averse to give it up.
A. Nor are they forced to, unless they happen to prefer truth to fiction, however "consoling." Uncongenial our doctrines may be to Spiritualists; yet, nothing of what we believe in and teach is half as selfish and cruel as what they preach.
Q. I do not understand you. What is selfish?
A. Their doctrine of the return of Spirits, the real "personalities"
as they say; and I will tell you why. If Devachan-call it "paradise"
if you like, a "place of bliss and of supreme felicity,"
if it is anything-is such a place (or say state), logic tells us
that no sorrow or even a shade of pain can be experienced therein.
"God shall wipe away all the tears from the eyes" of those
in paradise, we read in the book of many promises. And if the "Spirits
of the dead" are enabled to return and see all that is happening
on earth, and especially in their homes, what kind of bliss can
be in store for them?
Why Theosophists Do Not Believe in the Return of Pure "Spirits"
Q. What do you mean? Why should this interfere with their bliss?
A. Simply this; and here is an instance. A mother dies, leaving behind her little helpless children-orphans whom she adores-perhaps a beloved husband also. We say that her "Spirit" or Ego-that individuality which is now all impregnated, for the entire Devachanic period, with the noblest feelings held by its late personality, i.e., love for her children, pity for those who suffer, and so on-we say that it is now entirely separated from the "vale of tears," that its future bliss consists in that blessed ignorance of all the woes it left behind. Spiritualists say, on the contrary, that it is as vividly aware of them, and more so than before, for "Spirits see more than mortals in the flesh do." We say that the bliss of the Devachanee consists in its complete conviction that it has never left the earth, and that there is no such thing as death at all; that the postmortem spiritual consciousness of the mother will represent to her that she lives surrounded by her children and all those whom she loved; that no gap, no link, will be missing to make her disembodied state the most perfect and absolute happiness. The Spiritualists deny this point blank. According to their doctrine, unfortunate man is not liberated even by death from the sorrows of this life. Not a drop from the life-cup of pain and suffering will miss his lips; and whether willing or unwilling, since he sees everything now, shall he drink it to the bitter dregs. Thus, the loving wife, who during her lifetime was ready to save her husband sorrow at the price of her heart's blood, is now doomed to see, in utter helplessness, his despair, and to register every hot tear he sheds for her loss. Worse than that, she may see the tears dry too soon, and another beloved face shine on him, the father of her children; find another woman replacing her in his affections; doomed to hear her orphans giving the holy name of "mother" to one indifferent to them, and to see those little children neglected, if not ill-treated. According to this doctrine the "gentle wafting to immortal life" becomes without any transition the way into a new path of mental suffering! And yet, the columns of the Banner of Light, the veteran journal of the American Spiritualists, are filled with messages from the dead, the "dear departed ones," who all write to say how very happy they are! Is such a state of knowledge consistent with bliss? Then bliss stands in such a case for the greatest curse, and orthodox damnation must be a relief in comparison to it!
Q. But how does your theory avoid this? How can you reconcile the theory of Soul's omniscience with its blindness to that which is taking place on earth?
A. Because such is the law of love and mercy. During every Devachanic period the Ego, omniscient as it is per se, clothes itself, so to say, with the reflection of the "personality" that was. I have just told you that the ideal efflorescence of all the abstract, therefore undying and eternal qualities or attributes, such as love and mercy, the love of the good, the true and the beautiful, that ever spoke in the heart of the living "personality," clung after death to the Ego, and therefore followed it to Devachan. For the time being, then, the Ego becomes the ideal reflection of the human being it was when last on earth, and that is not omniscient. Were it that, it would never be in the state we call Devachan at all.
Q. What are your reasons for it?
A. If you want an answer on the strict lines of our philosophy, then I will say that it is because everything is illusion (Maya ) outside of eternal truth, which has neither form, color, nor limitation. He who has placed himself beyond the veil of Maya -and such are the highest Adepts and Initiates-can have no Devachan. As to the ordinary mortal, his bliss in it is complete. It is an absolute oblivion of all that gave it pain or sorrow in the past incarnation, and even oblivion of the fact that such things as pain or sorrow exist at all. The Devachanee lives its intermediate cycle between two incarnations surrounded by everything it had aspired to in vain, and in the companionship of everyone it loved on earth. It has reached the fulfillment of all its soul-yearnings. And thus it lives throughout long centuries an existence of unalloyed happiness, which is the reward for its sufferings in earth-life. In short, it bathes in a sea of uninterrupted felicity spanned only by events of still greater felicity in degree.
Q. But this is more than simple delusion, it is an existence of insane hallucinations!
A. From your standpoint it may be, not so from that of philosophy. Besides which, is not our whole terrestrial life filled with such delusions? Have you never met men and women living for years in a fool's paradise? And because you should happen to learn that the husband of a wife, whom she adores and believes herself as beloved by him, is untrue to her, would you go and break her heart and beautiful dream by rudely awakening her to the reality? I think not. I say it again, such oblivion and hallucination-if you call it so-are only a merciful law of nature and strict justice. At any rate, it is a far more fascinating prospect than the orthodox golden harp with a pair of wings. The assurance that
The soul that lives ascends frequently and runs familiarly through the streets of the heavenly Jerusalem, visiting the patriarchs and prophets, saluting the apostles, and admiring the army of martyrs.
-may seem of a more pious character to some. Nevertheless, it is a hallucination of a far more delusive character, since mothers love their children with an immortal love, we all know, while the personages mentioned in the "heavenly Jerusalem" are still of a rather doubtful nature. But I would, still, rather accept the "new Jerusalem," with its streets paved like the show windows of a jeweler's shop, than find consolation in the heartless doctrine of the Spiritualists. The idea alone that the intellectual conscious souls of one's father, mother, daughter, or brother find their bliss in a "Summerland"-only a little more natural, but just as ridiculous as the "New Jerusalem" in its description-would be enough to make one lose every respect for one's "departed ones." To believe that a pure spirit can feel happy while doomed to witness the sins, mistakes, treachery, and, above all, the sufferings of those from whom it is severed by death and whom it loves best, without being able to help them, would be a maddening thought.
Q. There is something in your argument. I confess to having never seen it in this light.
A. Just so, and one must be selfish to the core and utterly devoid of the sense of retributive justice, to have ever imagined such a thing. We are with those whom we have lost in material form, and far, far nearer to them now, than when they were alive. And it is not only in the fancy of the Devachanee, as some may imagine, but in reality. For pure divine love is not merely the blossom of a human heart, but has its roots in eternity. Spiritual holy love is immortal, and Karma brings sooner or later all those who loved each other with such a spiritual affection to incarnate once more in the same family group. Again we say that love beyond the grave, illusion though you may call it, has a magic and divine potency which reacts on the living. A mother's Ego filled with love for the imaginary children it sees near itself, living a life of happiness, as real to it as when on earth-that love will always be felt by the children in flesh. It will manifest in their dreams, and often in various events-in providential protection and escape, for love is a strong shield, and is not limited by space or time. As with this Devachanic "mother," so with the rest of human relationships and attachments, save the purely selfish or material. Analogy will suggest to you the rest.
Q. In no case, then, do you admit the possibility of the communication of the living with the disembodied spirit?
A. Yes, there is a case, and even two exceptions to the rule.
The first exception is during the few days that follow immediately the death of a person and before the Ego passes into the Devachanic state. Whether any living mortal, save a few exceptional cases has derived much benefit from the return of the spirit into the objective plane is another question. The spirit is dazed after death and falls very soon into what we call "predevachanic unconsciousness." When the intensity of the desire in the dying person to return for some purpose forced the higher consciousness to remain awake, and therefore it was really the individuality, the "Spirit" that communicated.
The second exception is found in the Nirmanakayas.
Q. What about them? And what does the name mean for you?
A. It is the name given to those who, though they have won the right to Nirvana and cyclic rest have out of pity for mankind and those they left on earth renounced the Nirv ic state. This is not "Devachan," as the latter is an illusion of our consciousness, a happy dream, and as those who are fit for Nirvana must have lost entirely every desire or possibility of the world's illusions.
Such an adept, or Saint, or whatever you may call him, believing it a selfish act to rest in bliss while mankind groans under the burden of misery produced by ignorance, renounces Nirvana, and determines to remain invisible in spirit on this earth. They have no material body, as they have left it behind; but otherwise they remain with all their principles even in astral life in our sphere. And such can and do communicate with a few elect ones, only surely not with ordinary mediums.
Q. I have put you the question about Nirmanakayas because I read in some German and other works that it was the name given to the terrestrial appearances or bodies assumed by Buddhas in the Northern Buddhist teachings.
A. So they are, only the Orientalists have confused this terrestrial body by understanding it to be objective and physical instead of purely astral and subjective.
Q. And what good can they do on earth?
A. Not much, as regards individuals, as they have no right to interfere with Karma, and can only advise and inspire mortals for the general good. Yet they do more beneficent actions than you imagine.
Q. To this Science would never subscribe, not even modern psychology. For them, no portion of intelligence can survive the physical brain. What would you answer them?
A. I would not even go to the trouble of answering, but would simply say, in the words given to "M.A. Oxon,"
Intelligence is perpetuated after the body is dead. Though it is not a question of the brain only . It is reasonable to propound the indestructibility of the human spirit from what we know.
Q. But "M.A. Oxon" is a Spiritualist?
A. Quite so, and the only true Spiritualist I know of, though we may still disagree with him on many a minor question. Apart from this, no Spiritualist comes nearer to the occult truths than he does. Like any one of us he speaks incessantly
. of the surface dangers that beset the ill-equipped, feather-headed muddler with the occult, who crosses the threshold without counting the cost. Some things that I do know of Spiritualism and some that I do not.
Our only disagreement rests in the question of "Spirit Identity." Otherwise, I, for one, coincide almost entirely with him, and accept the three propositions he embodied in his address of July, 1884. It is this eminent Spiritualist, rather, who disagrees with us, not we with him.
Q. What are these propositions?
A. They are:
1. That there is a life coincident with, and independent of the physical life of the body.
2. That, as a necessary corollary, this life extends beyond the life of the body. We say it extends throughout Devachan.
3. That there is communication between the denizens of that state of existence and those of the world in which we now live.
All depend, you see, on the minor and secondary aspects of these fundamental propositions. Everything depends on the views we take of Spirit and Soul, or Individuality and Personality. Spiritualists confuse the two "into one." We separate them, and say that, with the exceptions above enumerated, no Spirit will revisit the earth, though the animal Soul may. But let us return once more to our direct subject, the Skandhas.
Q. I begin to understand better now. It is the Spirit, so to say, of those Skandhas which are the most ennobling, which, attaching themselves to the incarnating Ego, survive, and are added to the stock of its angelic experiences. And it is the attributes connected with the material Skandhas, with selfish and personal motives. which, disappearing from the field of action between two incarnations, reappear at the subsequent incarnation as Karmic results to be atoned for; and therefore the Spirit will not leave Devachan. Is it so?
A. Very nearly so. If you add to this that the law of retribution,
or Karma, rewarding the highest and most spiritual in Devachan,
never fails to reward them again on earth by giving them a further
development, and furnishing the Ego with a body fitted for it, then
you will be quite correct.
A Few Words About the Skandhas
Q. What becomes of the other, the lower Skandhas of the personality, after the death of the body? Are they quite destroyed?
A. They are and yet they are not-a fresh metaphysical and occult mystery for you. They are destroyed as the working stock in hand of the personality; they remain as Karmic effects, as germs, hanging in the atmosphere of the terrestrial plane, ready to come to life, as so many avenging fiends, to attach themselves to the new personality of the Ego when it reincarnates.
Q. This really passes my comprehension, and is very difficult to understand.
A. Not once that you have assimilated all the details. For then you will see that for logic, consistency, profound philosophy, divine mercy and equity, this doctrine of Reincarnation has not its equal on earth. It is a belief in a perpetual progress for each incarnating Ego, or divine soul, in an evolution from the outward into the inward, from the material to the Spiritual, arriving at the end of each stage at absolute unity with the divine Principle. From strength to strength, from the beauty and perfection of one plane to the greater beauty and perfection of another, with accessions of new glory, of fresh knowledge and power in each cycle, such is the destiny of every Ego, which thus becomes its own Savior in each world and incarnation.
Q. But Christianity teaches the same. It also preaches progression.
A. Yes, only with the addition of something else. It tells us of the impossibility of attaining Salvation without the aid of a miraculous Savior, and therefore dooms to perdition all those who will not accept the dogma. This is just the difference between Christian theology and Theosophy. The former enforces belief in the Descent of the Spiritual Ego into the Lower Self; the latter inculcates the necessity of endeavoring to elevate oneself to the Christos, or Buddhi state.
Q. By teaching the annihilation of consciousness in case of failure, however, don't you think that it amounts to the annihilation of Self, a in the opinion of the non-metaphysical?
A. From the standpoint of those who believe in the resurrection of the body literally, and insist that every bone, every artery and atom of flesh will be raised bodily on the Judgment Day-of course it does. If you still insist that it is the perishable form and finite qualities that make up immortal man, then we shall hardly understand each other. And if you do not understand that, by limiting the existence of every Ego to one life on earth, you make of Deity an ever-drunken Indra of the Pur ic dead letter, a cruel Moloch, a god who makes an inextricable mess on Earth, and yet claims thanks for it, then the sooner we drop the conversation the better.
Q. But let us return, now that the subject of the Skandhas is disposed of, to the question of the consciousness which survives death. This is the point which interests most people. Do we possess more knowledge in Devachan than we do in earthlife?
A. In one sense, we can acquire more knowledge; that is, we can develop further any faculty which we loved and strove after during life, provided it is concerned with abstract and ideal things, such as music, painting, poetry, etc., since Devachan is merely an idealized and subjective continuation of earth-life.
Q. But if in Devachan the Spirit is free from matter, why should it not possess all knowledge?
A. Because, as I told you, the Ego is, so to say, wedded to the memory of its last incarnation. Thus, if you think over what I have said, and string all the facts together, you will realize that the Devachanic state is not one of omniscience, but a transcendental continuation of the personal life just terminated. It is the rest of the soul from the toils of life.
Q. 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 byproduct of organic action, which will evaporate like steam. Is not theirs a strange state of mind?
A. 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 they are firmly convinced of what they assert,
no conscious after-life is possible for them. For there are exceptions
to every rule.
On Postmortem and Postnatal Consciousness
Q. But if human self-consciousness survives death as a rule, why should there be exceptions?
A. In the fundamental principles of the spiritual world no exception is possible. But there are rules for those who see, and rules for those who prefer to remain blind.
Q. Quite so, I understand. This is but an aberration of the 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. Is this what you mean?
A. He will not be compelled, nor will he see anything. Having persistently denied during life the continuance of existence after death, he will be unable to see it, because his spiritual capacity having been stunted in life, it 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 answer, it is possible. Because, believing firmly in our Esoteric Doctrine, which refers to the postmortem 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 postmortem 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 faint.
Q. But since you have just said that the fundamental laws of the after-death state admit of no exceptions, how can this be?
A. Nor do I say that it does admit of an exception. But the spiritual law of continuity applies only to things which are truly real. To one who has read and understood Mundakya Upanishad and Vedantasara 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 gain a clear perception why the materialist may fail to have a self-conscious survival after death. Since Manas, in its lower aspect, is the seat of the terrestrial mind, it can, therefore, give only that perception of the Universe which is based on the evidence of that mind; it cannot give spiritual vision. It is said in the Eastern school, that between Buddhi and Manas (the Ego), or Isvara and Praj˝a *1) there is in reality no more difference than between a forest and its trees, a lake and its waters, as the 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.
But, as I understand it, Buddhi represents in this simile the forest,
and Manas-Taijasi *2) the trees. And if Buddhi is immortal, how
can that which is similar to it, i.e., Manas-Taijasi , entirely
lose its consciousness till the day of its new incarnation? I cannot
*1) Isvara is the collective consciousness of the manifested godhead, Brahma, i.e. the collective consciousness of the host of Dhyan Chohans (see Secret Doctrine); Praj˝a is their individual wisdom.
*2) Taijasi means the 'radiant', as a consequence of its union with Buddhi, i.e. Manas, the human soul, enlightened by the rays of the divine soul. Hence Manas-Taijasi can be described as radiant intellect, the human reason enlightened by the light of the spirit; and Buddhi-Manas is the revelation of the divine plus the human intellect and self-consciousness.
(These two footnotes reversely translated from Dutch.[ editor])
A. You cannot, because you will mix up an abstract representation of the whole with its casual changes of form. Remember that if it can be said of Buddhi-Manas that it is unconditionally immortal, the same cannot be said of the lower Manas, still less of Taijasi , which is merely an attribute. Neither of these, neither Manas nor Taijasi , can exist apart from Buddhi, the divine soul, because the first (Manas) is, in its lower aspect, a quality of the terrestrial personality, and the second (Taijasi ) is identical with the first, because 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 qualities 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 , is simply a transitory phenomenon.
Q. Do I understand you to say that we must not mix in our minds the noumenon with the phenomenon, the cause with its effect?
A. I do say so, and repeat that, limited to Manas or the human soul alone, the radiance of Taijas 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 in this.
Q. 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?
A. Our philosophy teaches that Karmic punishment reaches the Ego only in its next incarnation. After death it receives only the reward for the unmerited sufferings endured during its past incarnation.
(Some Theosophists have taken exception to this phrase, but the words are those of Master, and the meaning attached to the word unmerited is that given above. In the T.P.S. pamphlet No. 6, a phrase, criticized 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-and for these sufferings they of course deserve compensation.)
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 direct fruit and consequence of some sin in 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, and therefore thinks he suffers for no guilt of his own, this alone is sufficient to entitle the human soul to the fullest consolation, rest, and bliss in his postmortem 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 filled with pictures of which he will have no definite perception; while for the average mortal it will be a dream as vivid as life, and full of realistic bliss and visions.
Q. Then the personal man must always go on suffering blindly the Karmic penalties which the Ego has incurred?
A. Not quite so. At the solemn moment of death every man, even when death is sudden, sees the whole of his past life marshaled before him, in its minutest details. For one short instant the personal becomes one with the individual and all-knowing Ego. But this instant is enough to show to him the whole chain of causes which have been at work during his life. He sees and now understands himself as he is, unadorned by flattery or self-deception. He reads his life, remaining as a spectator looking down into the arena he is quitting; he feels and knows the justice of all the suffering that has overtaken him.
Q. Does this happen to everyone?
A. Without any exception. Very good and holy men see, we are taught, not only the life they are leaving, but even several preceding lives in which were produced the causes that made them what they were in the life just closing. They recognize the law of Karma in all its majesty and justice.
Q. Is there anything corresponding to this before rebirth?
A. There is. As the man at the moment of death has a retrospective
insight into the life he has led, so, at the moment he is reborn
onto earth, the Ego, awaking from the state of Devachan, has a prospective
vision of the life which awaits him, and realizes all the causes
that have led to it. He realizes them and sees futurity, because
it is between Devachan and rebirth that the Ego regains his full
manasic consciousness, and rebecomes for a short time the god he
was, before, in compliance with Karmic law, he first descended into
matter and incarnated in the first man of flesh. The "golden
thread" sees all its "pearls" and misses not one
What is Really Meant by Annihilation
Q. I have heard some Theosophists speak of a golden thread on which their lives were strung. What do they mean by this?
A. In the Hindu Sacred books it is said that the part of us which undergoes periodical incarnation is the Sutratman, which means literally the "Thread Soul." It is a synonym of the reincarnating Ego-Manas conjoined with Buddhi-which absorbs the Manasic recollections of all our preceding lives. It is so called, because, like the pearls on a thread, so is the long series of human lives strung together on that one thread. In some Upanishad these recurrent rebirths are likened to the life of a mortal which oscillates periodically between sleep and waking.
Q. This, I must say, does not seem 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 incarnation a full change takes place not only of the external envelope, sex, and personality, but even of the mental and psychic capacities. 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 of any fact or event concerning it . I may forget in the morning what I have dreamt during the night, still I know that I have slept and have the certainty that I lived during sleep; but what recollection can I have of my past incarnation until the moment of death? How do you reconcile this?
A. Some people do recollect their past incarnations during life; but these are Buddhas and Initiates. This is what the Yogis call Samm -Sambuddha, or the knowledge of the whole series of one's past incarnations.
Q. But we ordinary mortals who have not reached Samm -Sambuddha, how are we to understand this simile?
A. By studying it and trying to understand more correctly the characteristics and the three kinds 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 and visions.
Q. But this takes us to another 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.
A. And the materialist, without knowing it, is right. One who has no inner perception of, and faith in, the immortality of his soul, in that man the soul can never become Buddhi-Taijasi , but will remain simply Manas, and for Manas alone 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 the terrestrial existence. On these two aphorisms of the Secret Science all the philosophy about the postmortem 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 a period of full awakened consciousness, or a state of chaotic dreams, or an utterly dreamless sleep undistinguishable from annihilation, and these are the three kinds of sleep. If 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 postmortem dreams? I repeat it: death is sleep. After death, before the spiritual eyes of the soul, begins a performance according to a program learnt and very often unconsciously composed by ourselves: the practical carrying out of correct beliefs or of illusions which have been created by ourselves. The Methodist will be Methodist, the Muslim a Muslim, at least for some time-in a perfect fool's paradise of each man's creation and making. These are the postmortem 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 property of independent or separate entities, cannot fail to give color to that fact in its application to each of these entities. Now do you begin to understand it?
Q. I think I do. The materialist, disbelieving in everything that cannot be proven to him by his five senses, or by scientific reasoning, based exclusively on the data furnished by these senses in spite of their inadequacy, 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 it so?
A. Almost so. Remember the practically universal 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 inhabited by the eternal, changeless, and immortal Monad; 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 behind.
Q. How so? Can my conscious terrestrial "I" perish not only for a time, like the consciousness of the materialist, but so entirely as to leave no trace behind?
A. According to the teaching, it must so perish and in its fullness; all except the 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 Eternity one particle of that terrestrial personality? Your spiritual "I" is immortal; but from your present self it can carry away into Eternity that only which has become worthy of immortality, namely, the aroma alone of the flower that has been mown by death.
Q. Well, and the flower, the terrestrial "I"?
A. The flower, as all past and future flowers which have blossomed and will have to blossom on the mother bough, the Sutratman, all children of one root or 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-Sutratman, but Sutratman-Buddhi.
Q. 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 postmortem life has limits, however much wider they may be than those of terrestrial life.
A. No doubt. The spiritual Ego of man moves in eternity like a pendulum between the hours of birth and death. But if these hours, marking the periods of life terrestrial and life spiritual, 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 postmortem 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 notwithstanding, do not prevent the Ego, while ever perfecting itself, from following undeviatingly, though gradually and slowly, the path to its last transformation, when that Ego, having reached its goal, becomes a divine being. 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. I have given you once already a familiar illustration by comparing the Ego, or the individuality, to an actor, and its numerous and various incarnations to the parts it plays. Will you call these parts or 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 ParaNirvana, 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 Sutratman or Ego. Collecting from every terrestrial personality, into which Karma forces it to incarnate, the nectar alone of the spiritual qualities and self-consciousness, it unites all these into one whole and emerges from its chrysalis as the glorified Dhyani-Chohan. So much the worse for those terrestrial personalities from which it could collect nothing. Such personalities cannot assuredly outlive consciously their terrestrial existence.
Q. Thus, then, it seems that, for the terrestrial personality, immortality is still conditional. Is, then, immortality itself not unconditional?
A. Not at all. But immortality cannot touch the non-existent: for all that which exists as Sat, or emanates from 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, its externality, is certainly only the illusion of our personal conceptions. Therefore do we call Nirvana and the Universal life alone a reality, while relegating the terrestrial life, its terrestrial personality included, and even its Devachanic existence, to the phantom realm of illusion.
Q. But why in such a case call sleep the reality, and waking the illusion?
A. It is simply a comparison made to facilitate the grasping of the subject, and from the standpoint of terrestrial conceptions it is a very correct one.
Q. And still 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 really honest and charitable men, there should remain of their personality nothing but the refuse of a faded flower.
A. No one ever said such a thing. No materialist, however unbelieving, can die forever in the fullness of his spiritual individuality. What was said is that consciousness can disappear either fully or partially in the case of a materialist, so that no conscious remains of his personality survive.
Q. But surely this is annihilation?
A. Certainly not. One can sleep a dead sleep and miss several stations during a long railway journey, without the slightest recollection or consciousness, and awake at another station and continue the journey past innumerable other halting-places till the end of the journey or the goal is reached. Three kinds of sleep were mentioned to you: the dreamless, the chaotic, and the one which is 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 the after-life a man has believed in and expected, such is the life he 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 program we spoke of, a program created by the materialists themselves. 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 to the whole world to his unbelief, must, at the threshold of death, drop his personality forever. This personality having no tendrils of sympathy for the world around and hence nothing to hook onto Sutratman, it follows that with the last breath every connection between the two is broken. There being no Devachan for such a materialist, the Sutratman will reincarnate almost immediately. But those materialists who erred in nothing but their disbelief will oversleep but one station. And the time will come when that ex-materialist will perceive himself in the Eternity and perhaps repent that he lost even one day, one station, from the life eternal.
Q. Still, would it not be more correct to say that death is birth into a new life, or a return once more into eternity?
A. You may if you like. Only remember that births differ, and that there are births of "still-born" beings, which are failures of nature. Moreover, with your Western fixed ideas about material life, the words living and being are quite inapplicable to the pure subjective state of postmortem existence. It is just because, save in a few philosophers who are not read by the many, and who themselves are too confused to present a distinct picture of it, it is just because your Western ideas of life and death have finally become so narrow, that on the one hand they have led to crass materialism, and on the other, to the still more material conception of the other life, which the Spiritualists have formulated in their Summerland. There the souls of men eat, drink, marry, and live in a paradise quite as sensual as that of Mohammed, but even less philosophical. Nor are the average conceptions of the uneducated Christians any better, being if possible still more material. What between truncated angels, brass trumpets, golden harps, and material hellfires, the Christian heaven seems like a fairy scene at a Christmas pantomime.
It is because of these narrow conceptions that you find such difficulty
in understanding. It is 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
Definite Words for Definite Things
Q. Don't you think it is because there are no definite and fixed terms to indicate each principle in man, that such a confusion of ideas arises in our minds with respect to the respective functions of these principles?
A. I have thought of it myself. The whole trouble has arisen from this: we have started our expositions of, and discussion about, the principles, using their Sanskrit names instead of coining immediately, for the use of Theosophists, their equivalents in English. We must try and remedy this now.
Q. You will do well, as it may avoid further confusion; no two theosophical writers, it seems to me, have hitherto agreed to call the same principle by the same name.
A. The confusion is more apparent than real, however. I have heard some of our Theosophists express surprise at, and criticize several essays speaking of these principles; but, when examined, there was no worse mistake in them than that of using the word Soul to cover the three principles without specifying the distinctions. The first, as positively the clearest of our Theosophical writers, Mr. A.P. Sinnett, has some comprehensive and admirably-written passages on the "Higher Self." His real idea has also been misconceived by some, owing to his using the word Soul in a general sense. Yet here are a few passages which will show to you how clear and comprehensive is all that he writes on the subject:
The human soul, once launched on the streams of evolution as a human individuality, passes through alternate periods of physical and relatively spiritual existence. It passes from the one plane, or stratum, or condition of nature to the other under the guidance of its Karmic affinities; living in incarnations the life which its Karma has preordained; modifying its progress within the limitations of circumstances, and-developing fresh Karma by its use or abuse of opportunities-it returns to spiritual existence (Devachan) after each physical life-through the intervening region of Kamaloka-for rest and refreshment and for the gradual absorption into its essence, as so much cosmic progress, of the life's experience gained "on earth" or during physical existence. This view of the matter will, moreover, have suggested many collateral inferences to anyone thinking over the subject; for instance, that the transfer of consciousness from the Kamaloka to the Devachanic stage of this progression would necessarily be gradual; that in truth, no hard-and-fast line separates the varieties of spiritual conditions, that even the spiritual and physical planes, as psychic faculties in living people show, are not so hopelessly walled off from one another as materialistic theories would suggest; that all states of nature are all around us simultaneously, and appeal to different perceptive faculties; and so on . It is clear that during physical existence people who possess psychic faculties remain in connection with the planes of super-physical consciousness; and although most people may not be endowed with such faculties, we all, as the phenomena of sleep, even, and especially . those of somnambulism or mesmerism, show, are capable of entering into conditions of consciousness that the five physical senses have nothing to do with. We-the souls within us-are not as it were altogether adrift in the ocean of matter. We clearly retain some surviving interest or rights in the shore from which, for a time, we have floated off. The process of incarnation, therefore, is not fully described when we speak of an alternate existence on the physical and spiritual planes, and thus picture the soul as a complete entity slipping entirely from the one state of existence to the other. The more correct definitions of the process would probably represent incarnation as taking place on this physical plane of nature by reason of an efflux emanating from the soul. The Spiritual realm would all the while be the proper habitat of the Soul, which would never entirely quit it; and that non-materializable portion of the Soul which abides permanently on the spiritual plane may fitly, perhaps, be spoken of as the Higher Self.
This "Higher Self" is Atma, and of course it is "non-materializable," as Mr. Sinnett says. Even more, it can never be "objective" under any circumstances, even to the highest spiritual perception. For Atma or the "Higher Self" is really Brahma, the Absolute, and indistinguishable from it. In hours of Samadhi, the higher spiritual consciousness of the Initiate is entirely absorbed in the one essence, which is Atma, and therefore, being one with the whole, there can be nothing objective for it. Now some of our Theosophists have got into the habit of using the words Self and Ego as synonymous, of associating the term Self with only man's higher individual or even personal "Self" or Ego, whereas this term ought never to be applied except to the One universal Self. Hence the confusion. Speaking of Manas, the "causal body," we may call it-when connecting it with the Buddhic radiance-the "Higher Ego," never the "Higher Self." For even Buddhi, the "Spiritual Soul," is not the Self, but the vehicle only of Self. All the other "Selves"-such as the "Individual" self and "personal" self-ought never to be spoken or written of without their qualifying and characteristic adjectives.
Thus in this most excellent essay on the "Higher Self," this term is applied to the sixth principle or Buddhi; and has in consequence given rise to just such misunderstandings. The statement that
A child does not acquire its sixth principle-or become a morally responsible being capable of generating Karma-until seven years old.
-proves what is meant therein by the Higher Self. Therefore, the able author is quite justified in explaining that after the "Higher Self" has passed into the human being and saturated the personality-in some of the finer organizations only-with its consciousness
People with psychic faculties may indeed perceive this Higher Self through their finer senses from time to time.
But so are those, who limit the term Higher Self to the Universal Divine Principle, "justified" in misunderstanding him. For, when we read, without being prepared for this shifting of metaphysical terms, that while
Fully manifesting on the physical plane . the Higher Self still remains a conscious spiritual Ego on the corresponding plane of Nature.
We are apt to see in the "Higher Self" of this sentence, Atma, and in the spiritual Ego, Manas, or rather Buddhi-Manas, and forthwith to criticize the whole thing as incorrect.
To avoid henceforth such misapprehensions, I propose to translate
literally from the Occult Eastern terms their equivalents in English,
and offer these for future use.
[The Self and the Egos ]
The Higher Self is Atma, the inseparable ray of the Universal and One Self. It is the God above, more than within, us. Happy the man who succeeds in saturating his inner Ego with it!
The Spiritual divine Ego is the Spiritual soul or Buddhi, in close union with Manas, the mind-principle, without which it is no Ego at all, but only the Atmic Vehicle.
The Inner, or Higher "Ego" is Manas, the "Fifth" Principle, so-called, independently of Buddhi. The Mind-Principle is only the Spiritual Ego when merged into one with Buddhi-no materialist being supposed to have in him such an Ego, however great his intellectual capacities. It is the permanent Individuality or the "Reincarnating Ego."
The Lower, or Personal "Ego" is the physical man in conjunction
with his lower Self, i.e., animal instincts, passions, desires,
etc. It is called the "false personality," and consists
of the lower Manas combined with Kamarupa, and operating through
the Physical body and its phantom or "double."
The remaining principle Prana, or Life, is, strictly speaking, the radiating force or Energy of Atma-as the Universal Life and the One Self-Its lower or rather (in its effects) more physical, because manifesting, aspect. Prana or Life permeates the whole being of the objective Universe; and is called a principle only because it is an indispensable factor and the deus ex machina of the living man.
Q. This division being so much simplified in its combinations will answer better, I believe. The other is much too metaphysical.
A. If outsiders as well as Theosophists would agree to it, it would
certainly make matters much more comprehensible.
The Mystery of the Ego
Q. I perceive in the quotation you brought forward a little while ago from The Buddhist Catechism a discrepancy that I would like to hear explained. It is there stated that the Skandhas-memory included-change with every new incarnation. And yet, it is asserted that the reflection of the past lives, which, we are told, are entirely made up of Skandhas, "must survive." At the present moment I am not quite clear in my mind as to what it is precisely that survives, and I would like to have it explained. What is it? Is it only that "reflection," or those Skandhas, or always that same Ego, the Manas?
A. I have just explained that the reincarnating Principle, or that which we call the divine man, is indestructible throughout the life cycle: indestructible as a thinking Entity, and even as an ethereal form. The "reflection" is only the spiritualized remembrance, during the Devachanic period, of the ex-personality, Mr. A. or Mrs. B.-with which the Ego identifies itself during that period. Since the latter is but the continuation of the earth-life, so to say, the very acme and pitch, in an unbroken series, of the few happy moments in that now past existence, the Ego has to identify itself with the personal consciousness of that life, if anything shall remain of it.
Q. This means that the Ego, notwithstanding its divine nature, passes every such period between two incarnations in a state of mental obscuration, or temporary insanity.
A. You may regard it as you like. Believing that, outside the One Reality, nothing is better than a passing illusion-the whole Universe included-we do not view it as insanity, but as a very natural sequence or development of the terrestrial life. What is life? A bundle of the most varied experiences, of daily changing ideas, emotions, and opinions. In our youth we are often enthusiastically devoted to an ideal, to some hero or heroine whom we try to follow and revive; a few years later, when the freshness of our youthful feelings has faded out and sobered down, we are the first to laugh at our fancies. And yet there was a day when we had so thoroughly identified our own personality with that of the ideal in our mind-especially if it was that of a living being-that the former was entirely merged and lost in the latter. Can it be said of a man of fifty that he is the same being that he was at twenty? The inner man is the same; the outward living personality is completely transformed and changed. Would you also call these changes in the human mental states insanity?
Q. How would you name them, and especially how would you explain the permanence of one and the evanescence of the other?
A. We have our own doctrine ready, and to us it offers no difficulty. The clue lies in the double consciousness of our mind, and also, in the dual nature of the mental principle. There is a spiritual consciousness, the Manasic mind illumined by the light of Buddhi, that which subjectively perceives abstractions; and the sentient consciousness (the lower Manasic light), inseparable from our physical brain and senses. This latter consciousness is held in subjection by the brain and physical senses, and, being in its turn equally dependent on them, must of course fade out and finally die with the disappearance of the brain and physical senses. It is only the former kind of consciousness, whose root lies in eternity, which survives and lives forever, and may, therefore, be regarded as immortal. Everything else belongs to passing illusions.
Q. What do you really understand by illusion in this case?
A. It is very well described in the just-mentioned essay on "The Higher Self." Says its author:
The theory we are considering (the interchange of ideas between the Higher Ego and the lower self) harmonizes very well with the treatment of this world in which we live as a phenomenal world of illusion, the spiritual plane of nature being on the other hand the noumenal world or plane of reality. That region of nature in which, so to speak, the permanent soul is rooted is more real than that in which its transitory blossoms appear for a brief space to wither and fall to pieces, while the plant recovers energy for sending forth a fresh flower. Supposing flowers only were perceptible to ordinary senses, and their roots existed in a state of Nature intangible and invisible to us, philosophers in such a world who divined that there were such things as roots in another plane of existence would be apt to say of the flowers: "These are not the real plants; they are of no relative importance, merely illusive phenomena of the moment."
This is what I mean. The world in which blossom the transitory and evanescent flowers of personal lives is not the real permanent world; but that one in which we find the root of consciousness, that root which is beyond illusion and dwells in the eternity.
Q. What do you mean by the root dwelling in eternity?
A. I mean by this root the thinking entity, the Ego which incarnates, whether we regard it as an "Angel," "Spirit," or a Force. Of that which falls under our sensuous perceptions only what grows directly from, or is attached to this invisible root above, can partake of its immortal life. Hence every noble thought, idea, and aspiration of the personality it informs, proceeding from and fed by this root, must become permanent. As to the physical consciousness, as it is a quality of the sentient but lower principle, (Kamarupa or animal instinct, illuminated by the lower manasic reflection), or the human Soul-it must disappear. That which displays activity, while the body is asleep or paralyzed, is the higher consciousness, our memory registering but feebly and inaccurately-because automatically-such experiences, and often failing to be even slightly impressed by them.
Q. But how is it that Manas, although you call it Nous, a "God," is so weak during its incarnations, as to be actually conquered and fettered by its body?
A. I might retort with the same question and ask:
How is it that he, whom you regard as "the God of Gods" and the One living God, is so weak as to allow evil (or the Devil) to have the best of him as much as of all his creatures, whether while he remains in Heaven, or during the time he was incarnated on this earth?
You are sure to reply again: "This is a Mystery; and we are forbidden to pry into the mysteries of God." Not being forbidden to do so by our religious philosophy, I answer your question that, unless a God descends as an Avatara, no divine principle can be otherwise than cramped and paralyzed by turbulent, animal matter. Heterogeneity will always have the upper hand over homogeneity, on this plane of illusions, and the nearer an essence is to its root-principle, Primordial Homogeneity, the more difficult it is for the latter to assert itself on earth. Spiritual and divine powers lie dormant in every human Being; and the wider the sweep of his spiritual vision the mightier will be the God within him. But as few men can feel that God, and since, as an average rule, deity is always bound and limited in our thought by earlier conceptions, those ideas that are inculcated in us from childhood, therefore, it is so difficult for you to understand our philosophy.
Q. And is it this Ego of ours which is our God?
A. Not at all; "A God" is not the universal deity, but only a spark from the one ocean of Divine Fire. Our God within us, or "our Father in Secret" is what we call the Higher Self, Atma. Our incarnating Ego was a God in its origin, as were all the primeval emanations of the One Unknown Principle. But since its "fall into Matter," having to incarnate throughout the cycle, in succession, from first to last, it is no longer a free and happy god, but a poor pilgrim on his way to regain that which he has lost. I can answer you more fully by repeating what is said of the Inner Man:
From the remotest antiquity mankind as a whole have always been convinced of the existence of a personal spiritual entity within the personal physical man. This inner entity was more or less divine, according to its proximity to the crown. The closer the union the more serene man's destiny, the less dangerous the external conditions. This belief is neither bigotry nor superstition, only an ever-present, instinctive feeling of the proximity of another spiritual and invisible world, which, though it be subjective to the senses of the outward man, is perfectly objective to the inner ego. Furthermore, they believed that there are external and internal conditions which affect the determination of our will upon our actions. They rejected fatalism, for fatalism implies a blind course of some still blinder power. But they believed in destiny or Karma, which from birth to death every man is weaving thread by thread around himself, as a spider does his cobweb; and this destiny is guided by that presence termed by some the guardian angel, or our more intimate astral inner man, who is but too often the evil genius of the man of flesh or the personality. Both these lead on Man, but one of them must prevail; and from the very beginning of the invisible affray the stern and implacable law of compensation and retribution steps in and takes its course, following faithfully the fluctuating of the conflict. When the last strand is woven, and man is seemingly enwrapped in the net-work of his own doing, then he finds himself completely under the empire of this self-made destiny. It then either fixes him like the inert shell against the immovable rock, or like a feather carries him away in a whirlwind raised by his own actions.
Such is the destiny of the Man-the true Ego, not the Automaton,
the shell that goes by that name. It is for him to become the conqueror
The Complex Nature of Manas
Q. But you wanted to tell me something of the essential nature of Manas, and of the relation in which the Skandhas of physical man stand to it?
A. It is this nature, mysterious, Protean, beyond any grasp, and almost shadowy in its correlations with the other principles, that is most difficult to realize, and still more so to explain. Manas is a principle, and yet it is an "Entity" and individuality or Ego. He is a "God," and yet he is doomed to an endless cycle of incarnations, for each of which he is made responsible, and for each of which he has to suffer. All this seems as contradictory as it is puzzling; nevertheless, there are hundreds of people, even in Europe, who realize all this perfectly, for they comprehend the Ego not only in its integrity but in its many aspects. Finally, if I would make myself comprehensible, I must begin by the beginning and give you the genealogy of this Ego in a few lines.
Q. Say on.
A. Try to imagine a "Spirit," a celestial Being, whether we call it by one name or another, divine in its essential nature, yet not pure enough to be one with the All, and having, in order to achieve this, to do purify its nature as to finally gain that goal. It can do so only by passing individually and personally, i.e., spiritually and physically, through every experience and feeling that exists in the manifold or differentiated Universe. It has, therefore, after having gained such experience in the lower kingdoms, and having ascended higher and still higher with every rung on the ladder of being, to pass through every experience on the human planes. In its very essence it is thought, and is, therefore, called in its plurality Manasaputra, "the Sons of the (Universal) mind." This individualized "Thought" is what we Theosophists call the real human Ego, the thinking Entity imprisoned in a case of flesh and bones. This is surely a Spiritual Entity, not Matter, and such Entities are the incarnating Egos that inform the bundle of animal matter called mankind, and whose names are Manasa or "Minds." But once imprisoned, or incarnate, their essence becomes dual: that is to say, the rays of the eternal divine Mind, considered as individual entities, assume a two-fold attribute which is (a) their essential inherent characteristic, heaven-aspiring mind (higher Manas), and (b) the human quality of thinking, or animal cogitation, rationalized owing to the superiority of the human brain, the Kama-tending or lower Manas. One gravitates toward Buddhi, the other, tending downward, to the seat of passions and animal desires. The latter have no room in Devachan, nor can they associate with the divine triad which ascends as one into mental bliss. Yet it is the Ego, the Manasic Entity, which is held responsible for all the sins of the lower attributes, just as a parent is answerable for the transgressions of his child, so long as the latter remains irresponsible.
Q. Is this "child" the "personality"?
A. It is. When, therefore, it is stated that the "personality" dies with the body it does not state all. The body, which was only the objective symbol of Mr. A. or Mrs. B., fades away with all its material Skandhas, which are the visible expressions thereof. But all that which constituted during life the spiritual bundle of experiences, the noblest aspirations, undying affections, and unselfish nature of Mr. A. or Mrs. B. clings for the time of the Devachanic period to the Ego, which is identified with the spiritual portion of that terrestrial Entity, now passed away out of sight. The Actor is so imbued with the role just played by him that he dreams of it during the whole Devachanic night, which vision continues till the hour strikes for him to return to the stage of life to enact another part.
Q. But how is it that this doctrine, which you say is as old as thinking men, has found no room, say, in Christian theology?
A. You are mistaken, it has; only theology has disfigured it out of all recognition, as it has many other doctrines. Theology calls the Ego the Angel that God gives us at the moment of our birth, to take care of our Soul. Instead of holding that "Angel" responsible for the transgressions of the poor helpless "Soul," it is the latter which, according to theological logic, is punished for all the sins of both flesh and mind! It is the Soul, the immaterial breath of God and his alleged creation, which, by some most amazing intellectual jugglery, is doomed to burn in a material hell without ever being consumed, while the "Angel" escapes scot-free, after folding his white pinions and wetting them with a few tears. Aye, these are our "ministering Spirits," the "messengers of mercy" who are sent, Bishop Mant tells us:
. to fulfill
Good for Salvation's heirs, for us they still
Grieve when we sin, rejoice when we repent .
Yet it becomes evident that if all the Bishops the world over were
asked to define once for all what they mean by Soul and its functions,
they would be as unable to do so as to show us any shadow of logic
in the orthodox belief!
The Doctrine is Taught in St. John's Gospel
Q. To this the adherents to this belief might answer, that if even the orthodox dogma does promise the impenitent sinner and materialist a bad time of it in a rather too realistic Inferno, it gives them, on the other hand, a chance for repentance to the last minute. Nor do they teach annihilation, or loss of personality, which is all the same.
A. If the Church teaches nothing of the kind, on the other hand, Jesus does; and that is something to those, at least, who place Christ higher than Christianity.
Q. Does Christ teach anything of the sort?
A. He does; and every well-informed Occultist and even Cabalist will tell you so. Christ, or the fourth Gospel at any rate, teaches reincarnation as also the annihilation of the personality, if you but forget the dead letter and hold to the esoteric Spirit. Remember the parable spoken of by St. John. What does the parable speak about if not of the upper triad in man? Atma is the Husbandman-the Spiritual Ego or Buddhi (Christos) the Vine, while the animal and vital Soul, the personality, is the "branch."
I am the true vine, and my Father is the Husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away . As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the Vine-ye are the branches. If a man abide not in me he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered and cast into the fire and burned.
Now we explain it in this way. Disbelieving in the hellfire which theology discovers as underlying the threat to the branches, we say that the "Husbandman" means Atma, the Symbol for the infinite, impersonal Principle, while the Vine stands for the Spiritual Soul, Christos, and each "branch" represents a new incarnation.
Q. But what proofs have you to support such an arbitrary interpretation?
Universal symbology is a warrant for its correctness and that it
is not arbitrary. Hermas says of "God" that he "planted
the Vineyard," i.e., he created mankind. In the Cabala, it
is shown that the Aged of the Aged, or the "Long Face,"
plants a vineyard, the latter typifying mankind; and a vine, meaning
Life. The Spirit of "King Messiah" is, therefore, shown
as washing his garments in the wine from above, from the creation
of the world. [Zohar XL, 10] And King Messiah is the Ego purified
by washing his garments (i.e., his personalities in rebirth), in
the wine from above, or Buddhi. Adam, or A-Dam, is "blood."
The Life of the flesh is in the blood (nephesh-soul). And Adam-Kadmon
is the Only-Begotten. Noah also plants a vineyard-the allegorical
hotbed of future humanity. As a consequence of the adoption of the
same allegory, we find it reproduced in the Nazarene Codex. Seven
vines are procreated-which seven vines are our Seven Races with
their seven Saviors or Buddhas-which spring from Iukabar Zivo, and
Ferho (or Parcha) Raba waters them.[Codex Nazareus, iii, pp. 60,61]
When the blessed will ascend among the creatures of Light, they
shall see Iavar-Xivo, Lord of Life, and the First Vine.[Cod. Naz.,
ii, p.281] These Cabalistic metaphors are thus naturally repeated
in the Gospel according to St. John.
Let us not forget that in the human system-even according to those philosophies which ignore our septenary division-the Ego or thinking man is called the Logos, or the Son of Soul and Spirit. "Manas is the adopted Son of King *** and Queen ***" (esoteric equivalents for Atma and Buddhi), says an occult work. He is the "man-god" of Plato, who crucifies himself in Space (or the duration of the life cycle) for the redemption of Matter. This he does by incarnating over and over again, thus leading mankind onward to perfection, and making thereby room for lower forms to develop into higher. Not for one life does he cease progressing himself and helping all physical nature to progress; even the occasional, very rare event of his losing one of his personalities, in the case of the latter being entirely devoid of even a spark of spirituality, helps toward his individual progress.
Q. But surely, if the Ego is held responsible for the transgressions of its personalities, it has to answer also for the loss, or rather the complete annihilation, of one of such.
A. Not at all, unless it has done nothing to avert this dire fate. But if, all its efforts notwithstanding, its voice, that of our conscience, was unable to penetrate through the wall of matter, then the obtuseness of the latter proceeding from the imperfect nature of the material is classed with other failures of nature. The Ego is sufficiently punished by the loss of Devachan, and especially by having to incarnate almost immediately.
Q. This doctrine of the possibility of losing one's soul-or personality, do you call it?-militates against the ideal theories of both Christians and Spiritualists, though Swedenborg adopts it to a certain extent, in what he calls Spiritual death. They will never accept it.
A. This can in no way alter a fact in nature, if it be a fact, or prevent such a thing occasionally taking place. The universe and everything in it, moral, mental, physical, psychic, or Spiritual, is built on a perfect law of equilibrium and harmony. As said before (see Isis Unveiled), the centripetal force could not manifest itself without the centrifugal in the harmonious revolutions of the spheres, and all forms and their progress are the products of this dual force in nature. Now the Spirit (or Buddhi) is the centrifugal and the soul (Manas) the centripetal spiritual energy; and to produce one result they have to be in perfect union and harmony. Break or damage the centripetal motion of the earthly soul tending toward the center which attracts it; arrest its progress by clogging it with a heavier weight of matter than it can bear, or than is fit for the Devachanic state, and the harmony of the whole will be destroyed. Personal life, or perhaps rather its ideal reflection, can only be continued if sustained by the two-fold force, that is by the close union of Buddhi and Manas in every rebirth or personal life. The least deviation from harmony damages it; and when it is destroyed beyond redemption the two forces separate at the moment of death. During a brief interval the personal form (called indifferently Kamarupa and Mayavirupa), the spiritual efflorescence of which, attaching itself to the Ego, follows it into Devachan and gives to the permanent individuality its personal coloring (pro tem, so to speak), is carried off to remain in Kamaloka and to be gradually annihilated. For it is after the death of the utterly depraved, the unspiritual and the wicked beyond redemption, that arrives the critical and supreme moment. If during life the ultimate and desperate effort of the Inner Self (Manas), to unite something of the personality with itself and the high glimmering ray of the divine Buddhi, is thwarted; if this ray is allowed to be more and more shut out from the ever-thickening crust of physical brain, the Spiritual Ego or Manas, once freed from the body, remains severed entirely from the ethereal relic of the personality; and the latter, or Kamarupa, following its earthly attractions, is drawn into and remains in Hades, which we call the Kamaloka. These are "the withered branches" mentioned by Jesus as being cut off from the Vine. Annihilation, however, is never instantaneous, and may require centuries sometimes for its accomplishment. But there the personality remains along with the remnants of other more fortunate personal Egos, and becomes with them a shell and an Elementary. As said in Isis Unveiled, it is these two classes of "Spirits," the shells and the Elementaries, which are the leading "Stars" on the great spiritual stage of "materializations." And you may be sure of it, it is not they who incarnate; and, therefore, so few of these "dear departed ones" know anything of reincarnation, misleading thereby the Spiritualists.
Q. But does not the author of Isis Unveiled stand accused of having preached against reincarnation?
A. By those who have misunderstood what was said, yes. At the time that work was written, reincarnation was not believed in by any Spiritualists, either English or American, and what is said there of reincarnation was directed against the French Spiritists, whose theory is as unphilosophical and absurd as the Eastern teaching is logical and self-evident in its truth. The Reincarnationists of the Allan Kardec School believe in an arbitrary and immediate reincarnation. With them, the dead father can incarnate in his own unborn daughter, and so on. They have neither Devachan, Karma, nor any philosophy that would warrant or prove the necessity of consecutive rebirths. But how can the author of Isis Unveiled argue against Karmic reincarnation, at long intervals varying between 1,000 and 1,500 years, when it is the fundamental belief of both Buddhists and Hindus?
Q. Then you reject the theories of both the Spiritists and the Spiritualists, in their entirety?
A. Not in their entirety, but only with regard to their respective fundamental beliefs. Both rely on what their "Spirits" tell them; and both disagree as much with each other as we Theosophists disagree with both. Truth is one; and when we hear the French spooks preaching reincarnation, and the English spooks denying and denouncing the doctrine, we say that either the French or the English "Spirits" do not know what they are talking about. We believe with the Spiritualists and the Spiritists in the existence of "Spirits," or invisible Beings endowed with more or less intelligence. But, while in our teachings their kinds and genera are legion, our opponents admit of no other than human disembodied "Spirits," which, to our knowledge, are mostly Kamalokic Shells.
Q. You seem very bitter against Spirits. As you have given me your views and your reasons for disbelieving in the materialization of, and direct communication in seances, with the disembodied spirits-or the "spirits of the dead"-would you mind enlightening me as to one more fact? Why are some Theosophists never tired of saying how dangerous is intercourse with spirits, and mediumship? Have they any particular reason for this?
A. We must suppose so. I know I have. Owing to my familiarity for over half a century with these invisible, yet but too tangible and undeniable "influences," from the conscious Elementals, semi-conscious shells, down to the utterly senseless and nondescript spooks of all kinds, I claim a certain right to my views.
Q. Can you give an instance or instances to show why these practices should be regarded as dangerous?
A. This would require more time than I can give you. Every cause must be judged by the effects it produces. Go over the history of Spiritualism for the last fifty years, ever since its reappearance in this century in America-and judge for yourself whether it has done its votaries more good or harm. Pray understand me. I do not speak against real Spiritualism, but against the modern movement which goes under that name, and the so-called philosophy invented to explain its phenomena.
Q. Don't you believe in their phenomena at all?
A. It is because I believe in them with too good reason, and (save some cases of deliberate fraud) know them to be as true as that you and I live, that all my being revolts against them. Once more I speak only of physical, not mental or even psychic phenomena. Like attracts like. There are several high-minded, pure, good men and women, known to me personally, who have passed years of their lives under the direct guidance and even protection of high "Spirits," whether disembodied or planetary. But these Intelligences are not of the type of the John Kings and the Ernests who figure in seance rooms. These Intelligences guide and control mortals only in rare and exceptional cases to which they are attracted and magnetically drawn by the Karmic past of the individual. It is not enough to sit "for development" in order to attract them. That only opens the door to a swarm of "spooks," good, bad, and indifferent, to which the medium becomes a slave for life. It is against such promiscuous mediumship and intercourse with goblins that I raise my voice, not against spiritual mysticism. The latter is ennobling and holy; the former is of just the same nature as the phenomena of two centuries ago, for which so many witches and wizards have been made to suffer. Read Glanvil and other authors on the subject of witchcraft, and you will find recorded there the parallels of most, if not all, of the physical phenomena of nineteenth century "Spiritualism."
Q. Do you mean to suggest that it is all witchcraft and nothing more?
A. What I mean is that, whether conscious or unconscious, all this dealing with the dead is necromancy, and a most dangerous practice. For ages before Moses such raising of the dead was regarded by all the intelligent nations as sinful and cruel, inasmuch as it disturbs the rest of the souls and interferes with their evolutionary development into higher states. The collective wisdom of all past centuries has ever been loud in denouncing such practices. Finally, I say, what I have never ceased repeating orally and in print for fifteen years: While some of the so-called "spirits" do not know what they are talking about, repeating merely-like poll-parrots-what they find in the mediums' and other people's brains, others are most dangerous, and can only lead one to evil. These are two self-evident facts. Go into Spiritualistic circles of the Allan Kardec school, and you find "spirits" asserting reincarnation and speaking like Roman Catholics born. Turn to the "dear departed ones" in England and America, and you will hear them denying reincarnation through thick and thin, denouncing those who teach it, and holding to Protestant views. Your best, your most powerful mediums, have all suffered in health of body and mind. Think of the sad end of Charles Foster, who died in an asylum, a raving lunatic; of Slade, an epileptic; of Eglinton-the best medium now in England-subject to the same. Look back over the life of D.D. Home, a man whose mind was steeped in gall and bitterness, who never had a good word to say of anyone whom he suspected of possessing psychic powers, and who slandered every other medium to the bitter end. This Calvin of Spiritualism suffered for years from a terrible spinal disease, brought on by his intercourse with the "spirits," and died a perfect wreck. Think again of the sad fate of poor Washington Irving Bishop. I knew him in New York, when he was fourteen, and he was undeniably a medium. It is true that the poor man stole a march on his "spirits," and baptized them "unconscious muscular action," to the great gaudium of all the corporations of highly learned and scientific fools, and to the replenishment of his own pocket. But de mortuis nil nisi bonum; his end was a sad one. He had strenuously concealed his epileptic fits-the first and strongest symptom of genuine mediumship-and who knows whether he was dead or in a trance when the postmortem examination was performed? His relatives insist that he was alive, if we are to believe Reuter's telegrams. Finally, behold the veteran mediums, the founders and prime movers of modern spiritualism-the Fox sisters. After more than forty years of intercourse with the "Angels," the latter have led them to become incurable sots, who are now denouncing, in public lectures, their own life-long work and philosophy as a fraud. What kind of spirits must they be who prompted them, I ask you?
Q. But is your inference a correct one?
A. What would you infer if the best pupils of a particular school of singing broke down from overstrained sore throats? That the method followed was a bad one. So I think the inference is equally fair with regard to Spiritualism when we see their best mediums fall a prey to such a fate. We can only say: Let those who are interested in the question judge the tree of Spiritualism by its fruits, and ponder over the lesson. We Theosophists have always regarded the Spiritualists as brothers having the same mystic tendency as ourselves, but they have always regarded us as enemies. We, being in possession of an older philosophy, have tried to help and warn them; but they have repaid us by reviling and traducing us and our motives in every possible way. Nevertheless, the best English Spiritualists say just as we do, wherever they treat of their belief seriously. Hear "M.A. Oxon" confessing this truth:
Spiritualists are too much inclined to dwell exclusively on the intervention of external spirits in this world of ours, and to ignore the powers of the incarnate Spirit.
Why vilify and abuse us, then, for saying precisely the same? Henceforward, we will have nothing more to do with Spiritualism. And now let us return to Reincarnation.