The Physical and the Spiritual Man
Q. I am glad to hear you believe in the immortality of the Soul.
A. Not of "the Soul," but of the divine Spirit; or rather in the immortality of the reincarnating Ego.
Q. What is the difference?
A. A very great one in our philosophy, but this is too abstruse and difficult a question to touch lightly upon. We shall have to analyze them separately, and then in conjunction. We may begin with Spirit.
We say that the Spirit (the "Father in secret" of Jesus), or Atma, is no individual property of any man, but is the Divine essence which has no body, no form, which is imponderable, invisible and indivisible, that which does not exist and yet is, as the Buddhists say of Nirvana. It only overshadows the mortal; that which enters into him and pervades the whole body being only its omnipresent rays, or light, radiated through Buddhi, its vehicle and direct emanation. This is the secret meaning of the assertions of almost all the ancient philosophers, when they said that "the rational part of man's soul" never entered wholly into the man, but only overshadowed him more or less through the irrational spiritual Soul or Buddhi.
Buddhi is irrational in the sense that as a pure emanation of the Universal mind it can have no individual reason of its own on this plane of matter, but like the Moon, who borrows her light from the Sun and her life from the Earth, so Buddhi, receiving its light of Wisdom from Atma, gets its rational qualities from Manas. Per se, as something homogeneous, it is devoid of attributes.
Q. I labored under the impression that the "Animal Soul" alone was irrational, not the Divine.
A. You have to learn the difference between that which is negatively, or passively "irrational," because undifferentiated, and that which is irrational because too active and positive. Man is a correlation of spiritual powers, as well as a correlation of chemical and physical forces, brought into function by what we call principles.
I have read a good deal upon the subject, and it seems to me that the notions of the older philosophers differed a great deal from those of the medieval Cabalists, though they do agree in some particulars.
A. The most substantial difference between them and us is this. While we believe with the Neo-Platonists and the Eastern teachings that the spirit ( Atma) never descends hypostatically into the living man, but only showers more or less its radiance on the inner man (the psychic and spiritual compound of the astral principles), the Cabalists maintain that the human Spirit, detaching itself from the ocean of light and Universal Spirit, enters man's Soul, where it remains throughout life imprisoned in the astral capsule. All Christian Cabalists still maintain the same, as they are unable to break quite loose from their anthropomorphic and Biblical doctrines.
Q. And what do you say?
A. We say that we only allow the presence of the radiation of Spirit (or Atma) in the astral capsule, and so far only as that spiritual radiancy is concerned. We say that man and Soul have to conquer their immortality by ascending towards the unity with which, if successful, they will be finally linked and into which they are finally, so to speak, absorbed. The individualization of man after death depends on the spirit, not on his soul and body. Although the word personality, in the sense in which it is usually understood, is an absurdity if applied literally to our immortal essence, still the latter is, as our individual Ego, a distinct entity, immortal and eternal, per se. It is only in the case of black magicians or of criminals beyond redemption, criminals who have been such during a long series of lives-that the shining thread, which links the spirit to the personal soul from the moment of the birth of the child, is violently snapped, and the disembodied entity becomes divorced from the personal soul, the latter being annihilated without leaving the smallest impression of itself on the former. If that union between the lower, or personal Manas, and the individual reincarnating Ego, has not been effected during life, then the former is left to share the fate of the lower animals, to gradually dissolve into ether, and have its personality annihilated. But even then the Ego remains a distinct being. It (the spiritual Ego) only loses one Devachanic state-after that special, and in that case indeed useless, life-as that idealized Personality, and is reincarnated, after enjoying for a short time its freedom as a planetary spirit almost immediately.
Q. It is stated in Isis Unveiled that such planetary Spirits or Angels, "the gods of the Pagans or the Archangels of the Christians," will never be men on our planet.
A. Quite right. Not "such," but some classes of higher Planetary Spirits. They will never be men on this planet, because they are liberated Spirits from a previous, earlier world, and as such they cannot rebecome men on this one. Yet all these will live again in the next and far higher Maha-Manvantara, after this "great Age," and "Brahma pralaya," (a little period of 16 figures or so) is over. For you must have heard, of course, that Eastern philosophy teaches us that mankind consists of such "Spirits" imprisoned in human bodies? The difference between animals and men is this: the former are ensouled by the principles potentially, the latter actually. Do you understand now the difference?
Q. Yes; but this specialization has been in all ages the stumbling-block of metaphysicians.
A. It was. The whole esotericism of the Buddhist philosophy is based on this mysterious teaching, understood by so few persons, and so totally misrepresented by many of the most learned modern scholars. Even metaphysicians are too inclined to confound the effect with the cause. An Ego who has won his immortal life as spirit will remain the same inner self throughout all his rebirths on earth; but this does not imply necessarily that he must either remain the Mr. Smith or Mr. Brown he was on earth, or lose his individuality. Therefore, the astral soul and the terrestrial body of man may, in the dark hereafter, be absorbed into the cosmical ocean of sublimated elements, and cease to feel his last personal Ego (if it did not deserve to soar higher), and the divine Ego still remain the same unchanged entity, though this terrestrial experience of his emanation may be totally obliterated at the instant of separation from the unworthy vehicle.
Q. If the "Spirit," or the divine portion of the soul, is preexistent as a distinct being from all eternity, as Origen, Synesius, and other semi-Christians and semi-Platonic philosophers taught, and if it is the same, and nothing more than the metaphysically-objective soul, how can it be otherwise than eternal? And what matters it in such a case, whether man leads a pure life or an animal, if, do what he may, he can never lose his individuality?
A. This doctrine, as you have stated it, is just as pernicious in its consequences as that of vicarious atonement. Had the latter dogma, in company with the false idea that we are all immortal, been demonstrated to the world in its true light, humanity would have been bettered by its propagation.
Let me repeat to you again. Pythagoras, Plato, Timaeus of Locris, and the old Alexandrian School, derived the Soul of man (or his higher principles and attributes) from the Universal World Soul, the latter being, according to their teachings, Aether (Pater-Zeus). Therefore, neither of these principles can be unalloyed essence of the Pythagorean Monas, or our Atma-Buddhi, because the Anima Mundi is but the effect, the subjective emanation or rather radiation of the former. Both the human Spirit (or the individuality), the reincarnating Spiritual Ego, and Buddhi, the Spiritual soul, are preexistent. But, while the former exists as a distinct entity, an individualization, the soul exists as preexisting breath, an unscient [lacking in knowledge] portion of an intelligent whole. Both were originally formed from the Eternal Ocean of light; but as the Fire-Philosophers, the medieval Theosophists, expressed it, there is a visible as well as invisible spirit in fire. They made a difference between the anima bruta and the anima divina. Empedocles firmly believed all men and animals to possess two souls; and in Aristotle we find that he calls one the reasoning soul,nous , and the other, the animal soul, psuche . According to these philosophers, the reasoning soul comes from within the universal soul, and the other from without.
Q. Would you call the Soul, i.e., the human thinking Soul, or what you call the Ego-matter?
A. Not matter, but substance assuredly; nor would the word matter, if prefixed with the adjective, primordial, be a word to avoid. That matter, we say, is coeternal with Spirit, and is not our visible, tangible, and divisible matter, but its extreme sublimation. Pure Spirit is but one remove from the no-Spirit, or the absolute all. Unless you admit that man was evolved out of this primordial Spirit-matter, and represents a regular progressive scale of principles from meta-Spirit down to the grossest matter, how can we ever come to regard the inner man as immortal, and at the same time as a spiritual Entity and a mortal man?
Q. Then why should you not believe in God as such an Entity?
A. Because that which is infinite and unconditioned can have no form, and cannot be a being, not in any Eastern philosophy worthy of the name, at any rate. An "entity" is immortal, but is so only in its ultimate essence, not in its individual form. When at the last point of its cycle, it is absorbed into its primordial nature; and it becomes spirit, when it loses its name of Entity.
Its immortality as a form is limited only to its life cycle or the Maha -Manvantara; after which it is one and identical with the Universal Spirit, and no longer a separate Entity. As to the personal Soul-by which we mean the spark of consciousness that preserves in the Spiritual Ego the idea of the personal "I" of the last incarnation-this lasts, as a separate distinct recollection, only throughout the Devachanic period; after which time it is added to the series of other innumerable incarnations of the Ego, like the remembrance in our memory of one of a series of days, at the end of a year. Will you bind the infinitude you claim for your God to finite conditions? That alone which is indissolubly cemented by Atma (i.e., Buddhi-Manas) is immortal. The Soul of man (i.e., of the personality) per se is neither immortal, eternal nor divine. Says The Zohar:
The soul, when sent to this earth, puts on an earthly garment, to preserve herself here, so she receives above a shining garment, in order to be able to look without injury into the mirror, whose light proceeds from the Lord of Light.
Moreover, The Zohar teaches that the soul cannot reach the abode of bliss, unless she has received the "holy kiss," or the reunion of the soul with the substance from which she emanated-spirit. All souls are dual, and, while the latter is a feminine principle, the spirit is masculine. While imprisoned in body, man is a trinity, unless his pollution is such as to have caused his divorce from the spirit. "Woe to the soul which prefers to her divine husband (spirit) the earthly wedlock with her terrestrial body," records a text of The Book of the Keys, a Hermetic work. Woe indeed, for nothing will remain of that personality to be recorded on the imperishable tablets of the Ego's memory.
Q. How can that which, if not breathed by God into man, yet is on your own confession of an identical substance with the divine, fail to be immortal?
A. Every atom and speck of matter, not of substance only, is imperishable
in its essence, but not in its individual consciousness. Immortality
is but one's unbroken consciousness; and the personal consciousness
can hardly last longer than the personality itself, can it? And
such consciousness, as I already told you, survives only throughout
Devachan, after which it is reabsorbed, first, in the individual,
and then in the universal consciousness. Better enquire of your
theologians how it is that they have so sorely jumbled up the Jewish
Scriptures. Read the Bible, if you would have a good proof that
the writers of the Pentateuch, and Genesis especially, never regarded
nephesh, that which God breathes into Adam, as the immortal soul.
Here are some instances: "And God created . every nephesh (life)
that moveth," meaning animals; and it is said: "And man
became a nephesh" (living soul), which shows that the word
nephesh was indifferently applied to immortal man and to mortal
beast. "And surely your blood of your nepheshim (lives) will
I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at
the hand of man," "Escape for nephesh" (escape for
thy life, it is translated). "Let us not kill him," reads
the English version. "Let us not kill his nephesh," is
the Hebrew text. "Nephesh for nephesh," says Leviticus.
"He that killeth any man shall surely be put to death,"
literally "He that smiteth the nephesh of a man;" and
from verse 18 and following it reads: "And he that killeth
a beast (nephesh) shall make it good . Beast for beast," whereas
the original text has it "nephesh for nephesh." How could
man kill that which is immortal? And this explains also why the
Sadducees denied the immortality of the soul, as it also affords
another proof that very probably the Mosaic Jews-the uninitiated
at any rate-never believed in the soul's survival at all.
On Eternal Reward and Punishment, and on Nirvana
Q. It is hardly necessary, I suppose, to ask you whether you believe in the Christian dogmas of Paradise and Hell, or in future rewards and punishments as taught by the Orthodox churches?
A. As described in your catechisms, we reject them absolutely; least of all would we accept their eternity. But we believe firmly in what we call the Law of Retribution, and in the absolute justice and wisdom guiding this Law, or Karma. Hence we positively refuse to accept the cruel and unphilosophical belief in eternal reward or eternal punishment. We say with Horace:
Let rules be fixed that may our rage contain,
And punish faults with a proportioned pain;
But do not flay him who deserves alone
A whipping for the fault that he has done.
This is a rule for all men, and a just one. Have we to believe that God, of whom you make the embodiment of wisdom, love and mercy, is less entitled to these attributes than mortal man?
Q. Have you any other reasons for rejecting this dogma?
A. Our chief reason for it lies in the fact of reincarnation. As already stated, we reject the idea of a new soul created for every newly-born babe. We believe that every human being is the bearer, or Vehicle, of an Ego coeval with every other Ego; because all Egos are of the same essence and belong to the primeval emanation from one universal infinite Ego. Plato calls the latter the logos (or the second manifested God); and we, the manifested divine principle, which is one with the universal mind or soul, not the anthropomorphic, extra-cosmic and personal God in which so many Theists believe. Pray do not confuse.
Q. But where is the difficulty, once you accept a manifested principle, in believing that the soul of every new mortal is created by that Principle, as all the Souls before it have been so created?
A. Because that which is impersonal can hardly create, plan and think, at its own sweet will and pleasure. Being a universal Law, immutable in its periodical manifestations, those of radiating and manifesting its own essence at the beginning of every new cycle of life, it is not supposed to create men, only to repent a few years later of having created them. If we have to believe in a divine principle at all, it must be in one which is as absolute harmony, logic, and justice, as it is absolute love, wisdom, and impartiality; and a God who would create every soul for the space of one brief span of life, regardless of the fact whether it has to animate the body of a wealthy, happy man, or that of a poor suffering wretch, hapless from birth to death though he has done nothing to deserve his cruel fate-would be rather a senseless fiend than a God. Why, even the Jewish philosophers, believers in the Mosaic Bible (esoterically, of course), have never entertained such an idea; and, moreover, they believed in reincarnation, as we do.
Q. Can you give me some instances as a proof of this?
A. Most decidedly I can. Philo Judaeus says:
The air is full of them (of souls); those which are nearest the earth, descending to be tied to mortal bodies, palindromousi authis , return to other bodies, being desirous to live in them.
In The Zohar, the soul is made to plead her freedom before God:
Lord of the Universe! I am happy in this world, and do not wish to go into another world, where I shall be a handmaid, and be exposed to all kinds of pollution.
The doctrine of fatal necessity, the everlasting immutable law, is asserted in the answer of the Deity: "Against thy will thou becomest an embryo, and against thy will thou art born." Light would be incomprehensible without darkness to make it manifest by contrast; good would be no longer good without evil to show the priceless nature of the boon; and so personal virtue could claim no merit, unless it had passed through the furnace of temptation. Nothing is eternal and unchangeable, save the concealed Deity. Nothing that is finite-whether because it had a beginning, or must have an end-can remain stationary. It must either progress or recede; and a soul which thirsts after a reunion with its spirit, which alone confers upon it immortality, must purify itself through cyclic transmigrations onward toward the only land of bliss and eternal rest, called in The Zohar, "The Palace of Love," ; in the Hindu religion, "Moksha"; among the Gnostics, "The Pleroma of Eternal Light"; and by the Buddhists, "Nirvana." And all these states are temporary, not eternal.
Q. Yet there is no reincarnation spoken of in all this.
A. A soul which pleads to be allowed to remain where she is, must be preexistent, and not have been created for the occasion. In The Zohar, however, there is a still better proof. Speaking of the reincarnating Egos (the rational souls), those whose last personality has to fade out entirely, it is said:
All souls which have alienated themselves in heaven from the Holy One-blessed be His Name-have thrown themselves into an abyss at their very existence, and have anticipated the time when they are to descend once more on earth.
"The Holy One" means here, esoterically, the Atma, or Atma-Buddhi.
Q. Moreover, it is very strange to find Nirvana spoken of as something synonymous with the Kingdom of Heaven, or the Paradise, since according to every Orientalist of note Nirvana is a synonym of annihilation!
A. Taken literally, with regard to the personality and differentiated matter, not otherwise. These ideas on reincarnation and the trinity of man were held by many of the early Christian Fathers. It is the jumble made by the translators of the New Testament and ancient philosophical treatises between soul and spirit, that has occasioned the many misunderstandings. It is also one of the many reasons why Buddha, Plotinus, and so many other Initiates are now accused of having longed for the total extinction of their souls-"absorption unto the Deity," or "reunion with the universal soul," meaning, according to modern ideas, annihilation. The personal soul must, of course, be disintegrated into its particles, before it is able to link its purer essence forever with the immortal spirit. But the translators of both the Acts and the Epistles, who laid the foundation of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the modern commentators on the Buddhist Sutra of the Foundation of the Kingdom of Righteousness, have muddled the sense of the great apostle of Christianity as of the great reformer of India. The former have smothered the word psuchikos , so that no reader imagines it to have any relation with soul; and with this confusion of soul and spirit together, Bible readers get only a perverted sense of anything on the subject. On the other hand, the interpreters of Buddha have failed to understand the meaning and object of the Buddhist four degrees of Dhyana. Ask the Pythagoreans, "Can that spirit, which gives life and motion and partakes of the nature of light, be reduced to nonentity?" "Can even that sensitive spirit in brutes which exercises memory, one of the rational faculties, die and become nothing?" observe the Occultists. In Buddhist philosophy annihilation means only a dispersion of matter, in whatever form or semblance of form it may be, for everything that has form is temporary, and is, therefore, really an illusion. For in eternity the longest periods of time are as a wink of the eye. So with form. Before we have time to realize that we have seen it, it is gone like an instantaneous flash of lightning, and passed forever. When the Spiritual entity breaks loose forever from every particle of matter, substance, or form, and rebecomes a Spiritual breath: then only does it enter upon the eternal and unchangeable Nirvana, lasting as long as the cycle of life has lasted-an eternity, truly. And then that Breath, existing in Spirit, is nothing because it is all; as a form, a semblance, a shape, it is completely annihilated; as absolute Spirit it still is, for it has become Be-ness itself. The very word used, "absorbed in the universal essence," when spoken of the "Soul" as Spirit, means "union with." It can never mean annihilation, as that would mean eternal separation.
Q. Do you not lay yourself open to the accusation of preaching annihilation by the language you yourself use? You have just spoken of the Soul of man returning to its primordial elements.
A. But you forget that I have given you the differences between the various meanings of the word Soul, and shown the loose way in which the term Spirit has been hitherto translated. We speak of an animal, a human, and a spiritual, Soul, and distinguish between them. Plato, for instance, calls "rational Soul" that which we call Buddhi, adding to it the adjective of "spiritual," however; but that which we call the reincarnating Ego, Manas, he calls Spirit, Nous, etc., whereas we apply the term Spirit, when standing alone and without any qualification, to Atma alone. Pythagoras repeats our archaic doctrine when stating that the Ego (Nous) is eternal with Deity; that the soul only passed through various stages to arrive at divine excellence; while thumos returned to the earth, and even the phren, the lower Manas, was eliminated. Again, Plato defines Soul (Buddhi) as "the motion that is able to move itself." "Soul," he adds (Laws X.), "is the most ancient of all things, and the commencement of motion," thus calling Atma-Buddhi "Soul," and Manas "Spirit," which we do not.
Soul was generated prior to body, and body is posterior and secondary, as being according to nature, ruled over by the ruling soul. The soul which administers all things that are moved in every way, administers likewise the heavens.
Soul then leads everything in heaven, and on earth, and in the sea, by its movements-the names of which are, to will, to consider to take care of, to consult. to form opinions true and false, to be in a state of joy, sorrow, confidence, fear, hate, love, together with all such primary movements as are allied to these . Being a goddess herself, she ever takes as an ally Nous, a god, and disciplines all things correctly and happily; but when with Annoia-not nous-it works out everything the contrary.
In this language, as in the Buddhist texts, the negative is treated as essential existence. Annihilation comes under a similar exegesis. The positive state is essential being, but no manifestation as such. When the spirit, in Buddhist parlance, enters Nirvana, it loses objective existence, but retains subjective being. To objective minds this is becoming absolute "nothing"; to subjective, No-thing, nothing to be displayed to sense. Thus, their Nirvana means the certitude of individual immortality in Spirit, not in Soul, which, though "the most ancient of all things," is still-along with all the other Gods-a finite emanation, in forms and individuality, if not in substance.
Q. I do not quite seize the idea yet, and would be thankful to have you explain this to me by some illustrations.
A. No doubt it is very difficult to understand, especially to one
brought up in the regular orthodox ideas of the Christian Church.
Moreover, I must tell you one. thing; and this is that unless you
have studied thoroughly well the separate functions assigned to
all the human principles and the state of all these after death,
you will hardly realize our Eastern philosophy.
On the Various Principles in Man
Q. I have heard a good deal about this constitution of the "inner man" as you call it, but could never make "head or tail on't" as Gabalis expresses it.
A. Of course, it is most difficult, and, as you say, "puzzling" to understand correctly and distinguish between the various aspects, called by us the principles of the real Ego. It is the more so as there exists a notable difference in the numbering of those principles by various Eastern schools, though at the bottom there is the same identical substratum of teaching.
Q. Do you mean the Vedantins, as an instance? Don't they divide your seven principles into five only?
They do; but though I would not presume to dispute the point with
a learned Vedantin, I may yet state as my private opinion that they
have an obvious reason for it. With them it is only that compound
spiritual aggregate which consists of various mental aspects that
is called Man at all, the physical body being in their view something
beneath contempt, and merely an illusion. Nor is the Vedanta the
only philosophy to reckon in this manner. Lao-tzu, in his Tao Te
Ching, mentions only five principles, because he, like the Vedantins,
omits to include two principles, namely, the spirit ( Atma) and
the physical body, the latter of which, moreover, he calls "the
cadaver." Then there is the Taraka Raja-Yoga School. Its teaching
recognizes only three principles in fact; but then, in reality,
their Sthulopadhi, or the physical body, in its waking conscious
state, their Sukshmopadhi, the same body in Svapna, or the dreaming
state, and their Karanopadhi or "causal body," or that
which passes from one incarnation to another, are all dual in their
aspects, and thus make six. Add to this Atma, the impersonal divine
principle or the immortal element in Man, undistinguished from the
Universal Spirit, and you have the same seven again. They are welcome
to hold to their division; we hold to ours.
[See 'Secret Doctrine', part 1, p. 182 for a clearer exposition]
Q. Then it seems almost the same as the division made by the mystic Christians: body, soul, and spirit?
A. Just the same. We could easily make of the body the vehicle of the "vital Double"; of the latter the vehicle of Life or Prana; of Kamarupa, or (animal) soul, the vehicle of the higher and the lower mind, and make of this six principles, crowning the whole with the one immortal spirit. In Occultism every qualitative change in the state of our consciousness gives to man a new aspect, and if it prevails and becomes part of the living and acting Ego, it must be (and is) given a special name, to distinguish the man in that particular state from the man he is when he places himself in another state.
Q. It is just that which it is so difficult to understand.
A. It seems to me very easy, on the contrary, once that you have seized the main idea, i.e., that man acts on this or another plane of consciousness, in strict accordance with his mental and spiritual condition. But such is the materialism of the age that the more we explain the less people seem capable of understanding what we say. Divide the terrestrial being called man into three chief aspects, if you like, and unless you make of him a pure animal you cannot do less. Take his objective body; the thinking principle in him-which is only a little higher than the instinctual element in the animal-or the vital conscious soul; and that which places him so immeasurably beyond and higher than the animal-i.e., his reasoning soul or "spirit." Well, if we take these three groups or representative entities, and subdivide them, according to the occult teaching, what do we get?
First of all, Spirit (in the sense of the Absolute, and therefore, indivisible All), or Atma. As this can neither be located nor limited in philosophy, being simply that which is in Eternity, and which cannot be absent from even the tiniest geometrical or mathematical point of the universe of matter or substance, it ought not to be called, in truth, a "human" principle at all. Rather, and at best, it is in Metaphysics, that point in space which the human Monad and its vehicle man occupy for the period of every life. Now that point is as imaginary as man himself, and in reality is an illusion, a Maya ; but then for ourselves, as for other personal Egos, we are a reality during that fit of illusion called life, and we have to take ourselves into account, in our own fancy at any rate, if no one else does. To make it more conceivable to the human intellect, when first attempting the study of Occultism, and to solve the a-b-c of the mystery of man, Occultism calls this seventh principle the synthesis of the sixth, and gives it for vehicle the Spiritual Soul, Buddhi. Now the latter conceals a mystery, which is never given to any one, with the exception of irrevocably pledged Chelas, or those, at any rate, who can be safely trusted. Of course, there would be less confusion, could it only be told; but, as this is directly concerned with the power of projecting one's double consciously and at will, and as this gift, like the "ring of Gyges," would prove very fatal to man at large and to the possessor of that faculty in particular, it is carefully guarded. But let us proceed with the principles. This divine soul, or Buddhi, then, is the vehicle of the Spirit. In conjunction, these two are one, impersonal and without any attributes (on this plane, of course), and make two spiritual principles. If we pass onto the Human Soul, Manas or mens, everyone will agree that the intelligence of man is dual to say the least: e.g., the high-minded man can hardly become low-minded; the very intellectual and spiritual-minded man is separated by an abyss from the obtuse, dull, and material, if not animal-minded man.
Q. But why should not man be represented by two principles or two aspects, rather?
A. Every man has these two principles in him, one more active than the other, and in rare cases, one of these is entirely stunted in its growth, so to say, or paralysed by the strength and predominance of the other aspect, in whatever direction. These, then, are what we call the two principles or aspects of Manas, the higher and the lower; the former, the higher Manas, or the thinking, conscious Ego gravitating toward the spiritual Soul (Buddhi); and the latter, or its instinctual principle, attracted to Kama, the seat of animal desires and passions in man. Thus, we have four principles justified; the last three being (1) the "Double," which we have agreed to call Protean, or Plastic Soul; the vehicle of (2) the life principle; and (3) the physical body. Of course no physiologist or biologist will accept these principles, nor can he make head or tail of them. And this is why, perhaps, none of them understand to this day either the functions of the spleen, the physical vehicle of the Protean Double, or those of a certain organ on the right side of man, the seat of the above-mentioned desires, nor yet does he know anything of the pineal gland, which he describes as a horny gland with a little sand in it, which gland is in truth the very seat of the highest and divinest consciousness in man, his omniscient, spiritual and all-embracing mind. And this shows to you still more plainly that we have neither invented these seven principles, nor are they new in the world of philosophy, as we can easily prove.
Q. But what is it that reincarnates, in your belief?
A. The Spiritual thinking Ego, the permanent principle in man, or that which is the seat of Manas. It is not Atma, or even Atma-Buddhi, regarded as the dual Monad, which is the individual, or divine man, but Manas; for Atma is the Universal All, and becomes the Higher-Self of man only in conjunction with Buddhi, its vehicle, which links it to the individuality (or divine man). For it is the Buddhi-Manas which is called the Causal body, (the United fifth and sixth Principles) and which is Consciousness, that connects it with every personality it inhabits on earth. Therefore, Soul being a generic term, there are in men three aspects of Soul-the terrestrial, or animal; the Human Soul; and the Spiritual Soul; these, strictly speaking, are one Soul in its three aspects. Now of the first aspect, nothing remains after death; of the second (nous or Manas) only its divine essence if left unsoiled survives, while the third in addition to being immortal becomes consciously divine, by the assimilation of the higher Manas. But to make it clear, we have to say a few words first of all about Reincarnation.
Q. You will do well, as it is against this doctrine that your enemies fight the most ferociously.
A. You mean the Spiritualists? I know; and many are the absurd
objections laboriously spun by them over the pages of Light. So
obtuse and malicious are some of them, that they will stop at nothing.
One of them found recently a contradiction, which he gravely discusses
in a letter to that journal, in two statements picked out of Mr.
Sinnett's lectures. He discovers that grave contradiction in these
two sentences: "Premature returns to earth-life in the cases
when they occur may be due to Karmic complication . "; and
"there is no accident in the supreme act of divine justice
guiding evolution." So profound a thinker would surely see
a contradiction of the law of gravitation if a man stretched out
his hand to stop a falling stone from crushing the head of a child!
What is Memory According to Theosophical Teaching?
Q. The most difficult thing for you to do, will be to explain and give reasonable grounds for such a belief. No Theosophist has ever yet succeeded in bringing forward a single valid proof to shake my skepticism. First of all, you have against this theory of reincarnation, the fact that no single man has yet been found to remember that he has lived, least of all who he was, during his previous life.
A. Your argument, I see, tends to the same old objection; the loss of memory in each of us of our previous incarnation. You think it invalidates our doctrine? My answer is that it does not, and that at any rate such an objection cannot be final.
Q. I would like to hear your arguments.
A. They are short and few. Yet when you take into consideration (a) the utter inability of the best modern psychologists to explain to the world the nature of mind; and (b) their complete ignorance of its potentialities, and higher states, you have to admit that this objection is based on an a priori conclusion drawn from prima facie and circumstantial evidence more than anything else. Now what is "memory" in your conception, pray?
Q. That which is generally accepted: the faculty in our mind of remembering and of retaining the knowledge of previous thoughts, deeds, and events.
A. Please add to it that there is a great difference between the three accepted forms of memory. Besides memory in general you have Remembrance, Recollection, and Reminiscence, have you not? Have you ever thought over the difference? Memory, remember, is a generic name.
Q. Yet, all these are only synonyms.
A. Indeed, they are not-not in philosophy, at all events. Memory is simply an innate power in thinking beings, and even in animals, of reproducing past impressions by an association of ideas principally suggested by objective things or by some action on our external sensory organs. Memory is a faculty depending entirely on the more or less healthy and normal functioning of our physical brain; and remembrance and recollection are the attributes and handmaidens of that memory. But reminiscence is an entirely different thing. Reminiscence is defined by the modern psychologist as something intermediate between remembrance and recollection, or "a conscious process of recalling past occurrences, but without that full and varied reference to particular things which characterizes recollection." Locke, speaking of recollection and remembrance, says:
When an idea again recurs without the operation of the like object on the external sensory, it is remembrance; if it be sought after by the mind, and with pain and endeavor found and brought again into view, it is recollection.
But even Locke leaves reminiscence without any clear definition, because it is no faculty or attribute of our physical memory, but an intuitional perception apart from and outside our physical brain; a perception which, covering as it does (being called into action by the ever-present knowledge of our spiritual Ego) all those visions in man which are regarded as abnormal-from the pictures suggested by genius to the ravings of fever and even madness-are classed by science as having no existence outside of our fancy. Occultism and Theosophy, however, regard reminiscence in an entirely different light. For us, while memory is physical and evanescent and depends on the physiological conditions of the brain-a fundamental proposition with all teachers of mnemonics, who have the researches of modern scientific psychologists to back them-we call reminiscence the memory of the soul. And it is this memory which gives the assurance to almost every human being, whether he understands it or not, of his having lived before and having to live again. Indeed, as Wordsworth has it:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting,
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath elsewhere had its setting,
And cometh from afar.
Q. If it is on this kind of memory-poetry and abnormal fancies, on your own confession-that you base your doctrine, then you will convince very few, I am afraid.
A. I did not "confess" it was a fancy. I simply said that physiologists and scientists in general regard such reminiscences as hallucinations and fancy, to which learned conclusion they are welcome. We do not deny that such visions of the past and glimpses far back into the corridors of time, are not abnormal, as contrasted with our normal daily life experience and physical memory. But we do maintain with Professor W. Knight, that: The absence of memory of any action done in a previous state cannot be a conclusive argument against our having lived through it.
And every fair-minded opponent must agree with what is said in Butler's Lectures on Platonic Philosophy:
That the feeling of extravagance with which it (preexistence) affects us has its secret source in materialistic or semi-materialistic prejudices.
Besides which we maintain that memory, as Olympiodorus called it, is simply fantasy, and the most unreliable thing in us.
Say Olympiodorus, in Platonis Phaed.:
The fantasy is an impediment to our intellectual conceptions; and hence, when we are agitated by the inspiring influence of the Divinity, if the fantasy intervenes, the enthusiastic energy ceases: for enthusiasm and the ecstasy are contrary to each other. Should it be asked whether the soul is able to energize without the fantasy, we reply, that its perception of universals proves that it is able. It has perceptions, therefore, independent of the fantasy; at the same time, however, the fantasy attends in its energies, just as a storm pursues him who sails on the sea.
Ammonius Saccas asserted that the only faculty in man directly opposed to prognostication, or looking into futurity, is memory. Furthermore, remember that memory is one thing and mind or thought is another; one is a recording machine, a register which very easily gets out of order; the other (thoughts) are eternal and imperishable. Would you refuse to believe in the existence of certain things or men only because your physical eyes have not seen them? Would not the collective testimony of past generations who have seen him be a sufficient guarantee that Julius Caesar once lived? Why should not the same testimony of the psychic senses of the masses be taken into consideration ?
Q. But don't you think that these are too fine distinctions to be accepted by the majority of mortals?
A. Say rather by the majority of materialists. And to them we say,
behold: even in the short span of ordinary existence, memory is
too weak to register all the events of a lifetime. How frequently
do even most important events lie dormant in our memory until awakened
by some association of ideas, or aroused to function and activity
by some other link. This is especially the case with people of advanced
age, who are always found suffering from feebleness of recollection.
When, therefore, we remember that which we know about the physical
and the spiritual principles in man, it is not the fact that our
memory has failed to record our precedent life and lives that ought
to surprise us, but the contrary, were it to happen.
Why Do We Not Remember Our Past Lives?
Q. You have given me a bird's eye view of the seven principles; now how do they account for our complete loss of any recollection of having lived before?
A. Very easily. Since those principles which we call physical, and none of which is denied by science, though it calls them by other names-namely, the body, life, passional and animal instincts, and the astral eidolon of every man (whether perceived in thought or our mind's eye, or objectively and separate from the physical body), which principles we call Sthula-sharira, Prana, Kamarupa, and Linga-sharira (see above).
[Those principles] are disintegrated after death with their constituent elements, memory along with its brain, this vanished memory of a vanished personality, can neither remember nor record anything in the subsequent reincarnation of the Ego. Reincarnation means that this Ego will be furnished with a new body, a new brain, and a new memory. Therefore it would be as absurd to expect this memory to remember that which it has never recorded as it would be idle to examine under a microscope a shirt never worn by a murderer, and seek on it for the stains of blood which are to be found only on the clothes he wore. It is not the clean shirt that we have to question, but the clothes worn during the perpetration of the crime; and if these are burnt and destroyed, how can you get at them?
Q. Aye! How can you get at the certainty that the crime was ever committed at all, or that the "man in the clean shirt" ever lived before?
A. Not by physical processes, most assuredly; nor by relying on the testimony of that which exists no longer. But there is such a thing as circumstantial evidence, since our wise laws accept it, more, perhaps, even than they should. To get convinced of the fact of reincarnation and past lives, one must put oneself in rapport with one's real permanent Ego, not one's evanescent memory.
Q. But how can people believe in that which they do not know, nor have ever seen, far less put themselves in rapport with it?
A. If people, and the most learned, will believe in the Gravity, Ether, Force, and what not of Science, abstractions "and working hypotheses," which they have neither seen, touched, smelt, heard, nor tasted-why should not other people believe, on the same principle, in one's permanent Ego, a far more logical and important "working hypothesis" than any other?
Q. What is, finally, this mysterious eternal principle? Can you explain its nature so as to make it comprehensible to all?
A. The Ego which reincarnates, the individual and immortal-not personal-"I"; the vehicle, in short, of the Atma-Buddhic Monad, that which is rewarded in Devachan and punished on earth, and that, finally, to which the reflection only of the Skandhas, or attributes, of every incarnation attaches itself.
There are five Skandhas or attributes in the Buddhist teachings: Rupa (form or body), material qualities; Vedana , sensation; Sanna , abstract ideas; Samkhara, tendencies of mind; Vinnana, mental powers. Of these we are formed, by them we are conscious of existence; and through them communicate with the world about us.
Q. What do you mean by Skandhas?
A. Just what I said: "attributes," among which is memory, all of which perish like a flower, leaving behind them only a feeble perfume. Here is another paragraph from H.S. Olcott's Buddhist Catechism which bears directly upon the subject. It deals with the question as follows:
The aged man remembers the incidents of his youth, despite his being physically and mentally changed. Why, then, is not the recollection of past lives brought over by us from our last birth into the present birth? Because memory is included within the Skandhas, and the Skandhas having changed with the new existence, a memory, the record of that particular existence, develops. Yet the record or reflection of all the past lives must survive, for when Prince Siddhartha became Buddha, the full sequence of His previous births were seen by Him . and any one who attains to the state of J˝ana can thus retrospectively trace the line of his lives.
This proves to you that while the undying qualities of the personality-such as love, goodness, charity, etc.-attach themselves to the immortal Ego, photographing on it, so to speak, a permanent image of the divine aspect of the man who was, his material Skandhas (those which generate the most marked Karmic effects) are as evanescent as a flash of lightning, and cannot impress the new brain of the new personality; yet their failing to do so impairs in no way the identity of the reincarnating Ego.
Q. Do you mean to infer that which survives is only the Soul-memory, as you call it, that Soul or Ego being one and the same, while nothing of the personality remains?
A. Not quite; something of each personality, unless the latter was an absolute materialist with not even a chink in his nature for a spiritual ray to pass through, must survive, as it leaves its eternal impress on the incarnating permanent Self or Spiritual Ego. (Or the Spiritual, in contradistinction to the personal Self. The student must not confuse this Spiritual Ego with the "higher self" which is Atma, the God within us, and inseparable from the Universal Spirit.)
The personality with its Skandhas is ever changing with every new birth. It is, as said before, only the part played by the actor (the true Ego) for one night. This is why we preserve no memory on the physical plane of our past lives, though the real "Ego" has lived them over and knows them all.
Q. Then how does it happen that the real or Spiritual man does not impress his new personal "I" with this knowledge?
A. How is it that the servant-girls in a poor farmhouse could speak Hebrew and play the violin in their trance or somnambular state, and knew neither when in their normal condition? Because, as every genuine psychologist of the old, not your modern, school, will tell you, the Spiritual Ego can act only when the personal Ego is paralyzed. The Spiritual "I" in man is omniscient and has every knowledge innate in it; while the personal self is the creature of its environment and the slave of the physical memory. Could the former manifest itself uninterruptedly, and without impediment, there would be no longer men on earth, but we should all be gods.
Q. Still there ought to be exceptions, and some ought to remember.
A. And so there are. But who believes in their report? Such sensitives are generally regarded as hallucinated hysteriacs, as crack-brained enthusiasts, or humbugs, by modern materialism. Let them read, however, works on this subject, preeminently Reincarnation, a Study of Forgotten Truth by E.D. Walker, F.T.S., and see in it the mass of proofs which the able author brings to bear on this vexed question. One speaks to people of soul, and some ask "What is Soul?" "Have you ever proved its existence?" Of course it is useless to argue with those who are materialists. But even to them I would put the question:
Can you remember what you were or did when a baby? Have you preserved the smallest recollection of your life, thoughts, or deeds, or that you lived at all during the first eighteen months or two years of your existence? Then why not deny that you have ever lived as a babe, on the same principle?
When to all this we add that the reincarnating Ego, or individuality, retains during the Devachanic period merely the essence of the experience of its past earth-life or personality, the whole physical experience involving into a state of in potentia, or being, so to speak, translated into spiritual formulae; when we remember further that the term between two rebirths is said to extend from ten to fifteen centuries, during which time the physical consciousness is totally and absolutely inactive, having no organs to act through, and therefore no existence, the reason for the absence of all remembrance in the purely physical memory is apparent.
Q. You just said that the Spiritual Ego was omniscient. Where, then, is that vaunted omniscience during his Devachanic life, as you call it?
A. During that time it is latent and potential, because, first
of all, the Spiritual Ego (the compound of Buddhi-Manas) is not
the Higher Self, which being one with the Universal Soul or Mind
is alone omniscient; and, secondly, because Devachan is the idealized
continuation of the terrestrial life just left behind, a period
of retributive adjustment, and a reward for unmerited wrongs and
sufferings undergone in that special life. It is omniscient only
potentially in Devachan, and de facto exclusively in Nirvana, when
the Ego is merged in the Universal Mind-Soul. Yet it rebecomes quasi
omniscient during those hours on earth when certain abnormal conditions
and physiological changes in the body make the Ego free from the
trammels of matter. Thus the examples cited above of somnambulists,
a poor servant speaking Hebrew, and another playing the violin,
give you an illustration of the case in point. This does not mean
that the explanations of these two facts offered us by medical science
have no truth in them, for one girl had, years before, heard her
master, a clergyman, read Hebrew works aloud, and the other had
heard an artist playing a violin at their farm. But neither could
have done so as perfectly as they did had they not been ensouled
by that which, owing to the sameness of its nature with the Universal
Mind, is omniscient. Here the higher principle acted on the Skandhas
and moved them; in the other, the personality being paralyzed, the
individuality manifested itself. Pray do not confuse the two.
On Individuality and Personality
Q. But what is the difference between the two?
A. Even Col. Olcott, forced to it by the logic of Esoteric philosophy, found himself obliged to correct the mistakes of previous Orientalists who made no such distinction, and gives the reader his reasons for it. Thus he says:
The successive appearances upon the earth, or "descents into generation," of the tanhaically coherent parts (Skandhas) of a certain being, are a succession of personalities. In each birth the personality differs from that of a previous or next succeeding birth. Karma, the deus ex machina, masks (or shall we say reflects?) itself now in the personality of a sage, again as an artisan, and so on throughout the string of births. But though personalities ever shift, the one line of life along which they are strung, like beads, runs unbroken; it is ever that particular line, never any other. It is therefore individual, an individual vital undulation, which began in Nirvana, or the subjective side of nature, as the light or heat undulation through aether, began at its dynamic source; is careering through the objective side of nature under the impulse of Karma and the creative direction of Tanha (the unsatisfied desire for existence); and leads through many cyclic changes back to Nirvana. Mr. Rhys-Davids calls that which passes from personality to personality along the individual chain character, or doing. Since character is not a mere metaphysical abstraction, but the sum of one's mental qualities and moral propensities, would it not help to dispel what Mr. Rhys-Davids calls "the desperate expedient of a mystery" if we regarded the life-undulation as individuality, and each of its series of natal manifestations as a separate personality? The perfect individual, Buddhist speaking, is a Buddha, I should say; for Buddha is but the rare flower of humanity, without the least supernatural admixture. And as countless generations ("four asankheyyas and a hundred thousand cycles,") are required to develop a man into a Buddha, and the iron will to become one runs throughout all the successive births, what shall we call that which thus wills and perseveres? Character? One's individuality: an individuality but partly manifested in any one birth, but built up of fragments from all the births?
Q. I confess that I am still in the dark. Indeed it is just that difference, then, that you cannot impress too much on our minds.
A. I try to; but alas, it is harder with some than to make them feel a reverence for childish impossibilities, only because they are orthodox, and because orthodoxy is respectable. To understand the idea well, you have to first study the dual sets of principles: the spiritual, or those which belong to the imperishable Ego; and the material, or those principles which make up the ever-changing bodies or the series of personalities of that Ego. Let us fix permanent names to these, and say that:
1. Atma, the "Higher Self," is neither your Spirit nor mine, but like sunlight shines on all. It is the universally diffused "divine principle," and is inseparable from its one and absolute Meta-Spirit, as the sunbeam is inseparable from sunlight.
2. Buddhi (the spiritual soul) is only its vehicle. Neither each separately, nor the two collectively, are of any more use to the body of man, than sunlight and its beams are for a mass of granite buried in the earth, unless the divine Duad is assimilated by, and reflected in, some consciousness. Neither Atma nor Buddhi are ever reached by Karma, because the former is the highest aspect of Karma, its working agent of itself in one aspect, and the other is unconscious on this plane. This consciousness or mind is,
3. Manas, the derivation or product in a reflected form of Ahankara, "the conception of I," or Ego-ship. It is, therefore, when inseparably united to the first two, called the Spiritual Ego, and Taijasi (the radiant). This is the real Individuality, or the divine man. It is this Ego which-having originally incarnated in the senseless human form animated by, but unconscious (since it had no consciousness) of, the presence in itself of the dual monad-made of that human-like form a real man.
Mahat or the "Universal Mind" is the source of Manas. The latter is Mahat, i.e., mind, in man. Manas is also called Kshetraj˝a, "embodied Spirit," because it is, according to our philosophy, the Manasaputras, or "Sons of the Universal Mind," who created, or rather produced, the thinking man, "manu," by incarnating in the third Race mankind in our Round. It is Manas, therefore, which is the real incarnating and permanent Spiritual Ego, the individuality, and our various and numberless personalities only its external masks.
It is that Ego, that "Causal Body," which overshadows every personality Karma forces it to incarnate into; and this Ego which is held responsible for all the sins committed through, and in, every new body or personality-the evanescent masks which hide the true Individual through the long series of rebirths.
Q. But is this just? Why should this Ego receive punishment as the result of deeds which it has forgotten?
A. It has not forgotten them; it knows and remembers its misdeeds as well as you remember what you have done yesterday. Is it because the memory of that bundle of physical compounds called "body" does not recollect what its predecessor (the personality that was) did, that you imagine that the real Ego has forgotten them? As well say it is unjust that the new boots on the feet of a boy, who is flogged for stealing apples, should be punished for that which they know nothing of.
Q. But are there no modes of communication between the Spiritual and human consciousness or memory?
A. Of course there are; but they have never been recognized by your scientific modern psychologists. To what do you attribute intuition, the "voice of the conscience," premonitions, vague undefined reminiscences, etc., etc., if not to such communications? Would that the majority of educated men, at least, had the fine spiritual perceptions of Coleridge, who shows how intuitional he is in some of his comments. Hear what he says with respect to the probability that "all thoughts are in themselves imperishable."
If the intelligent faculty (sudden 'revivals' of memory) should be rendered more comprehensive, it would require only a different and appropriate organization, the body celestial instead of the body terrestrial, to bring before every human soul the collective experience of its whole past existence (existences, rather).
And this body celestial is our Manasic Ego.
On the Reward and Punishment of the Ego
Q. I have heard you say that the Ego, whatever the life of the person he incarnated in may have been on Earth, is never visited with postmortem punishment.
A. Never, save in very exceptional and rare cases of which we will not speak here, as the nature of the "punishment" in no way approaches any of your theological conceptions of damnation.
Q. But if it is punished in this life for the misdeeds committed in a previous one, then it is this Ego that ought to be rewarded also, whether here, or when disincarnated.
A. And so it is. If we do not admit of any punishment outside of this earth, it is because the only state the Spiritual Self knows of, hereafter, is that of unalloyed bliss.
Q. What do you mean?
A. Simply this: crimes and sins committed on a plane of objectivity and in a world of matter, cannot receive punishment in a world of pure subjectivity. We believe in no hell or paradise as localities; in no objective hellfires and worms that never die, nor in any Jerusalem with streets paved with sapphires and diamonds. What we believe in is a postmortem state or mental condition, such as we are in during a vivid dream. We believe in an immutable law of absolute Love, Justice, and Mercy. And believing in it, we say: Whatever the sin and dire results of the original Karmic transgression of the now incarnated Egos no man (or the outer material and periodical form of the Spiritual Entity) can be held, with any degree of justice, responsible for the consequences of his birth. He does not ask to be born, nor can he choose the parents that will give him life. In every respect he is a victim to his environment, the child of circumstances over which he has no control; and if each of his transgressions were impartially investigated, there would be found nine out of every ten cases when he was the one sinned against, rather than the sinner.
It is on this transgression that the cruel and illogical dogma of the Fallen Angels has been built. It is explained in Vol. II of The Secret Doctrine. All our "Egos" are thinking and rational entities (Manasaputas) who had lived, whether under human or other forms, in the precedent life cycle (Manvantara), and whose Karma it was to incarnate in the man of this one. It was taught in the Mysteries that, having delayed to comply with this law (or having "refused to create" as Hinduism says of the Kumaras and Christian legend of the Archangel Michael), i.e., having failed to incarnate in due time, the bodies predestined for them got defiled, hence the original sin of the senseless forms and the punishment of the Egos. That which is meant by the rebellious angels being hurled down into Hell is simply explained by these pure Spirits or Egos being imprisoned in bodies of unclean matter, flesh.
Life is at best a heartless play, a stormy sea to cross, and a heavy burden often too difficult to bear. The greatest philosophers have tried in vain to fathom and find out its raison d'ŕtre, and have all failed except those who had the key to it, namely, the Eastern sages. Life is, as Shakespeare describes it:
. but a walking shadow-a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Nothing in its separate parts, yet of the greatest importance in its collectivity or series of lives. At any rate, almost every individual life is, in its full development, a sorrow. And are we to believe that poor, helpless man, after being tossed about like a piece of rotten timber on the angry billows of life, is, if he proves too weak to resist them, to be punished by never-ending damnation, or even a temporary punishment? Never! Whether a great or an average sinner, good or bad, guilty or innocent, once delivered of the burden of physical life, the tired and worn-out Manu ("thinking Ego") has won the right to a period of absolute rest and bliss. The same unerringly wise and just rather than merciful Law, which inflicts upon the incarnated Ego the Karmic punishment for every sin committed during the preceding life on Earth, provided for the now disembodied Entity a long lease of mental rest, i.e., the entire oblivion of every sad event, aye, to the smallest painful thought, that took place in its last life as a personality, leaving in the soul-memory but the reminiscence of that which was bliss, or led to happiness. Plotinus, who said that our body was the true river of Lethe, for "souls plunged into it forget all," meant more than he said. For, as our terrestrial body is like Lethe, so is our celestial body in Devachan, and much more.
Q. Then am I to understand that the murderer, the transgressor of law divine and human in every shape, is allowed to go unpunished?
A. Who ever said that? Our philosophy has a doctrine of punishment as stern as that of the most rigid Calvinist, only far more philosophical and consistent with absolute justice. No deed, not even a sinful thought, will go unpunished; the latter more severely even than the former, as a thought is far more potential in creating evil results than even a deed.
Verily I say unto you, that whosoever looketh at a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
We believe in an unerring law of Retribution, called Karma, which asserts itself in a natural concatenation of causes and their unavoidable results.
Q. And how, or where, does it act?
A. Every laborer is worthy of his hire, saith Wisdom in the Gospel; every action, good or bad, is a prolific parent, saith the Wisdom of the Ages. Put the two together, and you will find the "why." After allowing the Soul, escaped from the pangs of personal life, a sufficient, aye, a hundredfold compensation, Karma, with its army of Skandhas, waits at the threshold of Devachan, whence the Ego reemerges to assume a new incarnation. It is at this moment that the future destiny of the now-rested Ego trembles in the scales of just Retribution, as it now falls once again under the sway of active Karmic law. It is in this rebirth which is ready for it, a rebirth selected and prepared by this mysterious, inexorable, but in the equity and wisdom of its decrees infallible law, that the sins of the previous life of the Ego are punished. Only it is into no imaginary Hell, with theatrical flames and ridiculous tailed and horned devils, that the Ego is cast, but verily onto this earth, the plane and region of his sins, where he will have to atone for every bad thought and deed. As he has sown, so will he reap. Reincarnation will gather around him all those other Egos who have suffered, whether directly or indirectly, at the hands, or even through the unconscious instrumentality, of the past personality. They will be thrown by Nemesis in the way of the new man, concealing the old, the eternal Ego, and .
Q. But where is the equity you speak of, since these new "personalities" are not aware of having sinned or been sinned against?
A. Has the coat torn to shreds from the back of the man who stole it, by another man who was robbed of it and recognizes his property, to be regarded as fairly dealt with? The new "personality" is no better than a fresh suit of clothes with its specific characteristics, color, form, and qualities; but the real man who wears it is the same culprit as of old. It is the individuality who suffers through his "personality." And it is this, and this alone, that can account for the terrible, still only apparent, injustice in the distribution of lots in life to man. When your modern philosophers will have succeeded in showing to us a good reason, why so many apparently innocent and good men are born only to suffer during a whole lifetime; why so many are born poor unto starvation in the slums of great cities, abandoned by fate and men; why, while these are born in the gutter, others open their eyes to light in palaces; while a noble birth and fortune seem often given to the worst of men and only rarely to the worthy; while there are beggars whose inner selves are peers to the highest and noblest of men; when this, and much more, is satisfactorily explained by either your philosophers or theologians, then only, but not till then, you will have the right to reject the theory of reincarnation. The highest and grandest of poets have dimly perceived this truth of truths. Shelley believed in it, Shakespeare must have thought of it when writing on the worthlessness of Birth. Remember his words:
Why should my birth keep down my mounting spirit?
Are not all creatures subject unto time?
There's legions now of beggars on the earth,
That their original did spring from Kings,
And many monarchs now, whose fathers were
The riff-raff of their age .
Alter the word fathers into Egos-and you will have the truth.