The Key to Theosophy



Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

1831 -1891



The Key to Theosophy


Helena Petrovna Blavatsky


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On the Various Principles in Man



Q. I have heard a good deal about this constitution of the "inner man" as you

call it, but could never make "head or tail on't" as Gabalis expresses it.

A. Of course, it is most difficult, and, as you say, "puzzling" to understand

correctly and distinguish between the various aspects,called by us the

principles of the real Ego. It is the more so as there exists a notable

difference in the numbering of those principles by various Eastern schools,

though at the bottom there is the same identical substratum of teaching.


Q. Do you mean the Vedantins, as an instance? Don't they divide your seven

principles into five only?

A.They do; but though I would not presume to dispute the point with a learned

Vedantin, I may yet state as my private opinion that they have an obvious reason

for it. With them it is only that compound spiritual aggregate which consists of

various mental aspects that is called Man at all, the physical body being in

their view something beneath contempt, and merely an illusion. Nor is the

Vedanta the only philosophy to reckon in this manner. Lao-tzu, in his Tao Te

Ching, mentions only five principles, because he, like the Vedantins, omits to

include two principles, namely, the spirit ( Atma) and the physical body, the

latter of which, moreover, he calls "the cadaver." Then there is the Taraka

Raja-Yoga School. Its teaching recognizes only three principles in fact; but

then, in reality, their Sthulopadhi, or the physical body, in its waking

conscious state, their Sukshmopadhi, the same body in Svapna,or the dreaming

state, and their Karanopadhi or "causal body," or that which passes from one

incarnation to another, are all dual in their aspects, and thus make six. Add to

this Atma, the impersonal divine principle or the immortal element in Man,

undistinguished from the Universal Spirit, and you have the same seven again.

They are welcome to hold to their division; we hold to ours.

[See 'Secret Doctrine', part 1, p. 182 for a clearer exposition]


Q. Then it seems almost the same as the division made by the mystic Christians:

body, soul, and spirit?

A. Just the same. We could easily make of the body the vehicle of the "vital

Double"; of the latter the vehicle of Life or Prana; of Kamarupa,or (animal)

soul, the vehicle of the higher and the lowermind, and make of this six

principles, crowning the whole with the one immortal spirit. In Occultism every

qualitative change in the state of our consciousness gives to man a new aspect,

and if it prevails and becomes part of the living and acting Ego, it must be

(and is) given a special name, to distinguish the man in that particular state

from the man he is when he places himself in another state.


Q. It is just that which it is so difficult to understand.

A. It seems to me very easy, on the contrary, once that you have seized the main

idea,i.e., that man acts on this or another plane of consciousness, in strict

accordance with his mental and spiritual condition. But such is the materialism

of the age that the more we explain the less people seem capable of

understanding what we say. Divide the terrestrial being called man into three

chief aspects, if you like, and unless you make of him a pure animal you cannot

do less. Take his objective body; the thinking principle in him-which is only a

little higher than the instinctualelement in the animal-or the vital conscious

soul; and that which places him so immeasurably beyond and higher than the

animal-i.e.,his reasoning soul or "spirit." Well, if we take these three groups

or representative entities, and subdivide them, according to the occult

teaching, what do we get?


First of all, Spirit (in the sense of the Absolute, and therefore, indivisible

All), or Atma. As this can neither be located nor limited in philosophy, being

simply that which is in Eternity, and which cannot be absent from even the

tiniest geometrical or mathematical point of the universe of matter or

substance, it ought not to be called, in truth, a "human" principle at all.

Rather, and at best, it is in Metaphysics, that point in space which the human

Monad and its vehicle man occupy for the period of every life. Now that point is

as imaginary as man himself, and in reality is an illusion, a Maya ; but then

for ourselves, as for other personal Egos, we are a reality during that fit of

illusion called life, and we have to take ourselves into account, in our own

fancy at any rate, if no one else does. To make it more conceivable to the human

intellect, when first attempting the study of Occultism, and to solve the a-b-c

of the mystery of man, Occultism calls this seventh principle the synthesis of

the sixth, and gives it for vehicle the SpiritualSoul, Buddhi. Now the latter

conceals a mystery, which is never given to any one, with the exception of

irrevocably pledgedChelas, or those, at any rate, who can be safely trusted. Of

course, there would be less confusion, could it only be told; but, as this is

directly concerned with the power of projecting one's double consciously and at

will, and as this gift, like the "ring of Gyges," would prove very fatal to man

at large and to the possessor of that faculty in particular, it is carefully

guarded. But let us proceed with the principles. This divine soul, or Buddhi,

then, is the vehicle of the Spirit. In conjunction, these two are one,

impersonal and without any attributes (on this plane, of course), and make two

spiritual principles. If we pass onto the Human Soul, Manas or mens, everyone

will agree that the intelligence of man is dual to say the least: e.g., the

high-minded man can hardly become low-minded; the very intellectual and

spiritual-minded man is separated by an abyss from the obtuse, dull, and

material, if not animal-minded man.


Q. But why should not man be represented by two principles or two aspects,


A. Every man has these two principles in him, one more active than the other,

and in rare cases, one of these is entirely stunted in its growth, so to say, or

paralysed by the strength and predominance of the otheraspect, in whatever

direction. These, then, are what we call the two principles or aspects of Manas,

the higher and the lower; the former, the higher Manas, or the thinking,

conscious Ego gravitating toward the spiritual Soul (Buddhi); and the latter, or

its instinctual principle, attracted to Kama,the seat of animal desires and

passions in man. Thus, we havefour principles justified; the last three being

(1) the "Double," which we have agreed to call Protean, or Plastic Soul; the

vehicle of (2) the life principle; and (3) the physical body. Of course no

physiologist or biologist will accept these principles, nor can he make head or

tail of them. And this is why, perhaps, none of them understand to this day

either the functions of the spleen, the physical vehicle of the Protean Double,

or those of a certain organ on the right side of man, the seat of the

above-mentioned desires, nor yet does he know anything of the pineal gland,

which he describes as a horny gland with a little sand in it, which gland is in

truth the very seat of the highest and divinest consciousness in man, his

omniscient, spiritual and all-embracing mind. And this shows to you still more

plainly that we have neither invented these seven principles, nor are they new

in the world of philosophy, as we can easily prove.


Q. But what is it that reincarnates, in your belief?

A. The Spiritual thinking Ego, the permanent principle in man, or that which is

the seat of Manas. It is not Atma, or even Atma-Buddhi, regarded as the dual

Monad, which is the individual, or divineman, but Manas; for Atma is the

Universal All, and becomes the Higher-Self of man only in conjunction with

Buddhi, its vehicle, which links it to the individuality (or divine man). For it

is the Buddhi-Manas which is called the Causal body,(the United fifth and sixth

Principles) and which is Consciousness,that connects it with every personality

it inhabits on earth. Therefore, Soul being a generic term, there are in men

three aspectsof Soul-the terrestrial, or animal; the Human Soul; and the

Spiritual Soul; these, strictly speaking, are one Soul in its three aspects. Now

of the first aspect, nothing remains after death; of the second (nous or Manas)

only its divine essence if left unsoiledsurvives, while the third in addition to

being immortal becomesconsciously divine, by the assimilation of the higher

Manas. But to make it clear, we have to say a few words first of all about



Q. You will do well, as it is against this doctrine that your enemies fight the

most ferociously.

A. You mean the Spiritualists? I know; and many are the absurd objections

laboriously spun by them over the pages of Light. So obtuse and malicious are

some of them, that they will stop at nothing. One of them found recently a

contradiction, which he gravely discusses in a letter to that journal, in two

statements picked out of Mr. Sinnett's lectures. He discovers that grave

contradiction in these two sentences: "Premature returns to earth-life in the

cases when they occur may be due to Karmic complication … "; and "there is no accident in the supreme act of divine justice guiding evolution." So profound a thinker would surely see a contradiction of the law of gravitation if a man

stretched out his hand to stop a falling stone from crushing the head of a





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