The Key to Theosophy
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
The Key to Theosophy
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
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
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
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 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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