Sevenfold Nature of Man & Triune Nature
“The Christian teaching, supported by St. Paul, since upon him, in fact, dogmatic Christianity rests, is that man is composed of body, soul, and spirit. This is the threefold constitution of man, believed by the theologians but kept in the background because its examination might result in the readoption of views once orthodox but now heretical. For when we thus place soul between spirit and body, we come very close to the necessity for looking into the question of the soul’s responsibility — since mere body can have no responsibility. And in order to make the soul responsible for the acts performed, we must assume that it has powers and functions. From this it is easy to take the position that the soul may be rational or irrational, as the Greeks sometimes thought, and then there is but a step to further Theosophical propositions. This threefold scheme of the nature of man contains, in fact, the Theosophical teaching of his sevenfold constitution, because the four other divisions missing from the category can be found in the powers and functions of body and soul, as I shall attempt to show later on. This conviction that man is a septenary and not merely a duad, was held long ago and very plainly taught to every one with accompanying demonstrations, but like other philosophical tenets it disappeared from sight, because gradually withdrawn at the time when in the east of Europe morals were degenerating and before materialism had gained full sway in company with scepticism, its twin. Upon its withdrawal the present dogma of body, soul, spirit, was left to Christendom. The reason for that concealment and its rejuvenescence in this century is well put by Mme. H. P. Blavatsky in the Secret Doctrine. In answer to the statement, “we cannot understand how any danger could arise from the revelation of such a purely philosophical doctrine as the evolution of the planetary chain,” she says:
The danger was this: Doctrines such as the Planetary chain or the seven races at once give a clue to the sevenfold nature of man, for each principle is correlated to a plane, a planet, and a race; and the human principles are, on every plane, correlated to the sevenfold occult forces — those of the higher planes being of tremendous occult power, the abuse of which would cause incalculable evil to humanity. A clue which is, perhaps, no clue to the present generation — especially the Westerns — protected as they are by their very blindness and ignorant materialistic disbelief in the occult; but a clue which would, nevertheless, be very real in the early centuries of the Christian era, to people fully convinced of the reality of occultism and entering a cycle of degradation which made them ripe for abuse of occult powers and sorcery of the worst description.
— William Quan Judge, The Ocean of Theosophy
Click on any of the headings below to delve into the concept of the Constitution of Man and Nature from a theosophical perspective:
From the writings of H. P. Blavatsky
Theosophical Teachings as to Nature and Man (from The Key to Theosophy)
THE UNITY OF ALL IN ALL
ENQUIRER. Having told me what God, the Soul and Man are not, in your views, can you inform me what they are, according to your teachings?
THEOSOPHIST. In their origin and in eternity the three, like the universe and all therein, are one with the absolute Unity, the unknowable deific essence I spoke about some time back. We believe in no creation, but in the periodical and consecutive appearances of the universe from the subjective on to the objective plane of being, at regular intervals of time, covering periods of immense duration.
ENQUIRER. Can you elaborate the subject?
THEOSOPHIST. Take as a first comparison and a help towards a more correct conception, the solar year, and as a second, the two halves of that year, producing each a day and a night of six months’ duration at the North Pole. Now imagine, if you can, instead of a Solar year of 365 days, ETERNITY. Let the sun represent the universe, and the polar days and nights of 6 months each — days and nights lasting each 182 trillions and quadrillions of years, instead of 182 days each. As the sun arises every morning on our objective horizon out of its (to us) subjective and antipodal space, so does the Universe emerge periodically on the plane of objectivity, issuing from that of subjectivity — the antipodes of the former. This is the “Cycle of Life.” And as the sun disappears from our horizon, so does the Universe disappear at regular periods, when the “Universal night” sets in. The Hindoos call such alternations the “Days and Nights of Brahma,” or the time of Manvantara and that of Pralaya (dissolution). The Westerns may call them Universal Days and Nights if they prefer. During the latter (the nights) All is in All; every atom is resolved into one Homogeneity.
EVOLUTION AND ILLUSION
ENQUIRER. But who is it that creates each time the Universe?
THEOSOPHIST. No one creates it. Science would call the process evolution; the pre-Christian philosophers and the Orientalists called it emanation: we, Occultists and Theosophists, see in it the only universal and eternal reality casting a periodical reflection of itself on the infinite Spatial depths. This reflection, which you regard as the objective material universe, we consider as a temporary illusion and nothing else. That alone which is eternal is real.
ENQUIRER. At that rate, you and I are also illusions.
THEOSOPHIST. As flitting personalities, to-day one person, to-morrow another — we are. Would you call the sudden flashes of the Aurora borealis, the Northern lights, a “reality,” though it is as real as can be while you look at it? Certainly not; it is the cause that produces it, if permanent and eternal, which is the only reality, while the other is but a passing, illusion.
ENQUIRER. All this does not explain to me how this illusion called the universe originates; how the conscious to be, proceeds to manifest itself from the unconsciousness that is.
THEOSOPHIST. It is unconsciousness only to our finite consciousness. Verily may we paraphrase verse v, in the 1st chapter of St. John, and say “and (Absolute) light (which is darkness) shineth in darkness (which is illusionary material light); and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” This absolute light is also absolute and immutable law. Whether by radiation or emanation — we need not quarrel over terms — the universe passes out of its homogeneous subjectivity on to the first plane of manifestation, of which planes there are seven, we are taught. With each plane it becomes more dense and material until it reaches this, our plane, on which the only world approximately known and understood in its physical composition by Science, is the planetary or Solar system — one sui generis, we are told.
ENQUIRER. What do you mean by sui generis?
THEOSOPHIST. I mean that, though the fundamental law and the universal working of laws of Nature are uniform, still our Solar system (like every other such system in the millions of others in Cosmos) and even our Earth, has its own programme of manifestations differing from the respective programmes of all others. We speak of the inhabitants of other planets and imagine that if they are men, i. e., thinking entities, they must be as we are. The fancy of poets and painters and sculptors never fails to represent even the angels as a beautiful copy of man — plus wings. We say that all this is an error and a delusion; because, if on this little earth alone one finds such a diversity in its flora, fauna and mankind — from the sea-weed to the cedar of Lebanon, from the jelly-fish to the elephant, from the Bushman and negro to the Apollo Belvedere — alter the conditions cosmic and planetary, and there must be as a result quite a different flora, fauna and mankind. The same laws will fashion quite a different set of things and beings even on this our plane, including in it all our planets. How much more different then must be external nature in other Solar systems, and how foolish is it to judge of other stars and worlds and human beings by our own, as physical science does!
ENQUIRER. But what are your data for this assertion?
THEOSOPHIST. What science in general will never accept as proof — the cumulative testimony of an endless series of Seers who have testified to this fact. Their spiritual visions, real explorations by, and through, physical and spiritual senses untrammelled by blind flesh, were systematically checked and compared one with the other, and their nature sifted. All that was not corroborated by unanimous and collective experience was rejected, while that only was recorded as established truth which, in various ages, under different climes, and throughout an untold series of incessant observations, was found to agree and receive constantly further corroboration. The methods used by our scholars and students of the psycho-spiritual sciences do not differ from those of students of the natural and physical sciences, as you may see. Only our fields of research are on two different planes, and our instruments are made by no human hands, for which reason perchance they are only the more reliable. The retorts, accumulators, and microscopes of the chemist and naturalist may get out of order; the telescope and the astronomer’s horological instruments may get spoiled; our recording instruments are beyond the influence of weather or the elements.
ENQUIRER. And therefore you have implicit faith in them?
THEOSOPHIST. Faith is a word not to be found in theosophical dictionaries: we say knowledge based, on observation and experience. There is this difference, however, that while the observation and experience of physical science lead the Scientists to about as many “working” hypotheses as there are minds to evolve them, our knowledge consents to add to its lore only those facts which have become undeniable, and which are fully and absolutely demonstrated. We have no two beliefs or hypotheses on the same subject.
ENQUIRER. Is it on such data that you came to accept the strange theories we find in Esoteric Buddhism?
THEOSOPHIST. Just so. These theories may be slightly incorrect in their minor details, and even faulty in their exposition by lay students; they are facts in nature, nevertheless, and come nearer the truth than any scientific hypothesis.
ON THE SEPTENARY CONSTITUTION OF OUR PLANET
ENQUIRER. I understand that you describe our earth as forming part of a chain of earths?
THEOSOPHIST. We do. But the other six “earths” or globes, are not on the same plane of objectivity as our earth is; therefore we cannot see them.
ENQUIRER. Is that on account of the great distance?
THEOSOPHIST. Not at all, for we see with our naked eye planets and even stars at immeasurably greater distances; but it is owing to those six globes being outside our physical means of perception, or plane of being. It is not only that their material density, weight, or fabric are entirely different from those of our earth and the other known planets; but they are (to us) on an entirely different layer of space, so to speak; a layer not to be perceived or felt by our physical senses. And when I say “layer,” please do not allow your fancy to suggest to you layers like strata or beds laid one over the other, for this would only lead to another absurd misconception. What I mean by “layer” is that plane of infinite space which by its nature cannot fall under our ordinary waking perceptions, whether mental or physical; but which exists in nature outside of our normal mentality or consciousness, outside of our three dimensional space, and outside of our division of time. Each of the seven fundamental planes (or layers) in space — of course as a whole, as the pure space of Locke’s definition, not as our finite space — has its own objectivity and subjectivity, its own space and time, its own consciousness and set of senses. But all this will be hardly comprehensible to one trained in the modern ways of thought.
ENQUIRER. What do you mean by a different set of senses? Is there anything on our human plane that you could bring as an illustration of what you say, just to give a clearer idea of what you may mean by this variety of senses, spaces, and respective perceptions?
THEOSOPHIST. None; except, perhaps, that which for Science would be rather a handy peg on which to hang a counter-argument. We have a different set of senses in dream-life, have we not? We feel, talk, hear, see, taste and function in general on a different plane; the change of state of our consciousness being evidenced by the fact that a series of acts and events embracing years, as we think, pass ideally through our mind in one instant. Well, that extreme rapidity of our mental operations in dreams, and the perfect naturalness, for the time being, of all the other functions, show us that we are on quite another plane. Our philosophy teaches us that, as there are seven fundamental forces in nature, and seven planes of being, so there are seven states of consciousness in which man can live, think, remember and have his being. To enumerate these here is impossible, and for this one has to turn to the study of Eastern metaphysics. But in these two states — the waking and the dreaming — every ordinary mortal, from a learned philosopher down to a poor untutored savage, has a good proof that such states differ.
ENQUIRER. You do not accept, then, the well-known explanations of biology and physiology to account for the dream state?
THEOSOPHIST. We do not. We reject even the hypotheses of your psychologists, preferring the teachings of Eastern Wisdom. Believing in seven planes of Kosmic being and states of Consciousness, with regard to the Universe or the Macrocosm, we stop at the fourth plane, finding it impossible to go with any degree of certainty beyond. But with respect to the Microcosm, or man, we speculate freely on his seven states and principles.
ENQUIRER. How do you explain these?
THEOSOPHIST. We find, first of all, two distinct beings in man; the spiritual and the physical, the man who thinks, and the man who records as much of these thoughts as he is able to assimilate. Therefore we divide him into two distinct natures; the upper or the spiritual being, composed of three “principles” or aspects; and the lower or the physical quaternary, composed of four — in all seven.
THE SEPTENARY NATURE OF MAN.
ENQUIRER. Is it what we call Spirit and Soul, and the man of flesh?
THEOSOPHIST. It is not. That is the old Platonic division. Plato was an Initiate, and therefore could not go into forbidden details; but he who is acquainted with the archaic doctrine finds the seven in Plato’s various combinations of Soul and Spirit. He regarded man as constituted of two parts — one eternal, formed of the same essence as the Absoluteness, the other mortal and corruptible, deriving its constituent parts from the minor “created” Gods. Man is composed, he shows, of (1) A mortal body, (2) An immortal principle, and (3) A “separate mortal kind of Soul.” It is that which we respectively call the physical man, the Spiritual Soul or Spirit, and the animal Soul (the Nous andpsuche). This is the division adopted by Paul, another Initiate, who maintains that there is a psychical body which is sown in the corruptible (astral soul or body), and a spiritual body that is raised in incorruptible substance. Even James (iii. 15) corroborates the same by saying that the “wisdom” (of our lower soul) descendeth not from the above, but is terrestrial (“psychical,” “demoniacal,” vide Greek text); while the other is heavenly wisdom. Now so plain is it that Plato and even Pythagoras, while speaking but of three “principles,” give them seven separate functions, in their various combinations, that if we contrast our teachings this will become quite plain. Let us take a cursory view of these seven aspects by drawing two tables.
THEOSOPHICAL DIVISION [SANSCRIT TERMS // EXOTERIC MEANING // EXPLANATORY]
(a) Rupa, or Sthula-Sarira // Physical body // Is the vehicle of all the other “principles” during life.
(b) Prana // Life, or Vital principle // Necessary only to a, c, d, and the functions of the lower Manas, which embrace all those limited to the (physical) brain.
(c) Linga Sharira // Astral body // The Double, the phantom body.
(d) Kama rupa // The seat of animal desires and passions // This is the centre of the animal man, where lies the line of demarcation which separates the mortal man from the immortal entity.
THE UPPER IMPERISHABLE TRIAD.
(e) Manas — a dual principle in its functions // Mind, Intelligence: which is the higher human mind, whose light, or radiation links the MONAD, for the lifetime, to the mortal man // The future state and the Karmic destiny of man depend on whether Manas gravitates more downward to Kama rupa, the seat of the animal passions, or upwards to Buddhi, the Spiritual Ego. In the latter case, the higher consciousness of the individual Spiritual aspirations of mind (Manas), assimilating Buddhi, are absorbed by it and form the Ego, which goes into Devachanic bliss.*
(f) Buddhi // The Spiritual Soul // The vehicle of pure universal spirit.
(g) Atma // Spirit // One with the Absolute, as its radiation.
*In Mr. Sinnett’s “Esoteric Buddhism” d, e, and f, are respectively called the Animal, the Human, and the Spiritual Souls, which answers as well. Though the principles in Esoteric Buddhism are numbered, this is, strictly speaking, useless. The dual Monad alone (Atma-Buddhi) is susceptible of being thought of as the two highest numbers (the 6th and 7th). As to all others, since that “principle” only which is predominant in man has to be considered as the first and foremost, no numeration is possible as a general rule. In some men it is the higher Intelligence (Manas or the 5th) which dominates the rest; in others the Animal Soul (Kama-rupa) that reigns supreme, exhibiting the most bestial instincts, etc.
Now what does Plato teach? He speaks of the interior man as constituted of two parts — one immutable and always the same, formed of the same substance as Deity, and the other mortal and corruptible. These “two parts” are found in our upper Triad, and the lower Quaternary (vide Table). He explains that when the Soul, psuche, “allies herself to the Nous (divine spirit or substance)1, she does everything aright and felicitously”; but the case is otherwise when she attaches herself to Anoia, (folly, or the irrational animal Soul). Here, then, we have Manas (or the Soul in general) in its two aspects: when attaching itself to Anoia (our Kama rupa, or the “Animal Soul” in “Esoteric Buddhism,”) it runs towards entire annihilation, as far as the personal Ego is concerned; when allying itself to the Nous (Atma-Buddhi) it merges into the immortal, imperishable Ego, and then its spiritual consciousness of the personal that was, becomes immortal.
THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN SOUL AND SPIRIT
ENQUIRER. Do you really teach, as you are accused of doing by some Spiritualists and French Spiritists, the annihilation of every personality?
THEOSOPHIST. We do not. But as this question of the duality — the individuality of the Divine Ego, and the personality of the human animal — involves that of the possibility of the real immortal Ego appearing in Seance rooms as a “materialised spirit,” which we deny as already explained, our opponents have started the nonsensical charge.
ENQUIRER. You have just spoken of psuche running towards its entire annihilation if it attaches itself to Anoia. What did Plato, and do you mean by this?
THEOSOPHIST. The entire annihilation of the personal consciousness, as an exceptional and rare case, I think. The general and almost invariable rule is the merging of the personal into the individual or immortal consciousness of the Ego, a transformation or a divine transfiguration, and the entire annihilation only of the lower quaternary . Would you expect the man of flesh, or the temporary personality, his shadow, the “astral,” his animal instincts and even physical life, to survive with the “spiritual EGO” and become sempiternal? Naturally all this ceases to exist, either at, or soon after corporeal death. It becomes in time entirely disintegrated and disappears from view, being annihilated as a whole.
ENQUIRER. Then you also reject resurrection in the flesh?
THEOSOPHIST. Most decidedly we do! Why should we, who believe in the archaic esoteric philosophy of the Ancients, accept the unphilosophical speculations of the later Christian theology, borrowed from the Egyptian and Greek exoteric Systems of the Gnostics?
ENQUIRER. The Egyptians revered Nature-Spirits, and deified even onions: your Hindus are idolaters, to this day; the Zoroastrians worshipped, and do still worship, the Sun; and the best Greek philosophers were either dreamers or materialists — witness Plato and Democritus. How can you compare!
THEOSOPHIST. It may be so in your modern Christian and even Scientific catechism; it is not so for unbiassed minds. The Egyptians revered the “One-Only-One,” as Nout; and it is from this word that Anaxagoras got his denomination Nous, or as he calls it, Nous autokrates, “the Mind or Spirit Self-potent,” the archetes kinedeos, the leading motor, or primum-mobile of all. With him the Nous was God, and the logos was man, his emanation. The Nous is the spirit (whether in Kosmos or in man), and the logos, whether Universe or astral body, the emanation of the former, the physical body being merely the animal. Our external powers perceive phenomena; our Nous alone is able to recognise their noumena. It is the logos alone, or the noumenon, that survives, because it is immortal in its very nature and essence, and the logos in man is the Eternal Ego, that which reincarnates and lasts for ever. But how can the evanescent or external shadow, the temporary clothing of that divine Emanation which returns to the source whence it proceeded, be that which is raised in incorruptibility?
ENQUIRER. Still you can hardly escape the charge of having invented a new division of man’s spiritual and psychic constituents; for no philosopher speaks of them, though you believe that Plato does.
THEOSOPHIST. And I support the view. Besides Plato, there is Pythagoras, who also followed the same idea.2 He described the Soul as a self-moving Unit (monad) composed of three elements, the Nous (Spirit), the phren (mind), and the thumos (life, breath or the Nephesh of the Kabalists) which three correspond to our “Atma-Buddhi,” (higher Spirit-Soul), to Manas (the EGO), and to Kama-rupa in conjunction with the lower reflection of Manas. That which the Ancient Greek philosophers termed Soul, in general, we call Spirit, or Spiritual Soul, Buddhi, as the vehicle of Atma (the Agathon, or Plato’s Supreme Deity). The fact that Pythagoras and others state that phren and thumos are shared by us with the brutes, proves that in this case the lower Manasic reflection (instinct) and Kama-rupa (animal living passions) are meant. And as Socrates and Plato accepted the clue and followed it, if to these five, namely, Agathon (Deity or Atma), Psuche (Soul in its collective sense), Nous (Spirit or Mind), Phren (physical mind), and Thumos (Kama-rupa or passions) we add the eidolon of the Mysteries, the shadowy form or the human double, and the physical body, it will be easy to demonstrate that the ideas of both Pythagoras and Plato were identical with ours. Even the Egyptians held to the Septenary division. In its exit, they taught, the Soul (EGO) had to pass through its seven chambers, or principles, those it left behind, and those it took along with itself. The only difference is that, ever bearing in mind the penalty of revealing Mystery-doctrines, which was death, they gave out the teaching in a broad outline, while we elaborate it and explain it in its details. But though we do give out to the world as much as is lawful, even in our doctrine more than one important detail is withheld, which those who study the esoteric philosophy and are pledged to silence, are alone entitled to know.
THE GREEK TEACHINGS
ENQUIRER. We have magnificent Greek and Latin, Sanskrit and Hebrew scholars. How is it that we find nothing in their translations that would afford us a clue to what you say?
THEOSOPHIST. Because your translators, their great learning notwithstanding, have made of the philosophers, the Greeks especially, misty instead of mystic writers. Take as an instance Plutarch, and read what he says of “the principles” of man. That which he describes was accepted literally and attributed to metaphysical superstition and ignorance. Let me give you an illustration in point: “Man,” says Plutarch, “is compound; and they are mistaken who think him to be compounded of two parts only. For they imagine that the understanding (brain intellect) is a part of the soul (the upper Triad), but they err in this no less than those who make the soul to be a part of the body, i.e. those who make of the Triad part of the corruptible mortal quaternary. For the understanding (nous) as far exceeds the soul, as the soul is better and diviner than the body. Now this composition of the soul (psuche) with the understanding (nous) makes reason; and with the body (or thumos, the animal soul) passion; of which the one is the beginning or principle of pleasure and pain, and the other of virtue and vice. Of these three parts conjoined and compacted together, the earth has given the body, the moon the soul, and the sun the understanding to the generation of man.”
This last sentence is purely allegorical, and will be comprehended only by those who are versed in the esoteric science of correspondences and know which planet is related to every principle. Plutarch divides the latter into three groups, and makes of the body a compound of physical frame, astral shadow, and breath, or the triple lower part, which “from earth was taken and to earth returns”; of the middle principle and the instinctual soul, the second part, derived from and through and ever influenced by the moon3; and only of the higher part or the Spiritual Soul, with the Atmic and Manasic elements in it does he make a direct emanation of the Sun, who stands here for Agathon the Supreme Deity. This is proven by what he says further as follows:
“Now of the deaths we die, the one makes man two of three and the other one of (out of) two. The former is in the region and jurisdiction of Demeter, whence the name given to the Mysteries,telein, resembled that given to death, teleutan. The Athenians also heretofore called the deceased sacred to Demeter. As for the other death, it is in the moon or region of Persephone.”
Here you have our doctrine, which shows man a septenary during life; a quintile just after death, in Kamaloka; and a threefold Ego, Spirit-Soul, and consciousness in Devachan. This separation, first in “the Meadows of Hades,” as Plutarch calls the Kama-loka, then in Devachan, was part and parcel of the performances during the sacred Mysteries, when the candidates for initiation enacted the whole drama of death, and the resurrection as a glorified spirit, by which name we mean Consciousness. This is what Plutarch means when he says: —
“And as with the one, the terrestrial, so with the other celestial Hermes doth dwell. This suddenly and with violence plucks the soul from the body; but Proserpina mildly and in a long time disjoins the understanding from the soul.4 For this reason she is called Monogenes, only begotten, or rather begetting one alone; for the better part of man becomes alone when it is separated by her. Now both the one and the other happens thus according to nature. It is ordained by Fate (Fatum or Karma) that every soul, whether with or without understanding (mind), when gone out of the body, should wander for a time, though not all for the same, in the region lying between the earth and moon (Kamaloka).5 For those that have been unjust and dissolute suffer then the punishment due to their offences; but the good and virtuous are there detained till they are purified, and have, by expiation, purged out of them all the infections they might have contracted from the contagion of the body, as if from foul health, living in the mildest part of the air, called the Meadows of Hades, where they must remain for a certain prefixed and appointed time. And then, as if they were returning from a wandering pilgrimage or long exile into their country, they have a taste of joy, such as they principally receive who are initiated into Sacred Mysteries, mixed with trouble, admiration, and each one’s proper and peculiar hope.”
This is Nirvanic bliss, and no Theosophist could describe in plainer though esoteric language the mental joys of Devachan, where every man has his paradise around him, erected by his consciousness. But you must beware of the general error into which too many even of our Theosophists fall. Do not imagine that because man is called septenary, then quintuple and a triad, he is a compound of seven, five, or three entities; or, as well expressed by a Theosophical writer, of skins to be peeled off like the skins of an onion. The “principles,” as already said, save the body, the life, and the astral eidolon, all of which disperse at death, are simply aspects and states of consciousness. There is but one real man, enduring through the cycle of life and immortal in essence, if not in form, and this is Manas, the Mind-man or embodied Consciousness. The objection made by the materialists, who deny the possibility of mind and consciousness acting without matter is worthless in our case. We do not deny the soundness of their argument; but we simply ask our opponents, “Are you acquainted with all the states of matter, you who knew hitherto but of three? And how do you know whether that which we refer to as ABSOLUTE CONSCIOUSNESS or Deity for ever invisible and unknowable, be not that which, though it eludes for ever our human finite conception, is still universal Spirit-matter or matter-Spirit in its absolute infinitude?” It is then one of the lowest, and in its manvantaric manifestations fractioned-aspects of this Spirit-matter, which is the conscious Ego that creates its own paradise, a fool’s paradise, it may be, still a state of bliss.
ENQUIRER. But what is Devachan?
THEOSOPHIST. The “land of gods” literally; a condition, a state of mental bliss. Philosophically a mental condition analogous to, but far more vivid and real than, the most vivid dream. It is the state after death of most mortals.
1. Paul calls Plato’s Nous “Spirit”; but as this spirit is “substance,” then, of course, Buddhi and not Atma is meant, as the latter cannot philosophically be called “substance” under any circumstance. We include Atma among the human “principles” in order not to create additional confusion. In reality it is no “human” but the universal absolute principle of which Buddhi, the Soul-Spirit, is the carrier.
2. “Plato and Pythagoras,” says Plutarch, “distribute the soul into two parts, the rational (noetic) and irrational (agnoia); that that part of the soul of man which is rational is eternal; for though it be not God, yet it is the product of an eternal deity, but that part of the soul which is divested of reason (agnoia) dies.” The modern term Agnostic comes from Agnosis, a cognate word. We wonder why Mr. Huxley, the author of the word, should have connected his great intellect with “the soul divested of reason” which dies? Is it the exaggerated humility of the modern materialist?
3. The Kabalists who know the relation of Jehovah, the life and children-giver, to the Moon, and the influence of the latter on generation, will again see the point as much as some astrologers will.
4. Proserpina, or Persephone, stands here for post mortem Karma, which is said to regulate the separation of the lower from the higher “principles”: the Soul, as Nephesh, the breath of animal life, which remains for a time in Kama-loka, from the higher compound Ego, which goes into the state of Devachan, or bliss.
5. Until the separation of the higher, spiritual “principle” takes place from the lower ones, which remain in the Kama-loka until disintegrated.
Septenary Division in Different Indian Systems (from The Secret Doctrine)
SEPTENARY DIVISION IN DIFFERENT INDIAN SYSTEMS.
“We give below in a tabular form the classifications adopted by the Buddhist and Vedantic teachers of the principles of man: —
* Kosa (kosha) is “Sheath” literally, the sheath of every principle.
‡ The astral body or Linga Sarira.
§ Sthula-Upadhi, or basis of the principle.
From the foregoing table it will be seen that the third principle in the Buddhist classification is not separately mentioned in the Vedantic division, as it is merely the vehicle of Prana. It will also be seen that the Fourth principle is included in the third Kosa (Sheath), as the same principle is but the vehicle of will-power, which is but an energy of the mind. It must also be noticed that the Vignanamaya Kosa is considered to be distinct from the Manomaya Kosa, as a division is made after death between the lower part of the mind, as it were, which has a closer affinity with the fourth principle than with the sixth; and its higher part, which attaches itself to the latter, and which is, in fact, the basis for the higher spiritual individuality of man.
We may also here point out to our readers that the classification mentioned in the last column is, for all practical purposes, connected with Raja Yoga, the best and simplest. Though there are seven principles in man, there are but three distinct Upadhis (bases), in each of which his Atma may work independently of the rest. These three Upadhis can be separated by an Adept without killing himself. He cannot separate the seven principles from each other without destroying his constitution.”
The student will now be better prepared to see that between the three Upadhis of the Raja Yoga and its Atma, and our three Upadhis, Atma, and the additional three divisions, there is in reality but very little difference. Moreover, as every adept in cis-Himalayan or trans-Himalayan India, of the Patanjali, the Aryasanga or the Mahayana schools, has to become a Raja Yogi, he must, therefore, accept the Taraka Raja classification in principle and theory whatever classification he resorts to for practical and occult purposes. Thus, it matters very little whether one speaks of the three Upadhis with their three aspects and Atma, the eternal and immortal synthesis, or calls them the “seven principles.”
—The Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, p. 157-8
Diagrams from the Secret Doctrine
Note: These diagrams are given in order of appearance in The Secret Doctrine. In the book, these are each accompanied by explanations and the student is encouraged to study each diagram with its explanation and to compare correspondences between them all. [Ed.]
Volume 1, Page 153
Volume 1, Page 172
Volume 1, Page 200
Volume 2, Page 593
Volume 2, Page 596
From the writings of William Quan Judge
William Quan Judge on the Septenary Nature of Cosmos (from The Ocean of Theosophy)
The teachings of Theosophy deal for the present chiefly with our earth, although its purview extends to all the worlds, since no part of the manifested universe is outside the single body of laws which operate upon us. Our globe being one of the solar system is certainly connected with Venus, Jupiter, and other planets, but as the great human family has to remain with its material vehicle — the earth — until all the units of the race which are ready are perfected, the evolution of that family is of greater importance to the members of it. Some particulars respecting the other planets may be given later on. First let us take a general view of the laws governing all.
The universe evolves from the unknown, into which no man or mind, however high, can inquire, on seven planes or in seven ways or methods in all worlds, and this sevenfold differentiation causes all the worlds of the universe and the beings thereon to have a septenary constitution. As was taught of old, the little worlds and the great are copies of the whole, and the minutest insect as well as the most highly developed being are replicas in little or in great of the vast inclusive original. Hence sprang the saying, “as above so below” which the Hermetic philosophers used.
The divisions of the sevenfold universe may be laid down roughly as: The Absolute, Spirit, Mind, Matter, Will, Akasa or Aether, and Life. In place of “the Absolute” we can use the word Space. For Space is that which ever is, and in which all manifestation must take place. The term Akasa, taken from the Sanskrit, is used in place of Aether, because the English language has not yet evolved a word to properly designate that tenuous state of matter which is now sometimes called Ether by modern scientists. As to the Absolute we can do no more than say IT IS. None of the great teachers of the School ascribe qualities to the Absolute although all the qualities exist in It. Our knowledge begins with differentiation, and all manifested objects, beings, or powers are only differentiations of the Great Unknown. The most that can be said is that the Absolute periodically differentiates itself, and periodically withdraws the differentiated into itself.
The first differentiation — speaking metaphysically as to time — is Spirit, with which appears Matter and Mind. Akasa is produced from Matter and Spirit, Will is the force of Spirit in action and Life is a resultant of the action of Akasa, moved by Spirit, upon Matter.
But the Matter here spoken of is not that which is vulgarly known as such. It is the real Matter which is always invisible, and has sometimes been called Primordial Matter. In the Brahmanical system it is denominated Mulaprakriti. The ancient teaching always held, as is now admitted by Science, that we see or perceive only the phenomena but not the essential nature, body or being of matter.
Mind is the intelligent part of the Cosmos, and in the collection of seven differentiations above roughly sketched, Mind is that in which the plan of the Cosmos is fixed or contained. This plan is brought over from a prior period of manifestation which added to its ever-increasing perfectness, and no limit can be set to its evolutionary possibilities in perfectness, because there was never any beginning to the periodical manifestations of the Absolute, there never will be any end, but forever the going forth and withdrawing into the Unknown will go on.
Wherever a world or system of worlds is evolving there the plan has been laid down in universal mind, the original force comes from spirit, the basis is matter — which is in fact invisible — Life sustains all the forms requiring life, and Akasa is the connecting link between matter on one side and spirit-mind on the other.
When a world or a system comes to the end of certain great cycles men record a cataclysm in history or tradition. These traditions abound; among the Jews in their flood; with the Babylonians in theirs; in Egyptian papyri; in the Hindu cosmology; and none of them as merely confirmatory of the little Jewish tradition, but all pointing to early teaching and dim recollection also of the periodical destructions and renovations. The Hebraic story is but a poor fragment torn from the pavement of the Temple of Truth. Just as there are periodical minor cataclysms or partial destructions, so, the doctrine holds, there is the universal evolution and involution. Forever the Great Breath goes forth and returns again. As it proceeds outwards, objects, worlds and men appear; as it recedes all disappear into the original source.
This is the waking and the sleeping of the Great Being; the Day and the Night of Brahma; the prototype of our waking days and sleeping nights as men, of our disappearance from the scene at the end of one little human life, and our return again to take up the unfinished work in another life, in a new day.
William Quan Judge on the Septenary Constitution of Man (from The Ocean of Theosophy)
Respecting the nature of man there are two ideas current in the religious circles of Christendom. One is the teaching and the other the common acceptation of it; the first is not secret, to be sure, in the Church, but it is so seldom dwelt upon in the hearing of the laity as to be almost arcane for the ordinary person. Nearly everyone says he has a soul and a body, and there it ends. What the soul is, and whether it is the real person or whether it has any powers of its own, are not inquired into, the preachers usually confining themselves to its salvation or damnation. And by thus talking of it as something different from oneself, the people have acquired an underlying notion that they are not souls because the soul may be lost by them. From this has come about a tendency to materialism causing men to pay more attention to the body than to the soul, the latter being left to the tender mercies of the priest of the Roman Catholics, and among dissenters the care of it is most frequently put off to the dying day. But when the true teaching is known it will be seen that the care of the soul, which is the Self, is a vital matter requiring attention every day, and not to be deferred without grievous injury resulting to the whole man, both soul and body.
The Christian teaching, supported by St. Paul, since upon him, in fact, dogmatic Christianity rests, is that man is composed of body, soul, and spirit. This is the threefold constitution of man, believed by the theologians but kept in the background because its examination might result in the readoption of views once orthodox but now heretical. For when we thus place soul between spirit and body, we come very close to the necessity for looking into the question of the soul’s responsibility — since mere body can have no responsibility. And in order to make the soul responsible for the acts performed, we must assume that it has powers and functions. From this it is easy to take the position that the soul may be rational or irrational, as the Greeks sometimes thought, and then there is but a step to further Theosophical propositions. This threefold scheme of the nature of man contains, in fact, the Theosophical teaching of his sevenfold constitution, because the four other divisions missing from the category can be found in the powers and functions of body and soul, as I shall attempt to show later on. This conviction that man is a septenary and not merely a duad, was held long ago and very plainly taught to every one with accompanying demonstrations, but like other philosophical tenets it disappeared from sight, because gradually withdrawn at the time when in the east of Europe morals were degenerating and before materialism had gained full sway in company with scepticism, its twin. Upon its withdrawal the present dogma of body, soul, spirit, was left to Christendom. The reason for that concealment and its rejuvenescence in this century is well put by Mme. H. P. Blavatsky in the Secret Doctrine. In answer to the statement, “we cannot understand how any danger could arise from the revelation of such a purely philosophical doctrine as the evolution of the planetary chain,” she says:
The danger was this: Doctrines such as the Planetary chain or the seven races at once give a clue to the seven-fold nature of man, for each principle is correlated to a plane, a planet, and a race; and the human principles are, on every plane, correlated to seven-fold occult forces — those of the higher planes being of tremendous occult powers, the abuse of which would cause incalculable evil to humanity. A clue, which is, perhaps, no clue to the present generation — especially the Westerns — protected as they are by their very blindness and ignorant materialistic disbelief in the occult; but a clue which would, nevertheless, have been very real in the early centuries of the Christian era, to people fully convinced of the reality of occultism, and entering a cycle of degradation, which made them rife [ripe] for abuse of occult powers and sorcery of the worst description.
Mr. A. P. Sinnett, at one time an official in the Government of India, first outlined in this century the real nature of man in his book Esoteric Buddhism, which was made up from information conveyed to him by H. P. Blavatsky directly from the Great Lodge of Initiates to which reference has been made. And in thus placing the old doctrine before western civilization he conferred a great benefit on his generation and helped considerably the cause of Theosophy. His classification was:
- The Body, or Rupa.
- Vitality, or Prana-Jiva.
- Astral Body, or Linga-Sarira.
- Animal Soul, or Kama-Rupa.
- Human Soul, or Manas.
- Spiritual Soul, or Buddhi.
- Spirit, or Atma.
The words in italics being equivalents in the Sanskrit language adopted by him for the English terms. This classification stands to this day for all practical purposes, but it is capable of modification and extension. For instance, a later arrangement which places Astral body second instead of third in the category does not substantially alter it. It at once gives an idea of what man is, very different from the vague description by the words “body and soul,” and also boldly challenges the materialistic conception that mind is the product of brain, a portion of the body. No claim is made that these principles were hitherto unknown, for they were all understood in various ways not only by the Hindus but by many Europeans. Yet the compact presentation of the sevenfold constitution of man in intimate connection with the septenary constitution of a chain of globes through which the being evolves, had not been given out. The French Abbe, Eliphas Levi, wrote about the astral realm and the astral body, but evidently had no knowledge of the remainder of the doctrine, and while the Hindus possessed the other terms in their language and philosophy, they did not use a septenary classification, but depended chiefly on a fourfold one and certainly concealed (if they knew of it) the doctrine of a chain of seven globes including our earth. Indeed, a learned Hindu, Subba Row, now deceased, asserted that they knew of a seven-fold classification, but that it had not been and would not be given out.
Considering these constituents in another manner, we would say that the lower man is a composite being, but in his real nature is a unity, or immortal being, comprising a trinity of Spirit, Discernment, and Mind which requires four lower mortal instruments or vehicles through which to work in matter and obtain experience from Nature. This trinity is that called Atma-Buddhi-Manas in Sanskrit, difficult terms to render in English. Atma is Spirit, Buddhi is the highest power of intellection, that which discerns and judges, and Manas is Mind. This threefold collection is the real man; and beyond doubt the doctrine is the origin of the theological one of the trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The four lower instruments or vehicles are shown in this table:
Real Man: Atma, Buddhi, Manas,
- The Passions and Desires,
- Life Principle,
- Astral Body,
- Physical Body.
These four lower material constituents are transitory and subject to disintegration in themselves as well as to separation from each other. When the hour arrives for their separation to begin, the combination can no longer be kept up, the physical body dies, the atoms of which each of the four is composed begin to separate from each other, and the whole collection being disjointed is no longer fit for one as an instrument for the real man. This is what is called “death” among us mortals, but it is not death for the real man because he is deathless, persistent, immortal. He is therefore called the Triad, or indestructible trinity, while they are known as the Quaternary or mortal four.
This quaternary or lower man is a product of cosmic or physical laws and substance. It has been evolved during a lapse of ages, like any other physical thing, from cosmic substance, and is therefore subject to physical, physiological, and psychical laws which govern the race of man as a whole. Hence its period of possible continuance can be calculated just as the limit of tensile strain among the metals used in bridge building can be deduced by the engineer. Any one collection in the form of man made up of these constituents is therefore limited in duration by the laws of the evolutionary period in which it exists. Just now, that is generally seventy to one hundred years, but its possible duration is longer. Thus there are in history instances where ordinary persons have lived to be two hundred years of age; and by a knowledge of the occult laws of nature the possible limit of duration may be extended nearly to four hundred years.
- The visible physical man is: Brain, Nerves, Blood, Bones, Lymph, Muscles, Organs of Sensation and Action, and Skin.
- The unseen physical man is: Astral Body, Passions and Desires, Life Principle (called prana or jiva).
It will be seen that the physical part of our nature is thus extended to a second department which, though invisible to the physical eye, is nevertheless material and subject to decay. Because people in general have been in the habit of admitting to be real only what they can see with the physical eye, they have at last come to suppose that the unseen is neither real nor material. But they forgot that even on the earth plane noxious gases are invisible though real and powerfully material, and that water may exist in the air held suspended and invisible until conditions alter and cause its precipitation.
Let us recapitulate before going into details. The Real Man is the trinity of Atma-Buddhi-Manas, or Spirit and Mind, and he uses certain agents and instruments to get in touch with nature in order to know himself. These instruments and agents are found in the lower Four — or the Quaternary — each principle in which category is of itself an instrument for the particular experience belonging to its own field, the body being the lowest, least important, and most transitory of the whole series. For when we arrive at the body on the way down from the Higher Mind, it can be shown that all of its organs are in themselves senseless and useless when deprived of the man within. Sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smelling do not pertain to the body but to the second unseen physical man, the real organs for the exercise of those powers being in the Astral Body, and those in the physical body being but the mechanical outer instruments for making the coordination between nature and the real organs inside.
The Sevenfold Division
The Sevenfold Division
Why Not Change The Designation?
MR. Sinnett’s book Esoteric Buddhism has done a great deal towards bringing before the West the Eastern philosophy regarding man and his constitution, but it has also served to perpetuate the use of a word that is misleading and incorrect. In that work on p. 61 he states, “Seven distinct principles are recognized by Esoteric Science as entering into the constitution of man,” and then gives his scheme of division thus, The body, Vitality, Astral Body, Animal Soul, Human Soul, Spiritual Soul, and seventh, Spirit or Atma. Now if Spirit be, as the whole philosophy declares, in all and through all, it is erroneous to call it one of the series. This very early led to the accusation that we believed in seven distinct spirits in man. It always leads to misconception, and directly tends to preventing our understanding fully that the Atma includes, and is the substratum of, all the others. In India it caused a protracted and, at times, heated discussion between the adherents of the rigid seven-fold classification of Esoteric Buddhism and several learned and unlearned Hindus who supported a four-fold or five-fold division. During that debate the chief Hindu controverter, while holding to a different system, admitted the existence of “a real esoteric seven-fold classification,” which of course cannot be given to the public. Mr. Sinnett also evidently made a mistake when he said that the first mentioned division is the esoteric one.
Now it would seem that many of these misconceptions and differences could be prevented if a word were adopted and invariably used that would clearly express the idea intended to be conveyed. As the prime declaration of theosophy is that all these so-called bodies and appearances are for the purpose of enabling the ONE-the Atma-to fully comprehend nature and “bring about the aim of the soul,” why not denominate all that it uses for that purpose as vehicles? This name is strictly in accord with all parts of the philosophy. It is in effect the same as Upadhi, or basis, foundation, carrier. By its use we make no error when we say that theosophy declares there is Atma, which works with and through six vehicles. Strictly, the body is a vehicle for the astral body, it for the next, and so on up to Atma, which is therefore seen to be all and in all, as is clearly declared in Bhagavad-Gita.
This change, or to some other than “principles,” should be adopted by all theosophists, for every day there is more inquiry by new minds, and theosophists themselves, indeed, need to use their words with care when dealing with such subjects. Or if greater clearness is desired, let us say that there is one principle which acts through six vehicles. The scheme will then stand thus:
Atma (spirit), one principle, indivisible
Its vehicles are:
| Buddhi. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
|Manas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
|Kama Rupa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
|Linga Sharira. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
|Prana or Jiva. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
|Rupa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
Names have power, and if we go on talking of 7 principles when in truth there is but one, we are continually clouding our conception of theosophic truth.
EUSEBIO URBAN (aka William Quan Judge)
Path, April, 1890
Excerpt from Theosophy Generally Stated
Theosophy postulates an eternal principle called the unknown, which can never be cognized except through its manifestations. This eternal principle is in and is every thing and being; it periodically and eternally manifests itself and recedes again from manifestation. In this ebb and flow evolution proceeds and itself is the progress of the manifestation. The perceived universe is the manifestation of this unknown, including spirit and matter, for Theosophy holds that those are but the two opposite poles of the one unknown principle. They coexist, are not separate nor separable from each other, or, as the Hindu scriptures say, there is no particle of matter without spirit, and no particle of spirit without matter. In manifesting itself the spirit-matter differentiates on seven planes, each more dense on the way down to the plane of our senses than its predecessor, the substance in all being the same only differing in degree. Therefore from this view the whole universe is alive, not one atom of it being in any sense dead. It is also conscious and intelligent, its consciousness and intelligence being present on all planes though obscured on this one. On this plane of ours the spirit focalizes itself in all human beings who choose to permit it to do so, and the refusal to permit it is the cause of ignorance, of sin, of all sorrow and suffering.
In all ages some have come to this high state, have grown to be as gods, are partakers actively in the work of nature, and go on from century to century widening their consciousness and increasing the scope of their government in nature. This is the destiny of all beings, and hence at the outset Theosophy postulates this perfectibility of the race, removes the idea of innate unregenerable wickedness, and offers a purpose and an aim for life which is consonant with the longings of the soul and with its real nature, tending at the same time to destroy pessimism with its companion, despair.
In Theosophy the world is held to be the product of the evolution of the principle spoken of from the very lowest first forms of life guided as it proceeded by intelligent perfected beings from other and older evolutions, and compounded also of the egos or individual spirits for and by whom it emanates. Hence man as we know him is held to be a conscious spirit, the flower of evolution, with other and lower classes of egos below him in the lower kingdoms, all however coming up and destined one day to be on the same human stage as we now are, we then being higher still. Man’s consciousness being thus more perfect is able to pass from one to another of the planes of differentiation mentioned. If he mistakes any one of them for the reality that he is in his essence, he is deluded; the object of evolution then is to give him complete self-consciousness so that he may go on to higher stages in the progress of the universe. His evolution after coming on the human stage is for the getting of experience, and in order to so raise up and purify the various planes of matter with which he has to do, that the voice of the spirit may be fully heard and comprehended.
He is a religious being because he is a spirit encased in matter, which is in turn itself spiritual in essence. Being a spirit he requires vehicles with which to come in touch with all the planes of nature included in evolution, and it is these vehicles that make of him an intricate, composite being, liable to error, but at the same time able to rise above all delusions and conquer the highest place. He is in miniature the universe, for he is as spirit, manifesting himself to himself by means of seven differentiations. Therefore is he known in Theosophy as a sevenfold being. The Christian division of body, soul, and spirit is accurate so far as it goes, but will not answer to the problems of life and nature, unless, as is not the case, those three divisions are each held to be composed of others, which would raise the possible total to seven. The spirit stands alone at the top, next comes the spiritual soul or Buddhi as it is called in Sanskrit. This partakes more of the spirit than any below it, and is connected with Manas or mind, these three being the real trinity of man, the imperishable part, the real thinking entity living on the earth in the other and denser vehicles by its evolution. Below in order of quality is the plane of the desires and passions shared with the animal kingdom, unintelligent, and the producer of ignorance flowing from delusion. It is distinct from the will and judgment, and must therefore be given its own place. On this plane is gross life, manifesting, not as spirit from which it derives its essence, but as energy and motion on this plane. It being common to the whole objective plane and being everywhere, is also to be classed by itself, the portion used by man being given up at the death of the body. Then last, before the objective body, is the model or double of the outer physical case. This double is the astral body belonging to the astral plane of matter, not so dense as physical molecules, but more tenuous and much stronger, as well as lasting. It is the original of the body permitting the physical molecules to arrange and show themselves thereon, allowing them to go and come from day to day as they are known to do, yet ever retaining the fixed shape and contour given by the astral double within. These lower four principles or sheaths are the transitory perishable part of man, not himself, but in every sense the instrument he uses, given up at the hour of death like an old garment, and rebuilt out of the general reservoir at every new birth. The trinity is the real man, the thinker, the individuality that passes from house to house, gaining experience at each rebirth, while it suffers and enjoys according to its deeds – it is the one central man, the living spirit-soul.
Now this spiritual man, having always existed, being intimately concerned in evolution, dominated by the law of cause and effect, because in himself he is that very law, showing moreover on this plane varieties of force of character, capacity, and opportunity, his very presence must be explained, while the differences noted have to be accounted for. The doctrine of reincarnation does all this. It means that man as a thinker, composed of soul, mind and spirit, occupies body after body in life after life on the earth which is the scene of his evolution, and where he must, under the very laws of his being, complete that evolution, once it has been begun. In any one life he is known to others as a personality, but in the whole stretch of eternity he is one individual, feeling in himself an identity not dependent on name, form, or recollection.
— from Theosophy Generally Stated, Lucifer, December 1893
The Three Planes of Human Life
THE THREE PLANES OF HUMAN LIFE
JAGRATA, SWAPNA, SUSHUPTI:
WAKING, DREAMING, DREAMLESS SLEEP
I SPEAK of ordinary men. The Adept, the Master, the Yogi, the Mahatma, the Buddha, each lives in more than three states while incarnated upon this world, and they are fully conscious of them all, while the ordinary man is only conscious of the first – the waking-life, as the word conscious is now understood.
Every theosophist who is in earnest ought to know the importance of these three states, and especially how essential it is that one should not lose in Swapna the memory of experiences in Sushupti, nor in Jagrata those of Swapna, and vice versa.
Jagrata, our waking state, is the one in which we must be regenerated; where we must come to a full consciousness of the Self within, for in no other is salvation possible.
When a man dies he goes either to the Supreme Condition from which no return against his will is possible, or to the other states – heaven, hell, avitchi, devachan, what not – from which return to incarnation is inevitable. But he cannot go to the Supreme State unless he has perfected and regenerated himself; unless the wonderful and shining heights on which the Masters stand have been reached while he is in a body. This consummation, so devoutly desired, cannot be secured unless at some period in his evolution the being takes the steps that lead to the final attainment. These steps can and must be taken. In the very first is contained the possibility of the last, for causes once put in motion eternally produce their natural results.
Among those steps are an acquaintance with and understanding of the three states first spoken of.
Jagrata acts on Swapna, producing dreams and suggestions, and either disturbs the instructions that come down from the higher state or aids the person through waking calmness and concentration which tend to lessen the distortions of the mental experiences of dream life. Swapna again in its turn acts on the waking state (Jagrata) by the good or bad suggestions made to him in dreams. All experience and all religions are full of proofs of this. In the fabled Garden of Eden the wily serpent whispered in the ear of the sleeping mortal to the end that when awake he should violate the command. In Job it is said that God instructeth man in sleep, in dreams, and in visions of the night. And the common introspective and dream life of the most ordinary people needs no proof. Many cases are within my knowledge where the man was led to commit acts against which his better nature rebelled, the suggestion for the act coming to him in dream. It was because the unholy state of his waking thoughts infected his dreams, and laid him open to evil influences. By natural action and reaction he poisoned both Jagrata and Swapna.
It is therefore our duty to purify and keep clear these two planes.
The third state common to all is Sushupti, which has been translated “dreamless sleep.” The translation is inadequate, for, while it is dreamless, it is also a state in which even criminals commune through the higher nature with spiritual beings and enter into the spiritual plane. It is the great spiritual reservoir by means of which the tremendous momentum toward evil living is held in check. And because it is involuntary with them, it is constantly salutary in its effect.
In order to understand the subject better, it is well to consider a little in detail what happens when one falls asleep, has dreams, and then enters Sushupti. As his outer senses are dulled the brain begins to throw up images, the reproductions of waking acts and thoughts, and soon he is asleep. He has then entered a plane of experience which is as real as that just quitted, only that it is of a different sort. We may roughly divide this from the waking life by an imaginary partition on the one side, and from Sushupti by another partition on the other. In this region he wanders until he begins to rise beyond it into the higher. There no disturbances come from the brain action, and the being is a partaker to the extent his nature permits of the “banquet of the gods.” But he has to return to waking state, and he can get back by no other road than the one he came upon, for, as Sushupti extends in every direction and Swapna under it also in every direction, there is no possibility of emerging at once from Sushupti into Jagrata. And this is true even though on returning no memory of any dream is retained.
Now the ordinary non-concentrated man, by reason of the want of focus due to multitudinous and confused thought, has put his Swapna field or state into confusion, and in passing through it the useful and elevating experiences of Sushupti become mixed up and distorted, not resulting in the benefit to him as a waking person which is his right as well as his duty to have. Here again is seen the lasting effect, either prejudicial or the opposite, of the conduct and thoughts when awake.
So it appears, then, that what he should try to accomplish is such a clearing up and vivification of Swapna state as shall result in removing the confusion and distortion existing there, in order that upon emerging into waking life he may retain a wider and brighter memory of what occurred in Sushupti. This is done by an increase of concentration upon high thoughts, upon noble purposes, upon all that is best and most spiritual in him while awake. The best result cannot be accomplished in a week or a year, perhaps not in a life, but, once begun, it will lead to the perfection of spiritual cultivation in some incarnation hereafter.
By this course a centre of attraction is set up in him while awake, and to that all his energies flow, so that it may be figured to ourselves as a focus in the waking man. To this focal point-looking at it from that plane – converge the rays from the whole waking man toward Swapna, carrying him into dream – state with greater clearness. By reaction this creates another focus in Swapna, through which he can emerge into Sushupti in a collected condition. Returning he goes by means of these points through Swapna, and there, the confusion being lessened, he enters into his usual waking state the possessor, to some extent at least, of the benefits and knowledge of Sushupti. The difference between the man who is not concentrated and the one who is, consists in this, that the first passes from one state to the other through the imaginary partitions postulated above, just as sand does through a sieve, while the concentrated man passes from one to the other similarly to water through a pipe or the rays of the sun through a lens. In the first case each stream of sand is a different experience, a different set of confused and irregular thoughts, whereas the collected man goes and returns the owner of regular and clear experience.
These thoughts are not intended to be exhaustive, but so far as they go it is believed they are correct. The subject is one of enormous extent as well as great importance, and theosophists are urged to purify, elevate, and concentrate the thoughts and acts of their waking hours so that they shall not continually and aimlessly, night after night and day succeeding day, go into and return from these natural and wisely appointed states, no wiser, no better able to help their fellow men. For by this way, as by the spider’s small thread, we may gain the free space of spiritual life.
EUSEBIO URBAN (aka William Quan Judge)
Path, August, 1888
The Earth Chain of Globes
The Earth Chain of Globes
Although H.P.B. gave out to several of those who met her during the period from 1875 to 1878 the very same teachings in respect to the nature of man and of the “worlds” he evolves in as were afterwards publicly expounded in Esoteric Buddhism by Mr. Sinnett upon letters received by him through her from her Teachers, the credit of thus publishing those teachings, if such credit is desired, must be granted to that author. But at the time he began his publications, we who had known the doctrines so many years before wrote to H.P.B. complaining that the method adopted would lead to confusion on the one hand and to a materializing of the doctrines on the other, while, of course, no objection was made in general to the divulgement of what at a prior date had been given us in confidence, for he could not and would not have given the teachings to the public at all unless he had been permitted to do so. And after all these years the confusion to which our letters adverted has arisen among Theosophists, while there has been an apparent lack of attempt to clear it away. In respect to the “Earth Chain of Globes,” the materializing of the doctrine and the confusion in the minds of students have been greater than in regard to any other of the teachings. This cloudiness I will now attempt to dissipate,if possible, with the help of some of H.P.B.’s own words in her book, the time having arrived and permission being granted, and access being also had to certain plain statements thereupon from the original sources.
In Esoteric Buddhism 6th ed., p. 77, we find in reference to the “Chain of Globes”:
Separated as these are in regard to the grossly mechanical matter of which they consist, they are closely and intimately bound together by subtle currents and forces. . . . It is along these subtle currents that the life elements pass from world to world. . . . The most ethereal of the whole series. . . . As it passes from world Z back again to world A.
Then follows, for illustrative purposes, the figure of a series of tubs to represent the various globes of the whole series, one filling up from the overflow out of the preceding tub. Further, that the life wave reaches Globe A or B, and so on.
All this, in the absence of other explanations, and naturally consequent upon modern habits of thought, has fixed the idea in minds of many that the seven globes through which the evolution of man is carried on are in fact separated from each other; that they have between each other spaces along which currents flow to and from; and although the illustration of the series of tubs might be very well used for even the most metaphysical of problems, it had the effect of additionally deepening the idea of the actual separation from each other of the seven “globes.” It has been thought that they were as much apart from each as any visible planet, although connected by “subtle currents and forces.”
But the fact is otherwise. The seven globes of earth’s chain are not separated at all, and are interblended and mixed with each other. To make it clearer, if we were to develop inner sight so as to perceive on the plane of the next globe, the fifth, it would not appear as a definite ball in the sky or space. Whether it be smaller or larger than this earth a fact not yet cleared up it would be seen to possess the earth as the earth holds it.
It may be asked, Why was this not told in the beginning? Because it was useless to tell, no one being at hand to understand it; and also because if insisted on and it was not of enough importance to require insistence the consequence might have been that even Mr. Sinnett would not have published his invaluable and extremely useful book. He confessed in that work that the doctrines propounded were new to him, and seemingly opposed to modern ideas of nature. In great part this was true, though there were very many who did not find them new but who were not sufficient in number to risk then an insistence on a point that might too far violate the materialistic conceptions prevalent. Since then, however, times have altered, and a large and daily increasing number of minds are ready for the destruction of the idea contained in these words from the above quotation: “Separated as these are in regard to the grossly mechanical matter of which they are composed.”Strike out this statement, and the rest of the explanation can be construed to agree with the facts as laid down by those who inspired the book.
The globes of the earth-chain are not “separated in regard to the grossly mechanical particles,” but their particles are interblended. When we pass on to the plane of life which Globe 5 or E represents, it will be and appear to our then senses as gross, while the particles of this one will not be visible although still interblended with the other. It was to this very sentence that we objected in 1875 [1885?], because it contains the statement of a fallacy growing out of materialistic conception.
On this very subject the teachers of H.P.B. wrote, Secret Doctrine, V.I,p.166:
Were psychic and spiritual teachings more of Lilly understood, it would become next to impossible to even imagine such an incongruity. . . . In short, as Globes, they are in COADUNITION but not in CONSUBSTANTIALITY WITH OUR EARTH,and thus pertain to quite another state of consciousness.
This should be clear enough, and, as if to draw special attention to it, the very words which give the correct doctrine about our “fellow globes” were printed in capital letters.
“Consubstantiality” means the state of being the same substance. This is negatived in respect to the globes; but it is asserted that they,being of different substances, are united in one mass, for such is the meaning of “co-adunition.” If this be the case, as must be on the original authority, it then follows that the ” seven globes of earth’s chain, while differing from each other as to what is commonly called substance, are united together in a single mass. And when one is asked to shake off the dense veil of matter which beclouds the sight so as to perceive another of the globes, it is by no means meant that the companion globe, or globes as the case may be, would be seen rolling in space all by itself”: and this is from another explanatory letter from the first authority. In the paragraph from Secret Doctrine attention is called to the fact that just because the seven globes are in co-adunition but not in consubstantiality with each other they pertain to a state of consciousness quite other than that we are compelled to be in now.
As H.P.B. used a diagram in which the globes are set down as separated, it only requires to be remembered that the system could not, on a flat surface by mere lines, be illustrated in any other way and be at all clear. Besides, all the diagrams and illustrations must be construed with the quotation on p. 1 66 in view, as well as the numerous pages of similar explanations.
Every student should make inquiry of himself to see what his ideas are on this subject, and revise them if they are found not to be in accord with what was so clearly explained in the words above quoted. For this lies at the root of many other difficulties. Materialistic conceptions on this will lead to materializing, localizing, and separating of states such as Devachan, and to perhaps dogmas about places that do not exist, when states of consciousness should be dwelt upon. For, as was written in a letter quoted by H.P.B.:
Unless less trouble is taken to reconcile the irreconcilable – that is to say, the metaphysical and spiritual sciences with physical or natural philosophy, “natural” being a synonym to them [men of science] of that matter which falls under the perception of their corporeal senses – no progress can be really achieved.
And on page 169 of Vol. I of Secret Doctrine is a sentence not printed as a quotation, but which is really one from one of the same teacher’s letters, reading:
To be fully realized [the evolution of the monads on the globes] both this process and that of the birth of the globes must be examined far more from their metaphysical aspect than from what one might call a statistical standpoint.
Although the Lodge has declared through the mouth of H.P.B. that the complete truth on these matters is the heritage of future generations, yet we who are working in the movement now, believing in reincarnation and knowing the force of Karmic tendencies, must not forget that we are destined to return in future years once more to the same work. We should therefore study the pure spiritual, psychic, and metaphysical aspects of the doctrines, leaving disputes with the changing science of the day to those who are amused by it. For those disputes are wholly unimportant, since they will all pass away; but the spirit of truth will not pass, nor shall we who endeavor to find her and to understand what she says to us.
IN February PATH the subject of the coadunition but non-consubstantiality of the seven globes of the Earth-chain was opened up slightly and discussed in view of certain expressions from the Adepts themselves on the same matter. Since then questions and doubts have arisen, as it seems that-as was suspected-the fundamental principles underlying this doctrine have not been clearly defined in the minds of all. And, indeed, before such clear definition is arrived at most if not all of the naturalistic and materialistic doctrines and modes of thought of the day will have to be abandoned. The true theory of the companion globes of our earth is one which cannot be fully comprehended if we are influenced, as many are, by the education which for centuries has been imposed upon us. When the adepts say that these doctrines must be examined from a metaphysical standpoint, the nineteenth century person thinks that therefore it must be so vague and unreal as not to constitute an inclusion of facts, since “facts” are hard and visible things, so to say.
The first question, coming from one who grasps to a great extent the theory broached in the paragraph from the Master’s pen quoted in Secret Doctrine, is whether we will be able to see but one globe at a time as we change our centre of consciousness? That is to say, seeing that we now can perceive the earth with the eye and none of the other companions, does it follow from this that, when the race ceases to function on the earth and has taken up evolution on the next globe in order, we shall see then but that globe and none of the others of the chain among which will then be included this earth? It by no means follows that we then shall be able to see but one, but to what extent our then vision will be stretched or how many other globes we shall be able to see has not been given out publicly by the Masters, and it is held that alone in the keeping of the Lodge is the knowledge on this detail of the doctrine. We are left therefore to our own deductions, to be drawn from known facts. No very substantial benefit could be derived from exact knowledge about it, as it relates to matters and states of life removed from us inconceivably far both as to time and consciousness. Nor would a full explanation be comprehended. One of the teachers has written:
You do not seem to realize the tremendous difficulties in the way of imparting even the rudiments of our science to those who have been trained in the familiar methods of (modern science). You do not see that the more you have of the one the less capable you are to instinctively comprehend the other, for a man can only think in his worn grooves, and unless he has the courage to fill up these and make new ones for himself [italics are mine] he must perforce travel on the old lines. .
Such is, unfortunately. the inherited and self-acquired grossness of the Western mind, and so greatly have the very phrases expressive of modern thought been developed in the line of practical Materialism, that it is now next to impossible either for them to comprehend or for us to express in their own languages anything of that delicate, seemingly ideal, machinery of the occult cosmos. To some little extent that faculty can be acquired by the Europeans through study and meditation, but-that’s all. And here is the bar which has hitherto prevented a conviction of the Theosophical truths from gaining currency among Western nations-caused Theosophical study to be cast aside as useless and fantastic.
As implied in the foregoing, the reason for not telling all about it is that it would not be comprehended, and not that the Lodge desires to keep it back from the world. The same difficulty has often been encountered by ordinary clairvoyants who have tried to give an account of the little they know of the “occult cosmos” to hearers whose modes of thought were purely materialistic or tainted by that kind of education. And I have met estimable theosophists who said to me that if they really were convinced that I believed certain things which I hinted to them they would be forced in sadness to conclude I was a most superstitious person meaning of course that their ignorance and inability would constitute my superstition.
But as we now reside in a physical body perfectly visible to us, and as the astral body is sometimes seen by certain persons, it follows most surely that some persons can now see another body or form of matter while functioning in their little earth. The fact that all do not see the astral body only proves that as yet the seeing of it is not normal for the whole human race. And looking at the other side of the matter, we know that sometimes persons escaped temporarily from the physical body and functioning wholly in the astral have been able to see the physical one as it slept in trance. From this we may conclude that when the race has gone to some other centre of consciousness called a globe, it may possibly be able to see another of the companions in the sky. This is made more probable from the fact that the Earth is the lowest or at the turning of the circle, and for that reason it is on its own plane and not in company as to plane with any other one. The others might be two at a time on the one plane and then visible to each other.
The next point raised is that if the article of February is accepted, then it results that we consider the companion globes to be only “phases of the Earth.” The letter from the Master above quoted is pertinent here, for this objection arises solely and wholly from a materialistic education leading the objector to give the first place of importance to the earth, just as if it were not possible to say that earth is a phase of the other globes.
The globes are not in any sense phases of each other, but are “phases of consciousness.” The consciousness alters and we function in another state of matter, in the same place, but not able to see the state of matter we have left. And as now the whole race is bound up by its total form and quality of consciousness, the units of it are compelled to remain in the general state of consciousness until the race progress permits an advance or change to another. In the evolution of the race it develops new senses and instruments for perception, but these proceed along with the changing centre of consciousness, and are not the causes for the latter but are effects due to the operation and force of that inner power of perceiving which at last compels nature to furnish the necessary instrument. When the new instruments are all perfected, then the whole race moves on to another plane altogether.
All this supports and enforces the doctrine of universal brotherhood upon which the Adepts have insisted. For the changing of consciousness as to centre is not for the benefit of the individual, but is permissible and possible when the whole mass of matter of the globe whereon the beings are evolving has been perfected by the efforts and work of the most advanced of the whole number, and that advanced class is man. If it were otherwise, then we should see millions upon millions of selfish souls deserting the planet as soon as they had acquired the necessary new senses, leaving their fellows and the various kingdoms of nature to shift for themselves. But the law and the Lodge will not permit this, but insist that we shall remain until the lower masses of atoms have been far enough educated to be able to go on in a manner not productive of confusion. Here again we trench upon the materialism of the age, which will roar with laughter at the idea of its being possible to educate the atoms.
The doctrine of the interpenetration of the planes of matter lies at the root of clairvoyance, clairaudience, and all such phenomena. Clairvoyance would be an impossibility were it not the fact that what for the ordinary sense is solid and an obstacle to sight is in reality for the other set of senses non-existent, free from solidity, and no obstacle. Otherwise clear seeing is impossible, and the learned doctors are right who say we are all deluded and never did any one see through a solid wall. For while the faculty of imagination is necessary for the training of the power to see through a solid wall, we could not so perceive merely by imagination, since objects must have a medium through which they are to be seen. This again strikes against materialistic conceptions, for the “objective” usually means that which can be seen and felt. But in the machinery of the “occult cosmos” the objective is constantly changing to the subjective and vice versa, as the centre of consciousness changes. In the trance or clairvoyant state the subjective of the waking man has become the objective. So also in dreams. There, clothed with another body of finer texture, the perceiver finds all the experiences objective as to their circumstances and subjective as to the feelings they produce on the perceiver who registers the sensations. And in precisely similar manner will the race see, feel, and know when it has changed all and begins to function on another globe.
The Editor has handed me a communication from a reader upon this subject which I insert here, as it on the one hand shows a very common defect of students-inaccuracy of reading, thought, and reference, and on the other will serve as a question which arises in other minds. It reads:
Please state in reference to the Earth Chain of Globes whether it is meant to be conveyed on page 159 of S. D. Vol. I that the “seven globes from the 1st to the 7th proceed in seven Rounds,” that each globe revolves seven times around the World Chain with its own particular development [say the Mineral Kingdom], before the next in order [say the Vegetable Kingdom] appears on Globe A? Or does the Mineral Kingdom only go once around the World Chain from I to 7? In Esoteric Buddhism, page 91, it is stated that the several kingdoms pass “several times around the whole circle as minerals, and then again several times as vegetables,” but there is no distinct statement of this in S.D.-Yours, IGNOTUS.
Inaccuracies like those in the foregoing are not uncommon. They are constant and all-pervading. It is probably the fault of modern education, accentuated by the reading of a vast amount of superficial literature such as is poured out day by day. Any close observer can detect the want of attention displayed in metaphysical studies in contrast with the particular care given to matters of business and practical affairs of life. All those who are studying Theosophy ought to make themselves aware of this national defect, and therefore give the strictest attention to what they read upon metaphysics and devote less attention to the amount of such reading than to thinking upon what is read.
In the first place, the Secret Doctrine does not say on the page quoted, nor anywhere else, what “Ignotus” writes. Instead of reading as quoted, the passage is:
I. Everything in the metaphysical as in the physical Universe is septenary. [p. 158] . . . The evolution of life proceeds on these seven globes or bodies from the first to the seventh in Seven Rounds or Seven Cycles [p. 159].
I insert in italics the omitted words, the word proceeds having been put out of its place by “Ignotus.” The error makes a completely new scheme, one unphilosophical and certainly not given out by the Masters. But though some may wonder why I notice such a false assumption, it is right to take it up because it must have arisen through carelessness, yet of such a sort as might perpetuate an important error. It follows from the restoration of the passage that the Globes do not “revolve around the world chain.” The supposition of the correspondent is not peculiar among the many hurried ones made by superficial readers. He first assumed that the various globes of the Earth-Chain revolved, in some way which he did not stop to formulate, in seven rounds-I presume in some imaginary orbit of their own-in what he called the “world chain,” and then he went on adapting the rest of the evolutionary theory to this primary assumption. By reading the Secret Doctrine and the former articles on this subject in the PATH, the point in question will be made clear. Evolution of the monad, which produces and underlies all other evolutions, proceeds on the seven planetary bodies of any chain of evolution. These seven places or spheres for such evolution represent different states of consciousness, and hence, as written in the Secret Doctrine and attempted to be shown in these articles, they may and do interpenetrate each other with beings on each. Therefore all such words as “round,” “around,” “chain,” and the like must be examined metaphysically and not be allowed to give the mind a false notion such as is sure to arise if they are construed in the material way and from their materialistic derivation. “To go around” the seven globes does not mean that one passes necessarily from one place to another, but indicates a change from one condition to another, just as we might say that a man “went the whole round of sensations.”
As to the other questions raised, Esoteric Buddhism is right in saying that the monads pass several times around the globes as minerals and vegetables, but wisely does not make the number and order very definite. In the Secret Doctrine one of the Masters writes that at the second round the order of the appearance of the human kingdom alters, but the letter goes no farther on that point except to say, as is very definitely put in the Secret Doctrine on p. 159, para. 4;
The Life Cycle . . . arrived on our Earth at the commencement of the Fourth in the present series of life-cycles and races. Man is the first form that appears thereon, being preceded only by the mineral and vegetable kingdoms-even the latter having to develop and continue its further evolution through man.
This states quite distinctly (a) that after the second round the order alters, and (b) that in the fourth round, instead of animals appearing as the first moving forms for the monads to inhabit, the human form comes first, preceded by mineral and vegetable, and followed by the brute-animal.
This change always comes on at any fourth round, or else we never could have evolutionary perfection. Other monads come originally from other spheres of evolution. In a new one such as this the preliminary process and order of mineral, plant, animal, human must be followed. But having in two or three rounds perfected itself in the task, the monad brings out ‘the human form at the turning point, so that man as the model, means, guide, and savior may be able to intelligently raise up not only humanity but as well every other kingdom below the human. This is all made very clear and positive by repeated statement and explanation in the Secret Doctrine, and it is a matter for surprise that so many Theosophists do not understand it.
For fear that the present may be misunderstood I will add. Although the order of appearance of the human form alters as stated, this does not mean that the whole number of natural kingdoms does not make the sevenfold pilgrimage. They all make it, and in every round up to and including the seventh there are present in the chain of globes elemental, mineral, vegetable, animal, and human forms constituting those kingdoms, but of course the minerals and vegetables of the seventh round and race will be a very different sort from those of the present.
But as what a Master has said hereon is far better than my weak words, I will refer to that. Thus:
Nature consciously prefers that matter should be indestructible under organic rather than inorganic forms, and works slowly but incessantly towards the realization of this object-the evolution of conscious life out of inert material.
From other Theosophical Authors
Articles From Five Years of Theosophy
See: Zoroastrianism on the Septenary Constitution of Man (p. 144)
Brahmanism on the Sevenfold Principle in Man (p. 153)
The Septenary Principle in Esotericism (p. 187)
The Three Monadic Vestures
The Three Monadic Vestures
The Christian teachings as found in the Bible speak of man as composed of a body, a soul, and a spirit. In Theosophy we study the Seven Principles of man; in other schemes of philosophical and religious thought we find two, four, five, and even, nine and twelve mentioned. Amidst these varied and diversified divisions it is small wonder that a newer student or inquirer feels lost, confused, and even perplexed to the point of deciding to take up some other more readily assimilated subject of study.
The truth of the matter can be said to be in the fundamental axiom of Theosophy as well as all the other great world systems of thought throughout the ages. Namely that the Root, the Base, or the Acme, the Flower of everything from the lowliest elementals to the highest Gods is ONE.
As the Zohar says:
The Divine animated all parts of the Universe with characteristic and appropriate spiritual beings, and thus all the hosts exist. — Zohar, III, 68a
In Theosophy we call this One Divine Principle, when manifesting, the Monas Monadum, that is, a Galactic Monad composed of hosts of Monadic centers. We may think of this ONE as a circle whose circumference is boundless and whose center is in every minute portion of limitless space on all its planes.
The Heart of the most inanimate and unevolved subject we can imagine is rooted in — in fact is the same as — the Heart, the Core of the being, of the consciousness, of the greatest Galactic Universe. The only difference is one of expression in degree of consciousness. H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine expresses this thought in these words:
From GODS to men, from Worlds to atoms, from a star to a rush-light, from the Sun to the vital heat of the meanest organic being — the World of Form and Existence is an immense chain, whose links are all connected. The law of Analogy is the first key to the world-problem, and these links have to be studied co-ordinately in their occult relations to each other. — I, 604
This Oneness expresses itself on all planes of the Cosmos through transitory vehicles, built of the substances, forces and life-energies of the planes upon which it may be manifesting. These vehicles or sheaths of consciousness become ever more condensed, more material, as the Ray from the Monad descends through children-vehicles down into ever increasingly material spheres. Each plane is the sphere of being or consciousness, the home, of a ray of the Chief Monad of any entity whether a mineral or a God. The core of the vehicle of such a manifesting Jiva is called the Sutratman in the Vedantic philosophy, the thread soul, which has strung upon it various children monads. Each of these minor monads in the constitution is exactly the same in essence as the Chief Monad, the fountain from which they have all issued and in which they have their being; each is constituted in the same essences, vehicular bodies, and consciousness centers, although of varying degrees depending upon its evolutionary standing.
Now with this picture in mind, and with a general concept of the various methods of dividing man, we might say that the manner which is the most basic, in that further sub-divisions can be made, is the Threefold. Further separations should be made by each student according to the mode which gives him the clearest understanding and satisfies his mind and heart the most fully — with the added thought, however, that we should ever strive to keep an open mind and not allow ourselves to become crystallized in any one way of looking upon a subject, if we hope to expand our consciousness and the teachings as time goes on.
The triune division of man is the Self, the Ego, and the Soul. Every Monad may be said to express itself first consciously and then self-consciously through these primary Upadhis which it has built for itself and which are the reflexions in their respective fields of the One.
The Self, the I AM, is the immortal spark of any entity, which never dies or descends directly into the lower planes, but sends forth shoots or rays which are the spiritual heart of the pranic forces or life-energies of those planes. The Self of a monad, such as the human, which is largely unrealized, acts unselfconsciously as the “medium” through which these life-essences are transmitted to the human, through the Higher Ego, and which develops into self-consciousness in conjunction with the Ego.
The Ego, which is a garment or vehicle of the Self, of the I AM, is like a mirror which reflects the I AM, making of it the I AM I. It is that portion of us which in its higher parts gives us our spiritual yearnings and sublime realization of the essential Divine Root from which everything evolves and from which come our flashes of intuition. In its lower aspects it joins with the soul to give us our individualized personalities, our human self-consciousness.
The Soul in its turn is the vehicle or body of the Ego. On the higher planes it is a body of light; and on the lower it is ever more concreted light until it reaches this physical plane where it develops into the material elements we see on all sides. If we had the eye of a Seer, these bodies would look like millions of tiny lights, revolving and sparkling with the greatest of intensity. Each one of these lights, atoms, is in itself an expression of a ray of a monad — a monad manifesting in its turn through a Self, an Ego, and a Soul. As Madame Blavatsky says in The Secret Doctrine:
The collective aggregation of these atoms forms thus the Anima Mundi of our Solar system, the soul of our little universe, [or of man, a miniature universe] each atom of which is of course a soul, a monad, a little universe endowed with consciousness, hence with memory. — S. D, II, p. 672, footnote.
In the same manner that the Cosmos is the Universal World-Soul or Being in whom we are rooted, live, and have our being, so do we, the Human Ego and Soul, stand to these lesser lives. These less evolved monads exist in our constitution and draw their life and inner forces from and through us. Dr. G. de Purucker in his The Esoteric Tradition (Vol. I, p. 264) says that
Man is the parent of all the minor beings or lives of life-atoms which compose his various vehicles or sheaths of consciousness . . . .
Even a partial understanding of these teachings fills us with awe, and reverence too, for the sublime pattern of the Universe which is repeated throughout and which holds us responsible for the welfare and guidance of these lesser beings of our constitution. Our guardianship of them is as sublime in its way as that of the greater beings who have sacrificed themselves to help us in our struggle up the ladder of life to an ever fuller expansion of consciousness and self-conscious absorption with the Super-Divine Essence and work of the One.
— Studley Hart, The Theosophical Forum, July 1941
The Planes of Consciousness
The Planes of Consciousness
There are three conditions of consciousness in ordinary daily experience, that of ordinary wakefulness, that of sleep with dreams, and that of dreamless sleep. We have already shown that not memory, but consciousness, is the all-potent factor in man. Consciousness as a fact returns to the individual as well as memory, after deep sleep. Every one will admit that, in sleep where dreams occur, consciousness is on a different plane, or under different conditions, from the waking state, and memory brings into the waking state the subject and the varied experiences of dreams. After dreamless sleep memory may bring nothing back from the subjective world, but it resumes the thread of life just where it was dropped before unconsciousness came on. Now what becomes of consciousness during the dreamless slumber? Either it continues or it does not. If it continues, then it must simply be upon another plane and under different conditions, at least so far as thought and memory are concerned, for the gap is between consciousness and memory in relation to thought. If, on the other hand, consciousness is blotted out and re-created every time we enter dreamless sleep, how does it happen that both consciousness and memory, both new creations, at once take up the thread of life just where they dropped it, and resume the even tenor of their way as though nothing had happened? Such a position is evidently absurd. Nature never does things in that way. Her adjustments require time, her developments and all her varied relations are slow growths. Both consciousness and memory have grown and expanded from the original germ. The true philosophy of dreams, then, is a problem in the conditions of consciousness, while we may fairly assume that consciousness still persists in dreamless sleep, though under different circumstances. Nothing is more common in daily life than the shifting of the planes of consciousness. Take, for example, the action of anaesthetics. Chloroform changes the consciousness of the real ego. The individual cannot be called strictly unconscious. He is not conscious in the ordinary way. He suffers no pain, and retains no recollection of what occurs while under the influence of the anaesthetic, but the organic consciousness remains undisturbed, muscular motion may occur, but without coordination. The cerebrum, cerebellum, and sensory ganglia are unconscious in dreamless sleep; the medulla, spinal cord, and solar plexus, and the sexual area are wide awake, and sometimes these are super-sensitive. The light of self-consciousness is withdrawn, drawn within, but not quenched. In syncope or an ordinary faint, consciousness is likewise withdrawn, but if one will watch carefully the first return of consciousness in such cases, it will generally be found that consciousness has been by no means dead or idle, for by gently attracting the attention just on the turning point it will be found that a few seconds have been sufficient for the recall of a long forgotten experience, recovered now from the all-pervading ether, or for the weaving of romance, comedy, or tragedy quite sufficient for a good sized novel. But, perhaps, the rather common instances of sleep-walking or somnambulism offer the best illustrations of at least dual consciousness. The literature of the subject is, however, so full and so easy of access that it is unnecessary here to go into details. Persons subject to these attacks from childhood really lead dual lives bearing no direct relation to each other. Individuals walking in their sleep have been known to enter a company where there were strangers, carry on a conversation with those to whom they were introduced, and retain no recollection of the events or of the names of the strangers, or even to have met them. But on the succeeding night, walking again in sleep, meeting the same individuals they recognize them and resume the conversation of the previous night. One such case is sufficient to show the existence of another than the outer plane of consciousness. Experiments in animal magnetism, and more especially the recent investigations in hypnotism, demonstrate beyond all controversy more than one plane of consciousness, and these may have no direct relation to each other, or, when desired, the connection may be established between the different planes. In many of these cases the extent of knowledge and intelligence of the faculties of the individual in subjective consciousness altogether transcends the ordinary plane. As previously remarked, the difficulty is not in finding illustrations of the different planes and relations of consciousness, but in selecting from the mass of available material. Even the delirium of fever, the intoxication produced by alcohol and many drugs, no less than monomania and insanity, each and all consist largely in either a temporary or a permanent shifting of the planes of consciousness, and aberrations of memory. Take, for example, the delirium caused by opium and alcohol. Consciousness is shifted to a subjective plane, and sometimes to a very low plane. It is a great mistake to assume that the objects seen and the events that occur have no real existence. If all these are to be regarded as the creations of the imagination, whence arises the great uniformity of the objects witnessed from the effects of alcohol? When we get any rational idea of the subjective world, we shall discover that the snakes and dragons witnessed there are as veritable on that plane, to subjective sense, as their living phototypes are on the phenomenal plane to objective sense; for it must be remembered that the universal ether is that infinite ocean whence all creation proceeds, and into whose all-dissolving bosom all things return. Our relation to objects here is largely incidental, determined by location, circumstance, and the like.
On the subjective plane our relations are determined by attractions and intrinsic conditions, and an individual full of all evil passions, inflamed by alcohol, will attract entities of like degree, and so on to the end of the chapter. To say that all such cases result from pure imagination is not even to make them thinkable. Many persons assume that when they have named a thing they have explained it, and that further questions are an impertinence. Perhaps the most important consideration in regard to the shifting states of consciousness from the objective to the subjective condition regards that vague and varying state known as insanity. As a rule, with the insane this transfer of consciousness is partial, seldom complete. Consciousness is rather out of joint than actually transferred from plane to plane. There is usually an organic lesion, or a functional obstruction that tends to tissue change in some of the nerve centers. The result in many cases is to break down that sharp line of demarcation between the objective and subjective worlds. The individual becomes bewildered, loses his bearings. His experiences are no longer coordinate. The instrument through which consciousness manifested is out of tune, and the result is discord. The great mistake in regard to all these cases of perverted function arises from the fact that no differentiation is made as to planes or states of consciousness. Practically but one state of consciousness is recognized, and the still further mistake is made of looking upon all objects cognized, and all experiences outside the ordinary plane of consciousness, as altogether non-existent, a figment of the imagination. But pray what is imagination? Ask the artist, the poet, the painter; ask genius that is so closely allied to insanity; ask all who create from ideal forms; and they will tell us, one and all, that imagination is the wings of the soul that bear up the lagging fancy, the slow and plodding mind, till it enters the ideal world and gazes there on both beauty and deformity in all their nakedness. They will tell us that what we call the real world is at best but a poor and colorless caricature as compared to the ideals open to the imagination, and that what the world is pleased to call the work of genius bears but a touch of that transcendent truth and reality that veils its face from every faculty of man on the phenomenal plane. Ask the true scientist what we knew of anything, of matter, space, time, or motion, — of the whole phenomenal world —, and he will tell us, and tell us truly, that we have our own ideas of these, and nothing more. Finally, ask that greatest of all modern philosophers, Schopenhauer, what is imagination? and he will tell us that not only the world, but ourselves included, is reducible to two terms, Imagination and Will; the one, the essence and the creator of all forms in nature; the other, the creative and motive power; and that these powers are as potent on the subjective plane as on the objective; are as active in drunken delirium, in mania, and insanity, as in that other condition of consciousness that we call sanity, but which is often more insane than any other. There is no subject likely to yield more valuable results to the earnest student than the various planes and conditions of consciousness.
— J. D. Buck, The Path, December 1888
The Sevenfold Constitution of Man
The Sevenfold Constitution of Man
In the second volume of the Secret Doctrine, p. 81, Mme. Blavatsky bids us remember that to some extent even the esoteric teaching is allegorical, and that to make the latter comprehensible to the average intelligence, symbols cast in an intelligible form must be used. And in Esoteric Buddhism Mr. Sinnett warns us against thinking of the higher principles as of a bundle of sticks tied together, or, in another view, of considering the different principles as being like the skins of an onion, to be peeled off one by one till we get to the innermost and best. It is said that one of the favorite topics of discussion in the medieval Church was as to the number of angels that could find standing room on the point of a cambric needle. Human nature is the same always, and in every age of the world we have found it difficult to dispossess our minds of concrete conceptions and come down to abstract thought. We instinctively cling to some form of expression which materialises our idea, so to speak, and enables us to make a picture of it in our mind’s eye; and then, almost before we know it, we have accepted that picture as the thing it tried to symbolise. Men are always making to themselves graven images, and then bowing down and worshiping the images instead of the gods they endeavored to represent.
So it seems to me that our difficulty in getting at a clear idea of the seven-fold constitution of man lies mostly in the way we go to work; that we fail to recognise, in the first place, that we are dealing with spiritual things, and that those things cannot be seen with the physical, nor even the intellectual eye, and that the more we divide and subdivide, the more we define and consequently materialise our subject. This is most certainly a case where we need to generalise, and not to particularize, until we have arrived at the point where we are quite sure we are conscious that we are dealing with symbols and not with entities.
If we wish to get a general idea of Man, we may think first of the body, as a thing which upon this material plane whereon we live we may call a tangible reality. Now a “tangible reality”, though it can easily be proved to be the greatest of all illusions, is also the most material thing about us and the most widely removed from spirit; therefore we can set it aside, as do the Vedantin schools spoken of in the Key, p. 117, as not part of the spiritual man, or we can call it the lowest “principle” of our being. The material at one end of the scale involves the spiritual at the other, and we find on page 101 and 119 of the Key, Atma described as the Divine essence, which “is no individual property of any man”, but “only overshadows the mortal; that which enters into him and pervades the whole body being only its omnipresent rays or light”. “This ought not to be called a human principle at all” (p. 119).
We have, then, the body and the Spirit accounted for, — what remains is Consciousness, in its different phases. Upon p. 100 of the Key we read: “The ‘principles’ (save the body, life, and the astral eidolon, all of which disperse at death) are simply aspects and states of consciousness.”
We realize a mood of intense desire or passion as something apart from our spiritual nature, and more akin to the physical; and we sometimes speak even of our “physical consciousness” as a thing that we do not therefore perceive with our senses. This is the lowest aspect of our consciousness, and is called in Sanskrit Kama-rupa, or “the body of desire.” This is, of course, a highly figurative expression.
Then comes our intelligent consciousness, the Mind itself, the thinking part of us, which differentiates us from the brute; and we all realise that this aspect of our consciousness has a dual nature, and may drag us down to the level of the animal or raise us to the height of the god. Therefore we speak of the higher and lower Manas, or mind.
The physical body, its passions, and that lower aspect of mind which tends to gravitate downward and which belongs to the physical brain, are dependent upon life, or the vital principle, a form of the Divine Energy within us. So also is that phantom body, the shadow of the real one, which disperses after death like the light of a distant star, that to us appears to be still shining, although in reality long ago fallen from its sphere.
If we can imagine the lower aspect of our intelligence or mind tending downward, we can also realise its higher phase aspiring to unite itself to our spiritual consciousness or Buddhi, the vehicle of the Divine, of that Universal Spirit which makes us one. Our highest intelligence and our spiritual consciousness, overshadowed by the radiation of the Absolute, form the Monad or re-incarnating Ego.
Of this Madame Blavatsky says on p. 92 of the Key, that it alone can be thought of as the highest “principle in man”. Because, as she explains it is always the predominating element in man that counts, and in one man passion is the ruling and foremost phase; in another, intellect; in another, spirituality.
But however we choose to arrange these phases in our minds, let us remember always that they are not entities, and that, as Mme. Blavatsky says, “There is but one real man, enduring through the cycle of life and immortal in essence, if not in form, and this is Manas, the Mind-man or embodied consciousness.” (Key, p. 100.)
— K. Hillard, The Path, June 1890