The Key to Theosophy



Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

1831 -1891



The Key to Theosophy


Helena Petrovna Blavatsky


Key to Theosophy Index



The Physical and the Spiritual Man



Q. I am glad to hear you believe in the immortality of the Soul.

A. Not of "the Soul," but of the divine Spirit; or rather in the immortality of

the reincarnating Ego.


Q. What is the difference?

A. A very great one in our philosophy, but this is too abstruse and difficult a

question to touch lightly upon. We shall have to analyze them separately, and

then in conjunction. We may begin with Spirit.


We say that the Spirit (the "Father in secret" of Jesus), or Atma, is no

individual property of any man, but is the Divine essence which has no body, no

form, which is imponderable, invisible and indivisible, that which does not

existand yet is, as the Buddhists say of Nirvana. It only overshadows the

mortal; that which enters into him and pervades the whole body being only its

omnipresent rays, or light, radiated throughBuddhi, its vehicle and direct

emanation. This is the secret meaning of the assertions of almost all the

ancient philosophers, when they said that "the rational part of man's soul"

never entered wholly into the man, but only overshadowed him more or less

through the irrational spiritual Soul or Buddhi.


Buddhi is irrational in the sense that as a pure emanation of the Universal mind

it can have no individual reason of its own on this plane of matter, but like

the Moon, who borrows her light from the Sun and her life from the Earth, so

Buddhi, receiving its light of Wisdom from Atma,gets its rational qualities from

Manas. Per se,as something homogeneous, it is devoid of attributes.


Q. I labored under the impression that the "Animal Soul" alone was irrational,

not the Divine.

A. You have to learn the difference between that which is negatively, or

passively"irrational," because undifferentiated, and that which is irrational

because too active and positive. Man is a correlation of spiritual powers, as

well as a correlation of chemical and physical forces, brought into function by

what we call principles.


Q.I have read a good deal upon the subject, and it seems to me that the notions of the older philosophers differed a great deal from those of the medieval

Cabalists, though they do agree in some particulars.

A. The most substantial difference between them and us is this. While we believe

with the Neo-Platonists and the Eastern teachings that the spirit ( Atma) never

descends hypostatically into the living man, but only showers more or less its

radiance on the inner man (the psychic and spiritual compound of the astral

principles), the Cabalists maintain that the human Spirit, detaching itself from

the ocean of light and Universal Spirit, enters man's Soul, where it remains

throughout life imprisoned in the astral capsule. All Christian Cabalists still

maintain the same, as they are unable to break quite loose from their

anthropomorphic and Biblical doctrines.


Q. And what do you say?

A. We say that we only allow the presence of the radiation of Spirit (or Atma)

in the astral capsule, and so far only as that spiritual radiancy is concerned.

We say that man and Soul have to conquer their immortality by ascending towards the unity with which, if successful, they will be finally linked and into which they are finally, so to speak, absorbed. The individualization of man after

death depends on the spirit, not on his soul and body. Although the word

personality,in the sense in which it is usually understood, is an absurdity if

applied literally to our immortal essence, still the latter is, as our

individual Ego, a distinct entity, immortal and eternal,per se. It is only in

the case of black magicians or of criminals beyond redemption, criminals who

have been such during a long series of lives-that the shining thread, which

links the spirit to the personal soul from the moment of the birth of the child,

is violently snapped, and the disembodied entity becomes divorced from the

personal soul, the latter being annihilated without leaving the smallest

impression of itself on the former. If that union between the lower, or personal

Manas, and the individual reincarnating Ego, has not been effected during life,

then the former is left to share the fate of the lower animals, to gradually

dissolve into ether, and have its personality annihilated. But even then the Ego

remains a distinct being. It (the spiritual Ego) only loses one Devachanic

state-after that special, and in that case indeed useless, life-as that

idealized Personality,and is reincarnated, after enjoying for a short time its

freedom as a planetary spirit almost immediately.


Q. It is stated in Isis Unveiled that such planetary Spirits or Angels, "the

gods of the Pagans or the Archangels of the Christians," will never be men on

our planet.

A. Quite right. Not "such," but some classes of higher Planetary Spirits. They

will never be men on this planet, because they are liberated Spirits from a

previous, earlier world, and as such they cannot rebecome men on this one. Yet

all these will live again in the next and far higher Maha-Manvantara, after this

"great Age," and "Brahma pralaya," (a little period of 16 figures or so) is

over. For you must have heard, of course, that Eastern philosophy teaches us

that mankind consists of such "Spirits" imprisoned in human bodies? The

difference between animals and men is this: the former are ensouled by the

principles potentially,the latter actually. Do you understand now the



Q. Yes; but this specialization has been in all ages the stumbling-block of


A. It was. The whole esotericism of the Buddhist philosophy is based on this

mysterious teaching, understood by so few persons, and so totally misrepresented by many of the most learned modern scholars.


Even metaphysicians are too inclined to confound the effect with the cause. An Ego who has won his immortal life as spirit will remain the same inner self throughout all his rebirths on earth; but this does not imply necessarily that he must either remain the Mr. Smith or Mr. Brown he was on earth, or lose his individuality. Therefore, the astral soul and the terrestrial body of man may, in the dark hereafter, be absorbed into the cosmical ocean of sublimated elements, and cease to feel his last personal Ego (if it did not deserve to soar higher), and the divine Ego still remain the same unchanged entity, though this terrestrial experience of his emanation may be totally obliterated at the instant of separation from the unworthy vehicle.


Q. If the "Spirit," or the divine portion of the soul, is preexistent as a

distinct being from all eternity, as Origen, Synesius, and other semi-Christians

and semi-Platonic philosophers taught, and if it is the same, and nothing more

than the metaphysically-objective soul, how can it be otherwise than eternal?

And what matters it in such a case, whether man leads a pure life or an animal,

if, do what he may, he can never lose his individuality?

A. This doctrine, as you have stated it, is just as pernicious in its

consequences as that of vicarious atonement. Had the latter dogma, in company

with the false idea that we are all immortal, been demonstrated to the world in

its true light, humanity would have been bettered by its propagation.

Let me repeat to you again. Pythagoras, Plato, Timaeus of Locris, and the old

Alexandrian School, derived the Soulof man (or his higher principles and

attributes) from the Universal World Soul, the latter being, according to their

teachings, Aether(Pater-Zeus). Therefore, neither of these principles can be

unalloyedessence of the Pythagorean Monas, or our Atma-Buddhi,because the Anima Mundi is but the effect, the subjective emanation or rather radiation of the

former. Both the humanSpirit (or the individuality), the reincarnating Spiritual

Ego, and Buddhi, the Spiritual soul, are preexistent. But, while the former

exists as a distinct entity, an individualization, the soul exists as

preexisting breath, an unscient [lacking in knowledge] portion of an intelligent

whole. Both were originally formed from the Eternal Ocean of light; but as the

Fire-Philosophers, the medieval Theosophists, expressed it, there is a visible

as well as invisible spirit in fire. They made a difference between theanima

bruta and the anima divina. Empedocles firmly believed all men and animals to

possess two souls; and in Aristotle we find that he calls one the reasoning

soul,nous , and the other, the animal soul, psuche . According to these

philosophers, the reasoning soul comes from within the universal soul, and the

other from without.


Q. Would you call the Soul, i.e., the human thinking Soul, or what you call the


A. Not matter, but substanceassuredly; nor would the word matter, if prefixed

with the adjective, primordial, be a word to avoid. That matter, we say, is

coeternal with Spirit, and is not our visible, tangible, and divisible matter,

but its extreme sublimation. Pure Spirit is but one remove from the no-Spirit,

or the absolute all.Unless you admit that man was evolved out of this primordial

Spirit-matter, and represents a regular progressive scale of principles

frommeta-Spirit down to the grossest matter, how can we ever come to regard the inner man as immortal, and at the same time as a spiritual Entity and a mortal



Q. Then why should you not believe in God as such an Entity?

A. Because that which is infinite and unconditioned can have no form, and cannot be a being, not in any Eastern philosophy worthy of the name, at any rate. An "entity" is immortal, but is so only in its ultimate essence, not in its

individual form. When at the last point of its cycle, it is absorbed into its

primordial nature; and it becomes spirit, when it loses its name of Entity.

Its immortality as a form is limited only to its life cycle or the Maha

-Manvantara; after which it is one and identical with the Universal Spirit, and

no longer a separate Entity. As to the personal Soul-by which we mean the spark

of consciousness that preserves in the Spiritual Ego the idea of the personal

"I" of the last incarnation-this lasts, as a separate distinct recollection,

only throughout the Devachanic period; after which time it is added to the

series of other innumerable incarnations of the Ego, like the remembrance in our

memory of one of a series of days, at the end of a year. Will you bind the

infinitude you claim for your God to finite conditions? That alone which is

indissolubly cemented by Atma (i.e., Buddhi-Manas) is immortal. The Soul of man

(i.e., of the personality)per se is neither immortal, eternal nor divine. Says

The Zohar:


The soul, when sent to this earth, puts on an earthly garment, to preserve

herself here, so she receives above a shining garment, in order to be able to

look without injury into the mirror, whose light proceeds from the Lord of



Moreover, The Zohar teaches that the soul cannot reach the abode of bliss,

unless she has received the "holy kiss," or the reunion of the soul with the

substance from which she emanated-spirit. All souls are dual, and, while the

latter is a feminine principle, the spirit is masculine. While imprisoned in

body, man is a trinity, unless his pollution is such as to have caused his

divorce from the spirit. "Woe to the soul which prefers to her divine husband

(spirit) the earthly wedlock with her terrestrial body," records a text of The

Book of the Keys, a Hermetic work. Woe indeed, for nothing will remain of that

personality to be recorded on the imperishable tablets of the Ego's memory.


Q. How can that which, if not breathed by God into man, yet is on your own

confession of an identical substance with the divine, fail to be immortal?

A. Every atom and speck of matter, not of substance only, is imperishable in its

essence, but not in its individual consciousness. Immortality is but one's

unbroken consciousness; and the personal consciousness can hardly last longer

than the personality itself, can it? And such consciousness, as I already told

you, survives only throughout Devachan, after which it is reabsorbed, first, in

the individual,and then in the universal consciousness. Better enquire of your

theologians how it is that they have so sorely jumbled up the Jewish Scriptures.

Read the Bible, if you would have a good proof that the writers of the

Pentateuch, and Genesisespecially, never regarded nephesh, that which God

breathes into Adam, as the immortal soul. Here are some instances: "And God

created … every nephesh (life) that moveth," meaning animals; and it is said:

"And man became a nephesh" (living soul), which shows that the wordnephesh was indifferently applied to immortal man and to mortal beast. "And surely your

blood of yournepheshim (lives) will I require; at the hand of every beast will I

require it, and at the hand of man," "Escape for nephesh" (escape for thy life,

it is translated). "Let us not kill him," reads the English version. "Let us not

kill his nephesh," is the Hebrew text. "Nepheshfor nephesh," says Leviticus. "He

that killeth any man shall surely be put to death," literally "He that smiteth

the nephesh of a man;" and from verse 18 and following it reads: "And he that

killeth a beast (nephesh) shall make it good … Beast for beast," whereas the

original text has it "nephesh for nephesh." How could man killthat which is

immortal? And this explains also why the Sadducees denied the immortality of the soul, as it also affords another proof that very probably the Mosaic Jews-the

uninitiated at any rate-never believed in the soul's survival at all.






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