The Key to Theosophy
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
The Key to Theosophy
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
The Mystery of the Ego
Q. I perceive in the quotation you brought forward a little while ago from The
Buddhist Catechisma discrepancy that I would like to hear explained. It is there
stated that the Skandhas-memory included-change with every new incarnation. And yet, it is asserted that the reflection of the past lives, which, we are told,
are entirely made up of Skandhas, "must survive." At the present moment I am not quite clear in my mind as to what it is precisely that survives, and I would
like to have it explained. What is it? Is it only that "reflection," or those
Skandhas, or always that same Ego, the Manas?
A. I have just explained that the reincarnating Principle, or that which we call
the divineman, is indestructible throughout the life cycle: indestructible as a
thinking Entity, and even as an ethereal form. The "reflection" is only the
spiritualized remembrance,during the Devachanic period, of the ex-personality,
Mr. A. or Mrs. B.-with which the Ego identifies itself during that period. Since
the latter is but the continuation of the earth-life, so to say, the very acme
and pitch, in an unbroken series, of the few happy moments in that now past
existence, the Egohas to identify itself with the personal consciousness of that
life, if anything shall remain of it.
Q. This means that theEgo, notwithstanding its divine nature, passes every such
period between two incarnations in a state of mental obscuration, or temporary
A. You may regard it as you like. Believing that, outside the One Reality,
nothing is better than a passing illusion-the whole Universe included-we do not view it as insanity, but as a very natural sequence or development of the terrestrial life.
What is life? A bundle of the most varied experiences, of daily changing ideas,
emotions, and opinions. In our youth we are often enthusiastically devoted to an
ideal, to some hero or heroine whom we try to follow and revive; a few years
later, when the freshness of our youthful feelings has faded out and sobered
down, we are the first to laugh at our fancies. And yet there was a day when we
had so thoroughly identified our own personality with that of the ideal in our
mind-especially if it was that of a living being-that the former was entirely
merged and lost in the latter. Can it be said of a man of fifty that he is the
same being that he was at twenty? The innerman is the same; the outward living
personality is completely transformed and changed. Would you also call these
changes in the human mental states insanity?
Q. How would youname them, and especially how would you explain the permanence of one and the evanescence of the other?
A. We have our own doctrine ready, and to us it offers no difficulty. The clue
lies in the double consciousness of our mind, and also, in the dual nature of
the mental principle. There is a spiritual consciousness, the Manasic mind
illumined by the light of Buddhi, that which subjectively perceives
abstractions; and the sentient consciousness (the lowerManasic light),
inseparable from our physical brain and senses. This latter consciousness is
held in subjection by the brain and physical senses, and, being in its turn
equally dependent on them, must of course fade out and finally die with the
disappearance of the brain and physical senses. It is only the former kind of
consciousness, whose root lies in eternity, which survives and lives forever,
and may, therefore, be regarded as immortal. Everything else belongs to passing
Q. What do you really understand by illusion in this case?
A. It is very well described in the just-mentioned essay on "The Higher Self."
Says its author:
The theory we are considering (the interchange of ideas between the Higher Ego
and the lower self) harmonizes very well with the treatment of this world in
which we live as a phenomenal world of illusion, the spiritual plane of nature
being on the other hand the noumenal world or plane of reality. That region of
nature in which, so to speak, the permanent soul is rooted is more real than
that in which its transitory blossoms appear for a brief space to wither and
fall to pieces, while the plant recovers energy for sending forth a fresh
flower. Supposing flowers only were perceptible to ordinary senses, and their
roots existed in a state of Nature intangible and invisible to us, philosophers
in such a world who divined that there were such things as roots in another
plane of existence would be apt to say of the flowers: "These are not the real
plants; they are of no relative importance, merely illusive phenomena of the
This is what I mean. The world in which blossom the transitory and evanescent
flowers of personal lives is not the real permanent world; but that one in which
we find the root of consciousness, that root which is beyond illusion and dwells
in the eternity.
Q. What do you mean by the root dwelling in eternity?
A. I mean by this root the thinking entity, the Ego which incarnates, whether we
regard it as an "Angel," "Spirit," or a Force. Of that which falls under our
sensuous perceptions only what grows directly from, or is attached to this
invisible root above, can partake of its immortal life. Hence every noble
thought, idea, and aspiration of the personality it informs, proceeding from and
fed by this root, must become permanent. As to the physical consciousness, as it is a quality of the sentient but lower principle, (Kamarupa or animal instinct,
illuminated by the lower manasicreflection), or the human Soul-it must
disappear. That which displays activity, while the body is asleep or paralyzed,
is the higher consciousness, our memory registering but feebly and
inaccurately-because automatically-such experiences, and often failing to be
even slightly impressed by them.
Q. But how is it that Manas, although you call it Nous, a "God," is so weak
during its incarnations, as to be actually conquered and fettered by its body?
A. I might retort with the same question and ask:
How is it that he, whom you regard as "the God of Gods" and the One living God, is so weak as to allow evil (or the Devil) to have the best of him as much as of all his creatures, whether while he remains in Heaven, or during the time he was incarnated on this earth?
You are sure to reply again: "This is a Mystery; and we are forbidden to pry
into the mysteries of God." Not being forbidden to do so by our religious
philosophy, I answer your question that, unless a God descends as an Avatara,no divine principle can be otherwise than cramped and paralyzed by turbulent, animal matter. Heterogeneity will always have the upper hand over homogeneity, on this plane of illusions, and the nearer an essence is to its root-principle, Primordial Homogeneity, the more difficult it is for the latter to assert itself on earth. Spiritual and divine powers lie dormant in every human Being; and the wider the sweep of his spiritual vision the mightier will be the God within him. But as few men can feel that God, and since, as an average rule, deity is always bound and limited in our thought by earlier conceptions, those ideas that are inculcated in us from childhood, therefore, it is so difficult for you to
understand our philosophy.
Q. And is it this Ego of ours which is our God?
A. Not at all; "A God" is not the universal deity, but only a spark from the one
call the Higher Self, Atma.Our incarnating Ego was a God in its origin, as were
all the primeval emanations of the One Unknown Principle. But since its "fall
into Matter," having to incarnate throughout the cycle, in succession, from
first to last, it is no longer a free and happy god, but a poor pilgrim on his
way to regain that which he has lost. I can answer you more fully by repeating
what is said of the Inner Man:
From the remotest antiquity mankind as a wholehave always been convinced of the existence of a personal spiritual entity within the personal physical man. This
inner entity was more or less divine, according to its proximity to the
crown.The closer the union the more serene man's destiny, the less dangerous the external conditions. This belief is neither bigotry nor superstition, only an
ever-present, instinctive feeling of the proximity of another spiritual and
invisible world, which, though it be subjective to the senses of the outward
man, is perfectly objective to the inner ego. Furthermore, they believed that
there are external and internal conditions which affect the determination of our
will upon our actions. They rejected fatalism, for fatalism implies a blind
course of some still blinder power. But they believed in destiny or Karma, which
from birth to death every man is weaving thread by thread around himself, as a
spider does his cobweb; and this destiny is guided by that presence termed by
some the guardian angel, or our more intimate astral inner man, who is but too
often the evil genius of the man of flesh or the personality. Both these lead on
Man, but one of them must prevail; and from the very beginning of the invisible
affray the stern and implacable law of compensation and retributionsteps in and
takes its course, following faithfully the fluctuating of the conflict. When the
last strand is woven, and man is seemingly enwrapped in the net-work of his own doing, then he finds himself completely under the empire of this self-made
destiny. It then either fixes him like the inert shell against the immovable
rock, or like a feather carries him away in a whirlwind raised by his own
Such is the destiny of the Man-the true Ego, not the Automaton, the shell that
goes by that name. It is for him to become the conqueror over matter.
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