The Key to Theosophy



Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

1831 -1891



The Key to Theosophy


Helena Petrovna Blavatsky


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The Complex Nature of Manas



Q. But you wanted to tell me something of the essential nature of Manas, and of

the relation in which the Skandhas of physical man stand to it?

A. It is this nature, mysterious, Protean, beyond any grasp, and almost shadowy

in its correlations with the other principles, that is most difficult to

realize, and still more so to explain. Manas is a principle, and yet it is an

"Entity" and individuality or Ego. He is a "God," and yet he is doomed to an

endless cycle of incarnations, for each of which he is made responsible, and for

each of which he has to suffer. All this seems as contradictory as it is

puzzling; nevertheless, there are hundreds of people, even in Europe, who

realize all this perfectly, for they comprehend the Ego not only in its

integrity but in its many aspects. Finally, if I would make myself

comprehensible, I must begin by the beginning and give you the genealogy of this

Ego in a few lines.

Q. Say on.

A. Try to imagine a "Spirit," a celestial Being, whether we call it by one name

or another, divine in its essential nature, yet not pure enough to be one with

the All, and having, in order to achieve this, to do purify its nature as to

finally gain that goal. It can do so only by passing individually and

personally, i.e.,spiritually and physically, through every experience and

feeling that exists in the manifold or differentiated Universe. It has,

therefore, after having gained such experience in the lower kingdoms, and having

ascended higher and still higher with every rung on the ladder of being, to pass

through every experience on the human planes. In its very essence it is thought,

and is, therefore, called in its plurality Manasaputra, "the Sons of the

(Universal) mind." This individualized "Thought" is what we Theosophists call

the real human Ego, the thinking Entity imprisoned in a case of flesh and bones.

This is surely a Spiritual Entity, not Matter, and such Entities are the

incarnating Egos that inform the bundle of animal matter called mankind, and

whose names are Manasa or "Minds." But once imprisoned, or incarnate, their

essence becomes dual: that is to say, the rays of the eternal divine Mind,

considered as individual entities, assume a two-fold attribute which is (a)

their essential inherent characteristic, heaven-aspiring mind (higher Manas),

and (b) the human quality of thinking, or animal cogitation, rationalized owing

to the superiority of the human brain, the Kama-tending or lower Manas. One

gravitates toward Buddhi, the other, tending downward, to the seat of passions

and animal desires. The latter have no room in Devachan, nor can they associate

with the divine triad which ascends as one into mental bliss. Yet it is the Ego,

the Manasic Entity, which is held responsible for all the sins of the lower

attributes, just as a parent is answerable for the transgressions of his child,

so long as the latter remains irresponsible.

Q. Is this "child" the "personality"?

A. It is. When, therefore, it is stated that the "personality" dies with the

body it does not state all. The body, which was only the objective symbol of Mr.

A. or Mrs. B., fades away with all its material Skandhas, which are the visible

expressions thereof. But all that which constituted during life the spiritual

bundle of experiences, the noblest aspirations, undying affections, and

unselfishnature of Mr. A. or Mrs. B. clings for the time of the Devachanic

period to the Ego, which is identified with the spiritual portion of that

terrestrial Entity, now passed away out of sight. The Actor is so imbued with

the role just played by him that he dreams of it during the whole Devachanic

night, which visioncontinues till the hour strikes for him to return to the

stage of life to enact another part.


Q. But how is it that this doctrine, which you say is as old as thinking men,

has found no room, say, in Christian theology?

A. You are mistaken, it has; only theology has disfigured it out of all

recognition, as it has many other doctrines. Theology calls the Ego the Angel

that God gives us at the moment of our birth, to take care of our Soul. Instead

of holding that "Angel" responsible for the transgressions of the poor helpless

"Soul," it is the latter which, according to theological logic, is punished for

all the sins of both flesh and mind! It is the Soul, the immaterialbreath of God

and his alleged creation, which, by some most amazing intellectual jugglery, is

doomed to burn in a material hell without ever being consumed, while the "Angel" escapes scot-free, after folding his white pinions and wetting them with a few tears. Aye, these are our "ministering Spirits," the "messengers of mercy" who are sent, Bishop Mant tells us:

… to fulfill Good for Salvation's heirs, for us they still Grieve when we sin, rejoice when we repent …


Yet it becomes evident that if all the Bishops the world over were asked to

define once for all what they mean bySoul and its functions, they would be as

unable to do so as to show us any shadow of logic in the orthodox belief!


The Doctrine is Taught

in St. John's Gospel


Q. To this the adherents to this belief might answer, that if even the orthodox

dogma does promise the impenitent sinner and materialist a bad time of it in a

rather too realistic Inferno, it gives them, on the other hand, a chance for

repentance to the last minute. Nor do they teach annihilation, or loss of

personality, which is all the same.

A. If the Church teaches nothing of the kind, on the other hand, Jesus does; and

that is something to those, at least, who place Christ higher than Christianity.


Q. Does Christ teach anything of the sort?

A. He does; and every well-informed Occultist and even Cabalist will tell you

so. Christ, or the fourth Gospel at any rate, teaches reincarnation as also the

annihilation of the personality, if you but forget the dead letter and hold to

the esoteric Spirit. Remember the parable spoken of by St. John. What does the

parable speak about if not of theupper triad in man? Atma is the Husbandman-the Spiritual Ego or Buddhi (Christos) the Vine, while the animal and vital Soul,

the personality, is the "branch."


I am the true vine, and my Father is the Husbandman. Every branch in me that

beareth not fruit he taketh away … As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself

except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the

Vine-ye are the branches. If a man abide not in me he is cast forth as a branch,

and is withered and cast into the fire and burned.


Now we explain it in this way. Disbelieving in the hellfire which theology

discovers as underlying the threat to the branches, we say that the "Husbandman" means Atma, the Symbol for the infinite, impersonal Principle, while the Vine stands for the Spiritual Soul, Christos, and each "branch" represents a new incarnation.


Q. But what proofs have you to support such an arbitrary interpretation?

A.Universal symbology is a warrant for its correctness and that it is not

arbitrary. Hermas says of "God" that he "planted the Vineyard," i.e., he created

mankind. In the Cabala, it is shown that the Aged of the Aged, or the "Long

Face," plants a vineyard, the latter typifying mankind; and a vine, meaning

Life. The Spirit of "KingMessiah" is, therefore, shown as washing his garments

inthe wine from above, from the creation of the world. [Zohar XL, 10] And King

Messiah is the Ego purified by washing his garments (i.e., his personalities in

rebirth), in the wine from above, or Buddhi. Adam, or A-Dam, is "blood." The

Life of the flesh is in the blood (nephesh-soul). And Adam-Kadmon is the

Only-Begotten. Noah also plants a vineyard-the allegorical hotbed of future

humanity. As a consequence of the adoption of the same allegory, we find it

reproduced in the Nazarene Codex.Seven vines are procreated-which seven vines are our Seven Races with their seven Saviors or Buddhas-which spring from Iukabar Zivo, and Ferho (or Parcha) Raba waters them.[Codex Nazareus, iii, pp. 60,61] When the blessed will ascend among the creatures of Light, they shall see Iavar-Xivo, Lord of Life, and the First Vine.[Cod. Naz., ii, p.281] These Cabalistic metaphors are thus naturally repeated in the Gospel according to St. John.


Let us not forget that in the human system-even according to those philosophies

which ignore our septenary division-the Ego or thinking man is called the Logos,

or the Son of Soul and Spirit. "Manas is the adopted Son of King *** and Queen

***" (esoteric equivalents for Atma and Buddhi), says an occult work. He is the

"man-god" of Plato, who crucifies himself in Space (or the duration of the life

cycle) for the redemption of Matter. This he does by incarnating over and over

again, thus leading mankind onward to perfection, and making thereby room for

lower forms to develop into higher. Not for one life does he cease progressing

himself and helping all physical nature to progress; even the occasional, very

rare event of his losing one of his personalities, in the case of the latter

being entirely devoid of even a spark of spirituality, helps toward his

individual progress.


Q. But surely, if theEgo is held responsible for the transgressions of its

personalities, it has to answer also for the loss, or rather the complete

annihilation, of one of such.

A. Not at all, unless it has done nothing to avert this dire fate. But if, all

its efforts notwithstanding, its voice, that of our conscience, was unable to

penetrate through the wall of matter, then the obtuseness of the latter

proceeding from the imperfect nature of the material is classed with other

failures of nature. The Ego is sufficiently punished by the loss of Devachan,

and especially by having to incarnate almost immediately.


Q. This doctrine of the possibility of losing one's soul-or personality, do you

call it?-militates against the ideal theories of both Christians and

Spiritualists, though Swedenborg adopts it to a certain extent, in what he

callsSpiritual death. They will never accept it.

A. This can in no way alter a fact in nature, if it be a fact, or prevent such a

thing occasionally taking place. The universe and everything in it, moral,

mental, physical, psychic, or Spiritual, is built on a perfect law of

equilibrium and harmony. As said before (see Isis Unveiled), the centripetal

force could not manifest itself without the centrifugal in the harmonious

revolutions of the spheres, and all forms and their progress are the products of

this dual force in nature. Now the Spirit (or Buddhi) is the centrifugal and the

soul (Manas) the centripetal spiritual energy; and to produce one result they

have to be in perfect union and harmony. Break or damage the centripetal motion of the earthly soul tending toward the center which attracts it; arrest its

progress by clogging it with a heavier weight of matter than it can bear, or

than is fit for the Devachanic state, and the harmony of the whole will be

destroyed. Personal life, or perhaps rather its ideal reflection, can only be

continued if sustained by the two-fold force, that is by the close union of

Buddhi and Manasin every rebirth or personal life. The least deviation from

harmony damages it; and when it is destroyed beyond redemption the two forces separate at the moment of death.


During a brief interval the personal form (called indifferently Kamarupa and Mayavirupa), the spiritual efflorescence of which, attaching itself to the Ego, follows it into Devachan and gives to the permanent individuality its personal coloring (pro tem, so to speak), is carried off to remain in Kamaloka and to be gradually annihilated.


For it is after the death of the utterly depraved, the unspiritual and the wicked beyond redemption, that arrives the critical and supreme moment. If during life the ultimate and desperate effort of the Inner Self (Manas), to unite something of the personality with itself and the high glimmering ray of the divine Buddhi, is

thwarted; if this ray is allowed to be more and more shut out from the

ever-thickening crust of physical brain, the Spiritual Ego or Manas, once freed

from the body, remains severed entirely from the ethereal relic of the

personality; and the latter, or Kamarupa, following its earthly attractions, is

drawn into and remains in Hades,which we call the Kamaloka. These are "the

withered branches" mentioned by Jesus as being cut off from the

Vine.Annihilation, however, is never instantaneous, and may require centuries

sometimes for its accomplishment. But there the personality remains along with

the remnants of other more fortunate personal Egos, and becomes with them a

shell and an Elementary.As said in Isis Unveiled, it is these two classes of

"Spirits," the shells and the Elementaries, which are the leading "Stars" on the

great spiritual stage of "materializations." And you may be sure of it, it is

not they who incarnate; and, therefore, so few of these "dear departed ones"

know anything of reincarnation, misleading thereby the Spiritualists.


Q. But does not the author of Isis Unveiled stand accused of having preached

against reincarnation?

A. By those who have misunderstood what was said, yes. At the time that work was written, reincarnation was not believed in by any Spiritualists, either English

or American, and what is said there of reincarnation was directed against the

French Spiritists, whose theory is as unphilosophical and absurd as the Eastern

teaching is logical and self-evident in its truth. The Reincarnationists of the

Allan Kardec School believe in an arbitrary and immediate reincarnation. With

them, the dead father can incarnate in his own unborn daughter, and so on. They

have neither Devachan, Karma, nor any philosophy that would warrant or prove the necessity of consecutive rebirths. But how can the author of Isis Unveiled argue against Karmic reincarnation, at long intervals varying between 1,000 and 1,500 years, when it is the fundamental belief of both Buddhists and Hindus?


Q. Then you reject the theories of both the Spiritists and the Spiritualists, in

their entirety?

A. Not in their entirety, but only with regard to their respective fundamental

beliefs. Both rely on what their "Spirits" tell them; and both disagree as much

with each other as we Theosophists disagree with both. Truth is one; and when we hear the French spooks preaching reincarnation, and the English spooks denying and denouncing the doctrine, we say that either the French or the English "Spirits" do not know what they are talking about. We believe with the

Spiritualists and the Spiritists in the existence of "Spirits," or invisible

Beings endowed with more or less intelligence. But, while in our teachings their

kinds and genera are legion, our opponents admit of no other than human

disembodied "Spirits," which, to our knowledge, are mostly Kamalokic Shells.


Q. You seem very bitter against Spirits. As you have given me your views and

your reasons for disbelieving in the materialization of, and direct

communication in seances, with the disembodied spirits-or the "spirits of the

dead"-would you mind enlightening me as to one more fact? Why are some

Theosophists never tired of saying how dangerous is intercourse with spirits,

and mediumship? Have they any particular reason for this?

A. We must suppose so. I know I have. Owing to my familiarity for over half a

century with these invisible, yet but too tangible and undeniable "influences,"

from the conscious Elementals, semi-consciousshells, down to the utterly

senseless and nondescript spooks of all kinds, I claim a certain right to my



Q. Can you give an instance or instances to show why these practices should be

regarded as dangerous?

A. This would require more time than I can give you. Every cause must be judged by the effects it produces. Go over the history of Spiritualism for the last

fifty years, ever since its reappearance in this century in America-and judge

for yourself whether it has done its votaries more good or harm. Pray understand me. I do not speak against real Spiritualism, but against the modern movement which goes under that name, and the so-called philosophy invented to explain its phenomena.


Q. Don't you believe in their phenomena at all?

A. It is because I believe in them with too good reason, and (save some cases of

deliberate fraud) know them to be as true as that you and I live, that all my

being revolts against them. Once more I speak only of physical, not mental or

even psychic phenomena. Like attracts like. There are several high-minded, pure,

good men and women, known to me personally, who have passed years of their lives under the direct guidance and even protection of high "Spirits," whether

disembodied or planetary. But these Intelligences are not of the type of the

John Kings and the Ernests who figure in seancerooms. These Intelligences guide and control mortals only in rare and exceptional cases to which they are

attracted and magnetically drawn by the Karmic past of the individual. It is not

enough to sit "for development" in order to attract them. That only opens the

door to a swarm of "spooks," good, bad, and indifferent, to which the medium

becomes a slave for life. It is against such promiscuous mediumship and

intercourse with goblins that I raise my voice, not against spiritual mysticism.

The latter is ennobling and holy; the former is of just the same nature as the

phenomena of two centuries ago, for which so many witches and wizards have been made to suffer. Read Glanvil and other authors on the subject of witchcraft, and you will find recorded there the parallels of most, if not all, of the physical phenomena of nineteenth century "Spiritualism."


Q. Do you mean to suggest that it is all witchcraft and nothing more?

A. What I mean is that, whether conscious or unconscious, all this dealing with

the dead is necromancy, and a most dangerous practice. For ages before Moses

such raising of the dead was regarded by all the intelligent nations as sinful

and cruel, inasmuch as it disturbs the rest of the souls and interferes with

their evolutionary development into higher states. The collective wisdom of all

past centuries has ever been loud in denouncing such practices. Finally, I say,

what I have never ceased repeating orally and in print for fifteen years: While

some of the so-called "spirits" do not know what they are talking about,

repeating merely-like poll-parrots-what they find in the mediums' and other

people's brains, others are most dangerous, and can only lead one to evil. These

are two self-evident facts. Go into Spiritualistic circles of the Allan Kardec

school, and you find "spirits" asserting reincarnation and speaking like Roman

Catholics born.


Turn to the "dear departed ones" in England and America, and you

will hear them denying reincarnation through thick and thin, denouncing those

who teach it, and holding to Protestant views. Your best, your most powerful

mediums, have all suffered in health of body and mind. Think of the sad end of

Charles Foster, who died in an asylum, a raving lunatic; of Slade, an epileptic;

of Eglinton-the best medium now in England-subject to the same.


Look back over the life of D.D. Home, a man whose mind was steeped in gall and bitterness, who never had a good word to say of anyone whom he suspected of possessing psychic powers, and who slandered every other medium to the bitter end. This Calvin of Spiritualism suffered for years from a terrible spinal disease, brought on by his intercourse with the "spirits," and died a perfect wreck. Think again of the sad fate of poor Washington Irving Bishop. I knew him in New York, when he was fourteen, and he was undeniably a medium. It is true that the poor man stole a march on his "spirits," and baptized them "unconscious muscular action," to the great gaudiumof all the corporations of highly learned and scientific fools, and to the replenishment of his own pocket. But de mortuis nil nisi bonum; his end was a sad one. He had strenuously concealed his epileptic fits-the first and strongest symptom of genuine mediumship-and who knows whether he was dead or in

a trance when the postmortem examination was performed? His relatives insist

that he was alive, if we are to believe Reuter's telegrams. Finally, behold the

veteran mediums, the founders and prime movers of modern spiritualism-the Fox sisters. After more than forty years of intercourse with the "Angels," the

latter have led them to become incurable sots, who are now denouncing, in public lectures, their own life-long work and philosophy as a fraud. What kind of spirits must they be who prompted them, I ask you?


Q. But is your inference a correct one?

A. What would you infer if the best pupils of a particular school of singing

broke down from overstrained sore throats? That the method followed was a bad one. So I think the inference is equally fair with regard to Spiritualism when

we see their best mediums fall a prey to such a fate. We can only say: Let those

who are interested in the question judge the tree of Spiritualism by its fruits,

and ponder over the lesson. We Theosophists have always regarded the

Spiritualists as brothers having the same mystic tendency as ourselves, but they

have always regarded us as enemies. We, being in possession of an older

philosophy, have tried to help and warn them; but they have repaid us by

reviling and traducing us and our motives in every possible way. Nevertheless,

the best English Spiritualists say just as we do, wherever they treat of their

belief seriously. Hear "M.A. Oxon" confessing this truth:


Spiritualists are too much inclined to dwell exclusively on the intervention of

external spirits in this world of ours,and to ignore the powers of the incarnate

Spirit.Why vilify and abuse us, then, for saying precisely the same? Henceforward, we will have nothing more to do with Spiritualism. And now let us return to Reincarnation.



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