The Key to Theosophy
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
The Key to Theosophy
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
On Individuality and Personality
Q. But what is the difference between the two?
A. Even Col. Olcott, forced to it by the logic of Esoteric philosophy, found
himself obliged to correct the mistakes of previous Orientalists who made no
such distinction, and gives the reader his reasons for it. Thus he says:
The successive appearances upon the earth, or "descents into generation," of the tanhaically coherent parts (Skandhas) of a certain being, are a succession of
personalities. In each birth the personality differs from that of a previous or
next succeeding birth. Karma, the deus ex machina, masks (or shall we say
reflects?) itself now in the personality of a sage, again as an artisan, and so
on throughout the string of births. But though personalities ever shift, the one
line of life along which they are strung, like beads, runs unbroken; it is ever
that particular line, never any other. It is therefore individual, an individual
vital undulation, which began in Nirvana, or the subjective side of nature, as
the light or heat undulation through aether, began at its dynamic source; is
careering through the objective side of nature under the impulse of Karma and
the creative direction of Tanha (the unsatisfied desire for existence); and
leads through many cyclic changes back to Nirvana. Mr. Rhys-Davids calls that
which passes from personality to personality along the individual chain
character, or doing.Since character is not a mere metaphysical abstraction, but
the sum of one's mental qualities and moral propensities, would it not help to
dispel what Mr. Rhys-Davids calls "the desperate expedient of a mystery" if we
regarded the life-undulation as individuality, and each of its series of natal
manifestations as a separate personality? The perfect individual, Buddhist
speaking, is a Buddha, I should say; for Buddha is but the rare flower of
humanity, without the least supernatural admixture. And as countless generations
("four asankheyyas and a hundred thousand cycles,") are required to develop a
man into a Buddha, and the iron will to become one runs throughout all the
successive births, what shall we call that which thus wills and perseveres?
Character? One's individuality: an individuality but partly manifested in any
one birth, but built up of fragments from all the births?
Q. I confess that I am still in the dark. Indeed it is just that difference,
then, that you cannot impress too much on our minds.
A. I try to; but alas, it is harder with some than to make them feel a reverence
for childish impossibilities, only because they are orthodox,and because
orthodoxy is respectable. To understand the idea well, you have to first study
the dual sets of principles: the spiritual,or those which belong to the
imperishable Ego; and the material,or those principles which make up the
ever-changing bodies or the series of personalities of that Ego. Let us fix
permanent names to these, and say that:
1. Atma, the "Higher Self," is neither your Spirit nor mine, but like sunlight
shines on all. It is the universally diffused "divine principle," and is
inseparable from its one and absolute Meta-Spirit, as the sunbeam is inseparable
2. Buddhi (the spiritual soul) is only its vehicle. Neither each separately, nor
the two collectively, are of any more use to the body of man, than sunlight and
its beams are for a mass of granite buried in the earth, unless the divine Duad
is assimilated by, and reflected in, some consciousness.Neither Atma nor Buddhi are ever reached by Karma, because the former is the highest aspect of Karma, its working agentof itself in one aspect, and the other is unconscious on this plane. This consciousness or mind is,
3. Manas, the derivation or product in a reflected form of Ahankara, "the
conception of I," or Ego-ship. It is, therefore, when inseparably united to the
first two, called the Spiritual Ego, and Taijasi (the radiant). This is the real
Individuality, or the divine man. It is this Ego which-having originally
incarnated in the senseless human form animated by, but unconscious (since it
had no consciousness) of, the presence in itself of the dual monad-made of that
human-like form a real man.Mahat or the "Universal Mind" is the source of Manas. The latter is Mahat, i.e., mind, in man. Manas is also called Kshetrajña, "embodied Spirit," because it is, according to our philosophy, the Manasaputras,or "Sons of the Universal Mind," who created,or rather produced, the thinking man, "manu," by incarnating in the third Race mankind in our Round. It is Manas, therefore, which is the real incarnating and permanent Spiritual Ego, the individuality, and our various and numberless personalities only its external masks.
It is that Ego, that "Causal Body," which overshadows every personality Karma
forces it to incarnate into; and this Ego which is held responsible for all the
sins committed through, and in, every new body or personality-the evanescent
masks which hide the true Individual through the long series of rebirths.
Q. But is this just? Why should this Ego receive punishment as the result of
deeds which it has forgotten?
A. It has not forgotten them; it knows and remembers its misdeeds as well as you remember what you have done yesterday. Is it because the memory of that bundle of physical compounds called "body" does not recollect what its predecessor (the personality that was) did, that you imagine that the real Ego has forgotten them? As well say it is unjust that the new boots on the feet of a boy, who is flogged for stealing apples, should be punished for that which they know nothing of.
Q. But are there no modes of communication between the Spiritual and human
consciousness or memory?
A. Of course there are; but they have never been recognized by your scientific
modern psychologists. To what do you attribute intuition, the "voice of the
conscience," premonitions, vague undefined reminiscences, etc., etc., if not to
such communications? Would that the majority of educated men, at least, had the fine spiritual perceptions of Coleridge, who shows how intuitional he is in some of his comments. Hear what he says with respect to the probability that "all thoughts are in themselves imperishable."
If the intelligent faculty (sudden 'revivals' of memory) should be rendered more
comprehensive, it would require only a different and appropriate organization,
the body celestial instead of the body terrestrial, to bring before every human
soul the collective experience of its whole past existence(existences, rather).
And this body celestial is our Manasic Ego.
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