The Key to Theosophy
The Key to Theosophy
Definite Words for
Q. Don't you think it is because there are no definite and fixed terms to indicate each principle in man, that such a confusion of ideas arises in our minds with respect to the respective functions of these principles?
A. I have thought of it myself. The whole trouble has arisen from this: we have started our expositions of, and discussion about, the principles, using their Sanskrit names instead of coining immediately, for the use of Theosophists, their equivalents in English. We must try and remedy this now.
Q. You will do well, as it may avoid further confusion; no two Theosophical writers, it seems to me, have hitherto agreed to call the same principle by the same name.
A. The confusion is more apparent than real, however. I have heard some of our Theosophists express surprise at, and criticize several essays speaking of these principles; but, when examined, there was no worse mistake in them than that of using the word Soul to cover the three principles without specifying the distinctions. The first, as positively the clearest of our Theosophical writers, Mr. A.P. Sinnett, has some comprehensive and admirably-written passages on the "Higher Self." His real idea has also been misconceived by some, owing to his using the word Soul in a general sense. Yet here are a few passages which will show to you how clear and comprehensive is all that he writes on the subject:
The human soul, once launched on the streams of evolution as a human individuality, passes through alternate periods of physical and relatively spiritual existence. It passes from the one plane, or stratum, or condition of nature to the other under the guidance of its Karmic affinities; living in incarnations the life which its Karma has preordained; modifying its progress within the limitations of circumstances, and-developing fresh Karma by its use or abuse of opportunities-it returns to spiritual existence (Devachan) after each physical life-through the intervening region of Kamaloka-for rest and refreshment and for the gradual absorption into its essence, as so much cosmic progress, of the life's experience gained "on earth" or during physical existence.
This view of the matter will, moreover, have suggested many collateral inferences to anyone thinking over the subject; for instance, that the transfer of consciousness from the Kamaloka to the Devachanic stage of this progression would necessarily be gradual; that in truth, no hard-and-fast line separates the varieties of spiritual conditions, that even the spiritual and physical planes, as psychic faculties in living people show, are not so hopelessly walled off from one another as materialistic theories would suggest; that all states of nature are all around us simultaneously, and appeal to different perceptive faculties; and so on … It is clear that during physical existence people who possess psychic faculties remain in connection with the planes of super-physical consciousness; and although most people may not be endowed with such faculties, we all, as the phenomena of sleep, even, and especially … those of somnambulism or mesmerism, show, are capable of entering into conditions of consciousness that the five physical senses have nothing to do with. We-the souls within us-are not as it were altogether adrift in the ocean of matter. We clearly retain some surviving interest or rights in the shore from which, for a time, we have floated off. The process of incarnation, therefore, is not fully described when we speak of an alternate existence on the physical and spiritual planes, and thus picture the soul as a complete entity slipping entirely from the one state of existence to the other. The more correct definitions of the process would probably represent incarnation as taking place on this physical plane of nature by reason of an efflux emanating from the soul.
The Spiritual realm would all the while be the proper habitat of the Soul, which would never entirely quit it; and that non-materializable portion of the Soul which abides permanently on the spiritual plane may fitly, perhaps, be spoken of as the Higher Self.
This "Higher Self" is Atma, and of course it is "non-materializable," as Mr. Sinnett says. Even more, it can never be "objective" under any circumstances, even to the highest spiritual perception. For Atma or the "Higher Self" is really Brahma, the Absolute, and indistinguishable from it. In hours of Samadhi, the higher spiritual consciousness of the Initiate is entirely absorbed in the one essence, which is Atma, and therefore, being one with the whole, there can be nothing objective for it. Now some of our Theosophists have got into the habit of using the words Self and Ego as synonymous, of associating the term Self with only man's higher individual or even personal "Self" or Ego,whereas this term ought never to be applied except to the One universal Self. Hence the confusion. Speaking of Manas, the "causal body," we may call it-when connecting it with the Buddhic radiance-the "Higher Ego," never the "Higher Self." For even Buddhi, the "Spiritual Soul," is not the Self, but the vehicle only of Self. All the other "Selves"-such as the "Individual" self and "personal" self-ought never to be spoken or written of without their qualifying and characteristic adjectives.
Thus in this most excellent essay on the "Higher Self," this term is applied to the sixth principleor Buddhi; and has in consequence given rise to just such misunderstandings. The statement thatA child does not acquire its sixth principle-or become a morally responsible being capable of generating Karma-until seven years old.-proves what is meant therein by the Higher Self. Therefore, the able author is quite justified in explaining that after the "Higher Self" has passed into the human being and saturated the personality-in some of the finer organizations only-with its consciousness People with psychic faculties may indeed perceive this Higher Self through their finer senses from time to time.
But so are those, who limit the term Higher Selfto the Universal Divine Principle, "justified" in misunderstanding him. For, when we read, without being prepared for this shifting of metaphysical terms, that while Fully manifesting on the physical plane … the Higher Self still remains a conscious spiritual Ego on the corresponding plane of Nature.
We are apt to see in the "Higher Self" of this sentence, Atma, and in the spiritual Ego, Manas,or rather Buddhi-Manas, and forthwith to criticize the whole thing as incorrect.
To avoid henceforth such misapprehensions, I propose to translate literally from the Occult Eastern terms their equivalents in English, and offer these for future use.
[The Self and the Egos ]
The Higher Self is Atma, the inseparable ray of the Universal and One Self. It is the God above, more than within, us. Happy the man who succeeds in saturating his inner Ego with it!
The Spiritual divine Ego is the Spiritual soul or Buddhi, in close union with Manas, the mind-principle, without which it is no Ego at all, but only the Atmic Vehicle.
The Inner, or Higher "Ego" is Manas,the "Fifth" Principle, so-called, independently of Buddhi. The Mind-Principle is only the Spiritual Ego when merged into one with Buddhi-no materialist being supposed to have in himsuch an Ego, however great his intellectual capacities. It is the permanent Individuality or the "Reincarnating Ego."
The Lower, or Personal "Ego" is the physical man in conjunction with his lower Self, i.e., animal instincts, passions, desires, etc. It is called the "false personality," and consists of the lower Manas combined with Kamarupa, and operating through the Physical body and its phantom or "double."
The remaining principle Prana, or Life, is, strictly speaking, the radiating force or Energy of Atma-as the Universal Life and the One Self-Its lower or rather (in its effects) more physical, because manifesting, aspect. Prana or Life permeates the whole being of the objective Universe; and is called a principle only because it is an indispensable factor and the deus ex machina of the living man.
Q. This division being so much simplified in its combinations will answer better, I believe. The other is much too metaphysical.
A. If outsiders as well as Theosophists would agree to it, it would certainly make matters much more comprehensible.
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