The Key to Theosophy
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
The Key to Theosophy
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
On Eternal Reward and Punishment,
and on Nirvana
Q. It is hardly necessary, I suppose, to ask you whether you believe in the
Christian dogmas of
taught by the Orthodox churches?
A. As described in your catechisms, we reject them absolutely; least of all
would we accept their eternity. But we believe firmly in what we call the Law of
Retribution, and in the absolute justice and wisdom guiding this Law, or Karma.
Hence we positively refuse to accept the cruel and unphilosophical belief in
eternal reward or eternal punishment.
We say with Horace:
Let rules be fixed that may our rage contain,
And punish faults with a proportioned pain;
But do not flay him who deserves alone
A whipping for the fault that he has done.
This is a rule for all men, and a just one. Have we to believe that God, of whom
you make the embodiment of wisdom, love and mercy, is less entitled to these
attributes than mortal man?
Q. Have you any other reasons for rejecting this dogma?
A. Our chief reason for it lies in the fact of reincarnation. As already stated,
we reject the idea of a new soul created for every newly-born babe. We believe
that every human being is the bearer, or Vehicle, of anEgo coeval with every
other Ego; because all Egos are of the same essence and belong to the primeval
emanation from one universal infinite Ego. Plato calls the latter thelogos (or
the second manifested God); and we, the manifested divine principle, which is
one with the universal mind or soul, not the anthropomorphic, extra-cosmic and
personal God in which so many Theists believe. Pray do not confuse.
Q. But where is the difficulty, once you accept a manifested principle, in
believing that the soul of every new mortal is created by that Principle, as all
the Souls before it have been so created?
A. Because that which is impersonal can hardly create, plan and think, at its
own sweet will and pleasure. Being a universal Law, immutable in its periodical
manifestations, those of radiating and manifesting its own essence at the
beginning of every new cycle of life, it is not supposed to create men, only to
repent a few years later of having created them. If we have to believe in a
divine principle at all, it must be in one which is as absolute harmony, logic,
and justice, as it is absolute love, wisdom, and impartiality; and a God who
would create every soul for the space ofone brief span of life, regardless of
the fact whether it has to animate the body of a wealthy, happy man, or that of
a poor suffering wretch, hapless from birth to death though he has done nothing
to deserve his cruel fate-would be rather a senselessfiend than a God. Why, even
the Jewish philosophers, believers in the Mosaic Bible (esoterically, of
course), have never entertained such an idea; and, moreover, they believed in
reincarnation, as we do.
Q. Can you give me some instances as a proof of this?
A. Most decidedly I can. Philo Judaeus says:
The air is full of them (of souls); those which are nearest the earth,
descending to be tied to mortal bodies, palindromousi authis , return to other
bodies, being desirous to live in them.
In The Zohar, the soul is made to plead her freedom before God:
Lord of the Universe! I am happy in this world, and do not wish to go into
another world, where I shall be a handmaid, and be exposed to all kinds of
The doctrine of fatal necessity, the everlasting immutable law, is asserted in
the answer of the Deity: "Against thy will thou becomest an embryo, and against
thy will thou art born." Light would be incomprehensible without darkness to
make it manifest by contrast; good would be no longer good without evil to show the priceless nature of the boon; and so personal virtue could claim no merit, unless it had passed through the furnace of temptation. Nothing is eternal and unchangeable, save the concealed Deity. Nothing that is finite-whether because it had a beginning, or must have an end-can remain stationary. It must either progress or recede; and a soul which thirsts after a reunion with its spirit,
which alone confers upon it immortality, must purify itself through cyclic
transmigrations onward toward the only land of bliss and eternal rest, called in
The Zohar,"The Palace of Love," ; in the Hindu religion, "Moksha"; among the
Gnostics, "The Pleroma of Eternal Light"; and by the Buddhists, "Nirvana." And all these states are temporary, not eternal.
Q. Yet there is no reincarnation spoken of in all this.
A. A soul which pleads to be allowed to remain where she is, must be
pre existent,and not have been created for the occasion. In The Zohar,however,
there is a still better proof. Speaking of the reincarnatingEgos (the rational
souls), those whose last personality has to fade out entirely, it is said:
All souls which have alienated themselves in heaven from the Holy One-blessed be His Name-have thrown themselves into an abyss at their very existence, and have anticipated the time when they are to descend once more on earth.
"The Holy One" means here, esoterically, the Atma, or Atma-Buddhi.
Q. Moreover, it is very strange to find Nirvana spoken of as something
synonymous with the
A. Taken literally, with regard to the personality and differentiated matter,
not otherwise. These ideas on reincarnation and the trinity of man were held by
many of the early Christian Fathers. It is the jumble made by the translators of
the New Testament and ancient philosophical treatises between soul and spirit,
that has occasioned the many misunderstandings. It is also one of the many
reasons why Buddha, Plotinus, and so many other Initiates are now accused of
having longed for the total extinction of their souls-"absorption unto the
Deity," or "reunion with the universal soul," meaning, according to modern
ideas, annihilation. The personal soul must, of course, be disintegrated into
its particles, before it is able to link its purer essence forever with the
immortal spirit. But the translators of both the Acts and the Epistles,who laid
the foundation of the
Buddhist Sutra of the Foundation of the
On the other hand, the interpreters of Buddha have failed to understand the meaning and object of the Buddhist four degrees of Dhyana. Ask the Pythagoreans, "Can that spirit, which gives life and motion and partakes of the nature of light, be reduced to nonentity?" "Can even that sensitive spirit in brutes which exercises memory, one of the rational faculties, die and become nothing?" observe the Occultists. In Buddhist philosophyannihilation means only a dispersion of matter, in whatever form or semblance of form it may be, for everything that has form is temporary, and is, therefore, really an illusion. For in eternity the longest periods of time are as a wink of the eye. So with form. Before we have time to realize that we have seen it, it is gone like an instantaneous flash of lightning, and passed forever. When the Spiritual entity breaks loose forever from every particle of matter, substance, or form, and rebecomes a Spiritual breath: then only does it enter upon the eternal and unchangeable Nirvana, lasting as long as the cycle of life has lasted-an eternity, truly. And then that Breath, existing in Spirit, is nothing because it is all;as a form, a semblance, a shape, it is completely annihilated; as absolute Spirit it still
is, for it has become Be-nessitself. The very word used, "absorbed in the
universal essence," when spoken of the "Soul" as Spirit, means "union with." It
can never mean annihilation, as that would mean eternal separation.
Q. Do you not lay yourself open to the accusation of preaching annihilation by
the language you yourself use? You have just spoken of the Soul of man returning to its primordial elements.
A. But you forget that I have given you the differences between the various
meanings of the word Soul, and shown the loose way in which the term Spirit has been hitherto translated. We speak of ananimal, a human, and a spiritual, Soul, and distinguish between them. Plato, for instance, calls "rational Soul" that
which we call Buddhi, adding to it the adjective of "spiritual," however; but
that which we call the reincarnating Ego, Manas, he calls Spirit, Nous,etc.,
whereas we apply the term Spirit, when standing alone and without any
qualification, to Atma alone. Pythagoras repeats our archaic doctrine when
stating that the Ego (Nous) is eternal with Deity; that the soul only passed
through various stages to arrive at divine excellence; while thumos returned to
the earth, and even the phren, the lower Manas,was eliminated. Again, Plato
defines Soul (Buddhi) as "the motion that is able to move itself." "Soul," he
adds (Laws X.), "is the most ancient of all things, and the commencement of
motion," thus calling Atma-Buddhi "Soul," and Manas "Spirit," which we do not.
Soul was generated prior to body, and body is posterior and secondary, as being according to nature, ruled over by the ruling soul. The soul which administers all things that are moved in every way, administers likewise the heavens.Soul then leads everything in heaven, and on earth, and in the sea, by its
movements-the names of which are, to will, to consider to take care of, to
consult. to form opinions true and false, to be in a state of joy, sorrow,
confidence, fear, hate, love, together with all such primary movements as are
allied to these … Being a goddess herself, she ever takes as an ally Nous, a
god, and disciplines all things correctly and happily; but when with Annoia-not
nous-it works out everything the contrary.
In this language, as in the Buddhist texts, the negative is treated as essential
existence. Annihilation comes under a similar exegesis. The positive state is
essential being, but no manifestation as such. When the spirit, in Buddhist
parlance, enters Nirvana, it loses objective existence, but retains subjective
being. To objective minds this is becoming absolute "nothing"; to subjective,
No-thing, nothing to be displayed to sense. Thus, their Nirvana means the
certitude of individual immortality in Spirit, not in Soul, which, though "the
most ancient of all things," is still-along with all the other Gods-a finite
emanation, in forms and individuality, if not in substance.
Q. I do not quite seize the idea yet, and would be thankful to have you explain
this to me by some illustrations.
A. No doubt it is very difficult to understand, especially to one brought up in
the regular orthodox ideas of the Christian Church. Moreover, I must tell you
one. thing; and this is that unless you have studied thoroughly well the
separate functions assigned to all the human principles and the state of all
these after death, you will hardly realize our Eastern philosophy.
Find answers to more questions
with these Theosophy links
Independent Theosophy Blog
One liners and quick explanations
About aspects of Theosophy
Classic Introductory Theosophy Text
A Text Book of Theosophy By C
Try these if you are looking for a
local Theosophy Group or Centre