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Searchable Full Text of The Key to Theosophy by H P Blavatsky



The Key To Theosophy


H P Blavatsky


The Key to TheosophyDedicated by "H.P.B." To all her Pupils,

That They may Learn and Teach in their turn.


The Key to Theosophy

A Clear Exposition in the Form of Question and Answer

of the Ethics, Science, and Philosophy for the Study of Which

The Theosophical Society has been founded.

H.P. Blavatsky


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Searchable Full Text of

The Secret Doctrine by H P Blavatsky





The purpose of this book is exactly expressed in its title, The Key to

Theosophy, and needs but few words of explanation. It is not a complete or

exhaustive textbook of Theosophy, but only a key to unlock the door that

leads to the deeper study. It traces the broad outlines of the

Wisdom-Religion, and explains its fundamental principles; meeting, at the

same time, the various objections raised by the average Western inquirer,

and endeavoring to present unfamiliar concepts in a form as simple and in

language as clear as possible. That it should succeed in making Theosophy

intelligible without mental effort on the part of the reader, would be too

much to expect; but it is hoped that the obscurity still left is of the

thought and not of the language, is due to depth and not to confusion. To

the mentally lazy or obtuse, Theosophy must remain a riddle; for in the

world mental as in the world spiritual each man must progress by his own

efforts. The writer cannot do the reader's thinking for him, nor would the

latter be any the better off if such vicarious thought were possible. The

need for such an exposition as the present has long been felt among those

interested in the Theosophical Society and its work, and it is hoped that it

will supply information, as free as possible from technicalities, to many

whose attention has been awakened, but who, as yet, are merely puzzled and

not convinced.

Some care has been taken in disentangling some part of what is true from

what is false in Spiritualistic teachings as to the postmortem life, and to

showing the true nature of Spiritualistic phenomena. Previous explanations

of a similar kind have drawn much wrath upon the writer's devoted head; the

Spiritualists, like too many others, preferring to believe what is pleasant

rather than what is true, and becoming very angry with anyone who destroys

an agreeable delusion. For the past year Theosophy has been the target for

every poisoned arrow of Spiritualism, as though the possessors of a half

truth felt more antagonism to the possessors of the whole truth than those

who had no share to boast of.

Very hearty thanks are due from the author to many Theosophists who have

sent suggestions and questions, or have otherwise contributed help during

the writing of this book. The work will be the more useful for their aid,

and that will be their best reward.

-H.P. Blavatsky



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Theosophy and The Theosophical Society 1

The Meaning of the Name 1

The Policy of the Theosophical Society 4

The Wisdom-Religion, Esoteric in All Ages 7

Theosophy is Not Buddhism 12

Exoteric and Esoteric Theosophy 15

What the Modern Theosophical Society is Not 15

Theosophists and Members of the T.S. 18

The Difference Between Theosophy and Occultism 23

The Difference Between Theosophy and Spiritualism 25

Why is Theosophy Accepted? 32

The Working System of the T.S. 37

The Objects of the Society 37

The Common Origin of Man 38

Our Other Objects 44

On the Sacredness of the Pledge 45

The Relations of the T.S. to Theosophy 49

On Self-Improvement 49

The Abstract and the Concrete 52

The Fundamental Teachings of Theosophy 57

On God and Prayer 57

Is it Necessary to Pray? 61

Prayer Kills Self-Reliance 66

On the Source of the Human Soul 69

The Buddhist Teachings on the Above 71

Theosophical Teachings as to Nature and Man 77

The Unity of All in All 77

Evolution and Illusion 78

On The Septenary Constitution of Our Planet 81

The Septenary Nature of Man 83

The Distinction Between Soul and Spirit 86

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The Greek Teachings 89

On the Various Postmortem States 95

The Physical and the Spiritual Man 95

On Eternal Reward and Punishment, and on Nirvana 102

On the Various Principles in Man 109

On Reincarnation or Rebirth 115

What is Memory According to Theosophical Teaching? 115

Why Do We Not Remember Our Past Lives? 119

On Individuality and Personality 124

On the Reward and Punishment of the Ego 128

On the Kamaloka and Devachan 133

On the Fate of the Lower Principles 133

Why Theosophists Do Not Believe in the Return of Pure "Spirits" 135

A Few Words About the Skandhas 142

On Postmortem and Postnatal Consciousness 145

What is Really Meant by Annihilation 150

Definite Words for Definite Things 158

On the Nature of Our Thinking Principle 165

The Mystery of the Ego 165

The Complex Nature of Manas 170

The Doctrine is Taught in St. John's Gospel 172

On the Mysteries of Reincarnation 183

Periodical Rebirths 183

What is Karma? 186

Who Are Those Who Know? 199

The Difference Between Faith and Knowledge, Or Blind and Reasoned Faith 201

Has God the Right to Forgive? 205

What is Practical Theosophy? 209

Duty 209

The Relations of the T.S. to Political Reforms 213

On Self-Sacrifice 217

On Charity 222

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Theosophy for the Masses 224

How Members Can Help the Society 227

What a Theosophist Ought Not to Do 228

On the Misconceptions About the T.S. 237

Theosophy and Asceticism 237

Theosophy and Marriage 240

Theosophy and Education 241

Why Then is There So Much Prejudice Against the T.S.? 248

Is the Theosophical Society A Money-Making Concern? 256

The Working Staff of the T.S. 260

The "Theosophical Mahatmas" 263

Are They "Spirits of Light" or "Goblins Damned"? 263

The Abuse of Sacred Names and Terms 273

Conclusion 277

The Future of the Theosophical Society 277

Glossary 281

Appendix 345

The Theosophical Society: Information for Inquirers 345

The Legal Status of the Theosophical Society 347

Note by the editor: the

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Page numbers refer to the book edition and

have no meaning in this file. Despite careful checking for typos there

may still be a few left.

Theosophy and The Theosophical Society

The Meaning of the Name

Q. Theosophy and its doctrines are often referred to as a newfangled

religion. Is it a religion?

A. It is not. Theosophy is Divine Knowledge or Science.

Q. What is the real meaning of the term?

A. "Divine Wisdom," (Theosophia) or Wisdom of the gods, as (theogonia),

genealogy of the gods. The word 'theos' means a god in Greek, one of the

divine beings, certainly not "God" in the sense attached in our day to the

term. Therefore, it is not "Wisdom of God," as translated by some, but

Divine Wisdom such as that possessed by the gods. The term is many thousand

years old.

Q. What is the origin of the name?

A. It comes to us from the Alexandrian philosophers, called lovers of truth,

Philaletheians, from (phil) "loving," and (aletheia) "truth." The name

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Theosophy dates from the third century of our era, and began with Ammonius

Saccas and his disciples, also called Analogeticists, who started the

Eclectic Theosophical system.

As explained by Professor Wilder, they were called so because of their

practice of interpreting all sacred legends and narratives, myths and

mysteries, by a rule or principle of analogy and correspondence: so that

events which were related as having occurred in the external world were

regarded as expressing operations and experiences of the human soul. They

were also denominated Neo-Platonists. Though Theosophy, or the Eclectic

Theosophical system, is generally attributed to the third century, yet, if

Diogenes Laërtius is to be credited, its origin is much earlier, as he

attributed the system to an Egyptian priest, Pot-Amun, who lived in the

early days of the Ptolemaic dynasty. The same author tells us that the name

is Coptic, and signifies one consecrated to Amun, the God of Wisdom.

Theosophy is the equivalent of Brahma-Vidya , divine knowledge.

Q. What was the object of this system?

A. First of all to inculcate certain great moral truths upon its disciples,

and all those who were "lovers of the truth." Hence the motto adopted by the

Theosophical Society: "There is no religion higher than truth."

Eclectic Theosophy was divided under three heads:

1. Belief in one absolute, incomprehensible and supreme Deity, or infinite

essence, which is the root of all nature, and of all that is, visible and


2. Belief in man's eternal immortal nature, because, being a radiation of

the Universal Soul, it is of an identical essence with it.

3. Theurgy, or "divine work," or producing a work of gods; from theoi,

"gods," and ergein, "to work."

The term is very old, but, as it belongs to the vocabulary of the mysteries,

was not in popular use. It was a mystic belief-practically proven by

initiated adepts and priests-that, by making oneself as pure as the

incorporeal beings-i.e., by returning to one's pristine purity of nature-man

could move the gods to impart to him Divine mysteries, and even cause them

to become occasionally visible, either subjectively or objectively. It was

the transcendental aspect of what is now called Spiritualism; but having

been abused and misconceived by the populace, it had come to be regarded by

some as necromancy, and was generally forbidden. A travestied practice of

the theurgy of Iamblichus lingers still in the ceremonial magic of some

modern Cabalists. Modern Theosophy avoids and rejects both these kinds of

magic and "necromancy" as being very dangerous. Real divine theurgy requires

an almost superhuman purity and holiness of life; otherwise it degenerates

into mediumship or black magic. The immediate disciples of Ammonius Saccas,

who was called Theodidaktos, "god-taught"-such as Plotinus and his follower

Porphyry-rejected theurgy at first, but were finally reconciled to it

through Iamblichus, who wrote a work to that effect entitled De Mysteriis,

under the name of his own master, a famous Egyptian priest called Abammon.

Ammonius Saccas was the son of Christian parents, and, having been repelled

by dogmatic Spiritualistic Christianity from his childhood, became a

Neo-Platonist, and like J. Boëhme and other great seers and mystics, is said

to have had divine wisdom revealed to him in dreams and visions. Hence his

name of Theodidaktos. He resolved to reconcile every system of religion, and

by demonstrating their identical origin to establish one universal creed

based on ethics. His life was so blameless and pure, his learning so

profound and vast, that several Church Fathers were his secret disciples.

Clemens Alexandrinus speaks very highly of him. Plotinus, the "St. John" of

Ammonius, was also a man universally respected and esteemed, and of the most

profound learning and integrity. When thirty-nine years of age he

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accompanied the Roman Emperor Gordian and his army to the East, to be

instructed by the sages of Bactria and India. He had a School of Philosophy

in Rome. Porphyry, his disciple, whose real name was Malek (a Hellenized

Jew), collected all the writings of his master. Porphyry was himself a great

author, and gave an allegorical interpretation to some parts of Homer's

writings. The system of meditation the Philaletheians resorted to was

ecstasy, a system akin to Indian Yoga practice. What is known of the

Eclectic School is due to Origen, Longinus, and Plotinus, the immediate

disciples of Ammonius.

The chief aim of the Founders of the Eclectic Theosophical School was one of

the three objects of its modern successor, the Theosophical Society, namely,

to reconcile all religions, sects, and nations under a common system of

ethics, based on eternal verities.

Q. What have you to show that this is not an impossible dream; and that all

the world's religions are based on the one and the same truth?

A. Their comparative study and analysis. The "Wisdom-Religion" was one in

antiquity; and the sameness of primitive religious philosophy is proven to

us by the identical doctrines taught to the Initiates during the mysteries,

an institution once universally diffused.

All the old worships indicate the existence of a single Theosophy anterior

to them. The key that is to open one must open all; otherwise it cannot be

the right key.


Policy of the Theosophical Society

Q. In the days of Ammonius there were several ancient great religions, and

numerous were the sects in Egypt and Palestine alone. How could he reconcile


A. By doing that which we again try to do now. The Neo-Platonists were a

large body, and belonged to various religious philosophies; so do our


It was under Philadelphus that Judaism established itself in Alexandria, and

forthwith the Hellenic teachers became the dangerous rivals of the College

of Rabbis of Babylon. As the author of The Eclectic Philosophy very

pertinently remarks:

The Buddhist, Vedantic, and Magian systems were expounded along with the

philosophies of Greece at that period. It was not wonderful that thoughtful

men supposed that the strife of words ought to cease, and considered it

possible to extract one harmonious system from these various teachings …

Panaetius, Athenagoras, and Clement were thoroughly instructed in Platonic

philosophy, and comprehended its essential unity with the Oriental systems.

In those days, the Jew Aristobulus affirmed that the ethics of Aristotle

represented the esoteric teachings of the Law of Moses; Philo Judaeus

endeavored to reconcile the Pentateuch with the Pythagorean and Platonic

philosophy; and Josephus proved that the Essenes of Carmel were simply the

copyists and followers of the Egyptian Therapeutae (the healers). So it is

in our day. We can show the line of descent of every Christian religion, as

of every, even the smallest, sect. The latter are the minor twigs or shoots

grown on the larger branches; but shoots and branches spring from the same

trunk-the wisdom-religion. To prove this was the aim of Ammonius, who

endeavored to induce Gentiles and Christians, Jews and Idolaters, to lay

aside their contention and strife, remembering only that they were all in

possession of the same truth under various vestments, and were all the

children of a common mother. This is the aim of Theosophy likewise.

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Says Mosheim of Ammonius:

Conceiving that not only the philosophers of Greece, but also all those of

the different barbarian nations, were perfectly in unison with each other

with regard to every essential point, he made it his business so to expound

the thousand tenets of all these various sects as to show they had all

originated from one and the same source, and tended all to one and the same


If the writer on Ammonius in the Edinburgh Encyclopedia knows what he is

talking about, then he describes the modern Theosophists, their beliefs, and

their work, for he says, speaking of the Theodidaktos:

He adopted the doctrines which were received in Egypt (the esoteric were

those of India) concerning the Universe and the Deity, considered as

constituting one great whole; concerning the eternity of the world … and

established a system of moral discipline which allowed the people in general

to live according to the laws of their country and the dictates of nature,

but required the wise to exalt their mind by contemplation.

Q. What is your authority for saying this of the ancient Theosophists of


A. An almost countless number of well-known writers. Mosheim, one of them,

says that:

Ammonius taught that the religion of the multitude went hand-in-hand with

philosophy, and with her had shared the fate of being by degrees corrupted

and obscured with mere human conceits, superstitions, and lies; that it

ought, therefore, to be brought back to its original purity by purging it of

this dross and expounding it upon philosophical principles; and the whole

Christ had in view was to reinstate and restore to its primitive integrity

the wisdom of the ancients; to reduce within bounds the

universally-prevailing dominion of superstition; and in part to correct, and

in part to exterminate the various errors that had found their way into the

different popular religions.

This, again, is precisely what the modern Theosophists say. Only while the

great Philaletheian was supported and helped in the policy he pursued by two

Church Fathers, Clement and Athenagoras, by all the learned Rabbis of the

Synagogue, the Academy and the Groves, and while he taught a common doctrine

for all, we, his followers on the same line, receive no recognition, but, on

the contrary, are abused and persecuted. People 1,500 years ago are thus

shown to have been more tolerant than they are in this enlightened century.

Q. Was he encouraged and supported by the Church because, notwithstanding

his heresies, Ammonius taught Christianity and was a Christian?

A. Not at all. He was born a Christian, but never accepted Church

Christianity. As said of him by the same writer:

He had but to propound his instructions according to the ancient pillars of

Hermes, which Plato and Pythagoras knew before, and from them constituted

their philosophy. Finding the same in the prologue of the Gospel according

to St. John, he very properly supposed that the purpose of Jesus was to

restore the great doctrine of wisdom in its primitive integrity. The

narratives of the Bible and the stories of the gods he considered to be

allegories illustrative of the truth, or else fables to be rejected. As says

the Edinburgh Encyclopedia:

Moreover, he acknowledged that Jesus Christ was an excellent man and the

"friend of God," but alleged that it was not his design entirely to abolish

the worship of demons (gods), and that his only intention was to purify the

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ancient religion.


Wisdom-Religion, Esoteric in All Ages

Q. Since Ammonius never committed anything to writing, how can one feel sure

that such were his teachings?

A. Neither did Buddha, Pythagoras, Confucius, Orpheus, Socrates, or even

Jesus, leave behind them any writings. Yet most of these are historical

personages, and their teachings have all survived. The disciples of Ammonius

(among whom Origen and Herennius) wrote treatises and explained his ethics.

Certainly the latter are as historical, if not more so, than the Apostolic

writings. Moreover, his pupils-Origen, Plotinus, and Longinus (counselor of

the famous Queen Zenobia)-have all left voluminous records of the

Philaletheian System-so far, at all events, as their public profession of

faith was known, for the school was divided into exoteric and esoteric


Q. How have the latter tenets reached our day, since you hold that what is

properly called the wisdom-religion was esoteric?

A. The wisdom-religion was ever one, and being the last word of possible

human knowledge, was, therefore, carefully preserved. It preceded by long

ages the Alexandrian Theosophists, reached the modern, and will survive

every other religion and philosophy.

Q. Where and by whom was it so preserved?

A. Among Initiates of every country; among profound seekers after

truth-their disciples; and in those parts of the world where such topics

have always been most valued and pursued: in India, Central Asia, and


Q. Can you give me some proofs of its esotericism?

A. The best proof you can have of the fact is that every ancient religious,

or rather philosophical, cult consisted of an esoteric or secret teaching,

and an exoteric (outward public) worship. Furthermore, it is a well-known

fact that the mysteries of the ancients comprised with every nation the

"greater" (secret) and "Lesser" (public) mysteries-e.g., in the celebrated

solemnities called the Eleusinia, in Greece. From the Hierophants of

Samothrace, Egypt, and the initiated Brahmins of the India of old, down to

the later Hebrew Rabbis, all preserved, for fear of profanation, their real

bona fide beliefs secret. The Jewish Rabbis called their secular religious

series the Merkabah (the exterior body), "the vehicle," or, the covering

which contains the hidden soul-i.e., their highest secret knowledge. Not one

of the ancient nations ever imparted through its priests its real

philosophical secrets to the masses, but allotted to the latter only the

husks. Northern Buddhism has its "greater" and its "lesser" vehicle, known

as the Mahayana, the esoteric, and the Hinayana, the exoteric, Schools. Nor

can you blame them for such secrecy; for surely you would not think of

feeding your flock of sheep on learned dissertations on botany instead of on

grass? Pythagoras called his Gnosis "the knowledge of things that are," or

[translit.Greek] "he gnosis ton onton" and preserved that knowledge for his

pledged disciples only: for those who could digest such mental food and feel

satisfied; and he pledged them to silence and secrecy. Occult alphabets and

secret ciphers are the development of the old Egyptian hieratic writings,

the secret of which was, in the days of old, in the possession only of the

Hierogrammatists, or initiated Egyptian priests. Ammonius Saccas, as his

biographers tell us, bound his pupils by oath not to divulge his higher

doctrines except to those who had already been instructed in preliminary

knowledge, and who were also bound by a pledge. Finally, do we not find the

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same even in early Christianity, among the Gnostics, and even in the

teachings of Christ? Did he not speak to the multitudes in parables which

had a two-fold meaning, and explain his reasons only to his disciples? He


To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; but unto

them that are without, all these things are done in parables

The Essenes of Judea and Carmel made similar distinctions, dividing their

adherents into neophytes, brethren, and the perfect, or those initiated.

Examples might be brought from every country to this effect.

Q. Can you attain the "Secret Wisdom" simply by study? Encyclopedias define

Theosophy pretty much as Webster's Dictionary does, i.e., as

… supposed intercourse with God and superior spirits, and consequent

attainment of superhuman knowledge by physical means and chemical processes.

Is this so?

A. I think not. Nor is there any lexicographer capable of explaining,

whether to himself or others, how superhuman knowledge can be attained by

physical or chemical processes. Had Webster said "by metaphysical and

alchemical processes," the definition would be approximately correct: as it

is, it is absurd. Ancient Theosophists claimed, and so do the modern, that

the infinite cannot be known by the finite-i.e., sensed by the finite

Self-but that the divine essence could be communicated to the higher

Spiritual Self in a state of ecstasy. This condition can hardly be attained,

like hypnotism, by "physical and chemical means."

Q. What is your explanation of it?

A. Real ecstasy was defined by Plotinus as "the liberation of the mind from

its finite consciousness, becoming one and identified with the infinite."

This is the highest condition, says Professor Wilder, but not one of

permanent duration, and it is reached only by the very, very few. It is,

indeed, identical with that state which is known in India as Samadhi. The

latter is practiced by the Yogis, who facilitate it physically by the

greatest abstinence in food and drink, and mentally by an incessant endeavor

to purify and elevate the mind. Meditation is silent and unuttered prayer,

or, as Plato expressed it,

… the ardent turning of the soul toward the divine; not to ask any

particular good (as in the common meaning of prayer), but for good

itself-for the universal Supreme Good …

-of which we are a part on earth, and out of the essence of which we have

all emerged. Therefore, adds Plato,

Remain silent in the presence of the divine ones, till they remove the

clouds from thy eyes and enable thee to see by the light which issues from

themselves, not what appears as good to thee, but what is intrinsically


This is what the scholarly author of The Eclectic Philosophy, Professor

Alexander Wilder, F.T.S., describes as "spiritual photography":

The soul is the camera in which facts and events, future, past, and present,

are alike fixed; and the mind becomes conscious of them. Beyond our everyday

world of limits all is one day or state-the past and future comprised in the

present. … Death is the last ecstasis on earth. Then the soul is freed from

the constraint of the body, and its nobler part is united to higher nature

and becomes partaker in the wisdom and foreknowledge of the higher beings.

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Real Theosophy is, for the mystics, that state which Apollonius of Tyana was

made to describe thus:

I can see the present and the future as in a clear mirror. The sage need not

wait for the vapors of the earth and the corruption of the air to foresee

events … The theoi, or gods, see the future; common men the present, sages

that which is about to take place.

"The Theosophy of the Sages" he speaks of is well expressed in the

assertion, "The Kingdom of God is within us."

Q. Theosophy, then, is not, as held by some, a newly devised scheme?

A. Only ignorant people can thus refer to it. It is as old as the world, in

its teachings and ethics, if not in name, as it is also the broadest and

most catholic system among all.

Q. How comes it, then, that Theosophy has remained so unknown to the nations

of the Western Hemisphere? Why should it have been a sealed book to races

confessedly the most cultured and advanced?

A. We believe there were nations as cultured in days of old and certainly

more spiritually "advanced" than we are. But there are several reasons for

this willing ignorance. One of them was given by St. Paul to the cultured

Athenians-a loss, for long centuries, of real spiritual insight, and even

interest, owing to their too great devotion to things of sense and their

long slavery to the dead letter of dogma and ritualism. But the strongest

reason for it lies in the fact that real Theosophy has ever been kept


Q. You have brought forward proofs that such secrecy has existed; but what

was the real cause for it?

A. The causes for it were:

1. The perversity of average human nature and its selfishness, always

tending to the gratification of personal desires to the detriment of

neighbors arid next of kin. Such people could never be entrusted with divine


2. Their unreliability to keep the sacred and divine knowledge from

desecration. It is the latter that led to the perversion of the most sublime

truths and symbols, and to the gradual transformation of things spiritual

into anthropomorphic, concrete, and gross imagery-in other words, to the

dwarfing of the god-idea and to idolatry.


is Not Buddhism

Q. You are often spoken of as "Esoteric Buddhists." Are you then all

followers of Gautama Buddha?

A. No more than musicians are all followers of Wagner. Some of us are

Buddhists by religion; yet there are far more Hindus and Brahmins than

Buddhists among us, and more Christian-born Europeans and Americans than

converted Buddhists. The mistake has arisen from a misunderstanding of the

real meaning of the title of Mr. Sinnett's excellent work, Esoteric

Buddhism, which last word ought to have been spelt with one, instead of two,

d's, as then Budhism would have meant what it was intended for, merely

"Wisdom-ism" (Bodha, bodhi, "intelligence," "wisdom") instead of Buddhism,

Gautama's religious philosophy. Theosophy, as already said, is the


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Q. What is the difference between Buddhism, the religion founded by the

Prince of Kapilavastu, and Budhism, the "Wisdomism" which you say is

synonymous with Theosophy?

A. Just the same difference as there is between the secret teachings of

Christ, which are called "the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven," and the

later ritualism and dogmatic theology of the Churches and Sects. Buddha

means the "Enlightened" by Bodha, or understanding, Wisdom. This has passed

root and branch into the esoteric teachings that Gautama imparted to his

chosen Arhats only.

Q. But some Orientalists deny that Buddha ever taught any esoteric doctrine

at all?

A. They may as well deny that Nature has any hidden secrets for the men of

science. Further on I will prove it by Buddha's conversation with his

disciple Ananda. His esoteric teachings were simply the Gupta-Vidya (secret

knowledge) of the ancient Brahmins, the key to which their modern successors

have, with few exceptions, completely lost. And this Vidya has passed into

what is now known as the inner teachings of the Mahayana school of Northern

Buddhism. Those who deny it are simply ignorant pretenders to Orientalism. I

advise you to read the Rev. Mr. Edkin's Chinese Buddhism-especially the

chapters on the Exoteric and Esoteric schools and teachings-and then compare

the testimony of the whole ancient world upon the subject.

Q. But are not the ethics of Theosophy identical with those taught by


A. Certainly, because these ethics are the soul of the Wisdom-Religion, and

were once the common property of the initiates of all nations. But Buddha

was the first to embody these lofty ethics in his public teachings, and to

make them the foundation and the very essence of his public system. It is

herein that lies the immense difference between exoteric Buddhism and every

other religion. For while in other religions ritualism and dogma hold the

first and most important place, in Buddhism it is the ethics which have

always been the most insisted upon. This accounts for the resemblance,

amounting almost to identity, between the ethics of Theosophy and those of

the religion of Buddha.

Q. Are there any great points of difference?

A. One great distinction between Theosophy and exoteric Buddhism is that the

latter, represented by the Southern Church, entirely denies (a) the

existence of any Deity, and (b) any conscious postmortem life, or even any

self-conscious surviving individuality in man. Such at least is the teaching

of the Siamese sect, now considered as the purest form of exoteric Buddhism.

And it is so, if we refer only to Buddha's public teachings; the reason for

such reticence on his part I will give further on. But the schools of the

Northern Buddhist Church, established in those countries to which his

initiated Arhats retired after the Master's death, teach all that is now

called Theosophical doctrines, because they form part of the knowledge of

the initiates-thus proving how the truth has been sacrificed to the

dead-letter by the too-zealous orthodoxy of Southern Buddhism. But how much

grander and more noble, more philosophical and scientific, even in its

dead-letter, is this teaching than that of any other Church or religion. Yet

Theosophy is not Buddhism.

Exoteric and Esoteric Theosophy

What the Modern Theosophical Society is Not

Q. Your doctrines, then, are not a revival of Buddhism, nor are they

entirely copied from the Neo-Platonic Theosophy?

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A. They are not. But to these questions I cannot give you a better answer

than by quoting from a paper read on "Theosophy" by Dr. J.D. Buck, F.T.S.,

No living Theosophist has better expressed and understood the real essence

of Theosophy than our honored friend Dr. Buck:

The Theosophical Society was organized for the purpose of promulgating the

Theosophical doctrines, and for the promotion of the Theosophic life. The

present Theosophical Society is not the first of its kind. I have a volume

entitled: Theosophical Transactions of the Philadelphian Society, published

in London in 1697; and another with the following title:

Introduction to Theosophy, or the Science of the Mystery of Christ; that is,

of Deity, Nature, and Creature, embracing the philosophy of all the working

powers of life, magical and spiritual, ant forming a practical guide to the

most sublime purity, sanctity, and evangelical perfection; also to the

attainment of divine vision, and the holy angelic arts, potencies, and other

prerogatives of the regeneration.

-published in London in 1855. The following is the dedication of this


To the students of Universities, Colleges, and schools of Christendom: To

Professors of Metaphysical, Mechanical, and Natural Science in all its

forms: To men and women of Education generally, of fundamental orthodox

faith: To Deists, Arians, Unitarians, Swedenborgians, and other defective

and ungrounded creeds, rationalists, and skeptics of every kind: To

just-minded and enlightened Mohammedans, Jews, and oriental

Patriarch-religionists: but especially to the gospel minister and

missionary, whether to the barbaric or intellectual peoples, this

introduction to Theosophy, or the science of the ground and mystery of all

things, is most humbly and affectionately dedicated.

In the following year (1856) another volume was issued, royal octavo, of 600

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Pages, diamond type, of Theosophical Miscellanies. Of the last-named work

500 copies only were issued, for gratuitous distribution to Libraries and

Universities. These earlier movements, of which there were many, originated

within the Church, with persons of great piety and earnestness, and of

unblemished character; and all of these writings were in orthodox form,


the Christian expressions, and, like the writings of the eminent Churchman

William Law, would only be distinguished by the ordinary reader for their

great earnestness and piety. These were one and all but attempts to derive

and explain the deeper meanings and original import of the Christian

Scriptures, and to illustrate and unfold the Theosophic life. These works

were soon forgotten, and are now generally unknown. They sought to reform

the clergy and revive genuine piety, and were never welcomed. That one word,

Heresy, was sufficient to bury them in the limbo of all such Utopias. At the

time of the Reformation John Reuchlin made a similar attempt with the same

result, though he was the intimate and trusted friend of Luther. Orthodoxy

never desired to be informed and enlightened. These reformers were informed,

as was Paul by Festus, that too much learning had made them mad, and that it

would be dangerous to go farther. Passing by the verbiage, which was partly

a matter of habit and education with these writers, and partly due to

religious restraint through secular power, and coming to the core of the

matter, these writings were Theosophical in the strictest sense, and pertain

solely to man's knowledge of his own nature and the higher life of the soul.

The present Theosophical Movement has sometimes been declared to be an

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attempt to convert Christendom to Buddhism, which means simply that the word

Heresy has lost its terrors and relinquished its power. Individuals in every

age have more or less clearly apprehended the Theosophical doctrines and

wrought them into the fabric of their lives. These doctrines belong

exclusively to no religion, and are confined to no society or time. They are

the birthright of every human soul. Such a thing as orthodoxy must be

wrought out by each individual according to his nature and his needs, and

according to his varying experience. This may explain why those who have

imagined Theosophy to be a new religion have hunted in vain for its creed

and its ritual. Its creed is Loyalty to Truth, and its ritual "To honor

every truth by use."

How little this principle of Universal Brotherhood is understood by the

masses of mankind, how seldom its transcendent importance is recognized, may

be seen in the diversity of opinion and fictitious interpretations regarding

the Theosophical Society. This Society was organized on this one principle,

the essential Brotherhood of Man, as herein briefly outlined and imperfectly

set forth. It has been assailed as Buddhist and anti-Christian, as though it

could be both these together, when both Buddhism and Christianity, as set

forth by their inspired founders, make brotherhood the one essential of

doctrine and of life. Theosophy has been also regarded as something new

under the sun, or, at best as old mysticism masquerading under a new name.

While it is true that many Societies founded upon, and united to support,

the principles of altruism, or essential brotherhood, have borne various

names, it is also true that many have also been called Theosophic, and with

principles and aims as the present society bearing that name. With these

societies, one and all, the essential doctrine has been the same, and all

else has been incidental, though this does not obviate the fact that many

persons are attracted to the incidentals who overlook or ignore the


No better or more explicit answer-by a man who is one of our most esteemed

and earnest Theosophists-could be given to your questions.

Q. Which system do you prefer or follow, in that case, besides Buddhist


A. None, and all. We hold to no religion, as to no philosophy in particular:

we cull the good we find in each. But here, again, it must be stated that,

like all other ancient systems, Theosophy is divided into Exoteric and

Esoteric Sections.

Q. What is the difference?

A. The members of the Theosophical Society at large are free to profess

whatever religion or philosophy they like, or none if they so prefer,

provided they are in sympathy with, and ready to carry out one or more of

the three objects of the Association. The Society is a philanthropic and

scientific body for the propagation of the idea of brotherhood on practical

instead of theoretical lines. The Fellows may be Christians or Muslims, Jews

or Parsees, Buddhists or Brahmins, Spiritualists or Materialists, it does

not matter; but every member must be either a philanthropist, or a scholar,

a searcher into ryan and other old literature, or a psychic student. In

short, he has to help, if he can, in the carrying out of at least one of the

objects of the program. Otherwise he has no reason for becoming a "Fellow."

Such are the majority of the exoteric Society, composed of "attached" and

"unattached" members. These may, or may not, become Theosophists de facto.

Members they are, by virtue of their having joined the Society; but the

latter cannot make a Theosophist of one who has no sense for the divine

fitness of things, or of him who understands Theosophy in his own-if the

expression may be used-sectarian and egotistic way. "Handsome is, as

handsome does" could be paraphrased in this case and be made to run:

"Theosophist is, who Theosophy does."

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and Members of the T.S.

Q. This applies to lay members, as I understand. And what of those who

pursue the esoteric study of Theosophy; are they the real Theosophists?

A. Not necessarily, until they have proven themselves to be such. They have

entered the inner group and pledged themselves to carry out, as strictly as

they can, the rules of the occult body. This is a difficult undertaking, as

the foremost rule of all is the entire renunciation of one's

personality-i.e., a pledged member has to become a thorough altruist, never

to think of himself, and to forget his own vanity and pride in the thought

of the good of his fellow-creatures, besides that of his fellow-brothers in

the esoteric circle. He has to live, if the esoteric instructions shall

profit him, a life of abstinence in everything, of self-denial and strict

morality, doing his duty by all men. The few real Theosophists in the T.S.

are among these members.

A. This does not imply that outside of the T.S. and the inner circle, there

are no Theosophists; for there are, and more than people know of; certainly

far more than are found among the lay members of the T.S.

Q. Then what is the good of joining the so-called Theosophical Society in

that case? Where is the incentive?

A. None, except the advantage of getting esoteric instructions, the genuine

doctrines of the "Wisdom-Religion," and if the real program is carried out,

deriving much help from mutual aid and sympathy. Union is strength and

harmony, and well-regulated simultaneous efforts produce wonders. This has

been the secret of all associations and communities since mankind existed.

Q. But why could not a man of well-balanced mind and singleness of purpose,

one, say, of indomitable energy and perseverance, become an Occultist and

even an Adept if he works alone?

A. He may; but there are ten thousand chances against one that he will fail.

For one reason out of many others, no books on Occultism or Theurgy exist in

our day which give out the secrets of alchemy or medieval Theosophy in plain

language. All are symbolical or in parables; and as the key to these has

been lost for ages in the West, how can a man learn the correct meaning of

what he is reading and studying? Therein lies the greatest danger, one that

leads to unconscious black magic or the most helpless mediumship. He who has

not an Initiate for a master had better leave the dangerous study alone.

Look around you and observe. While two-thirds of civilized society ridicule

the mere notion that there is anything in Theosophy, Occultism,

Spiritualism, or in the Cabala, the other third is composed of the most

heterogeneous and opposite elements. Some believe in the mystical, and even

in the supernatural (!), but each believes in his own way. Others will rush

single-handed into the study of the Cabala, Psychism, Mesmerism,

Spiritualism, or some form or another of Mysticism. Result: no two men think

alike, no two are agreed upon any fundamental occult principles, though many

are those who claim for themselves the ultima thule of knowledge, and would

make outsiders believe that they are full-blown adepts. Not only is there no

scientific and accurate knowledge of Occultism accessible in the West-not

even of true astrology, the only branch of Occultism which, in its exoteric

teachings, has definite laws and a definite system-but no one has any idea

of what real Occultism means. Some limit ancient wisdom to the Cabala and

the Jewish Zohar, which each interprets in his own way according to the

dead-letter of the Rabbinical methods. Others regard Swedenborg or Boëhme as

the ultimate expressions of the highest wisdom; while others again see in

mesmerism the great secret of ancient magic. One and all of those who put

their theory into practice are rapidly drifting, through ignorance, into

black magic. Happy are those who escape from it, as they have neither test

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nor criterion by which they can distinguish between the true and the false.

Q. Are we to understand that the inner group of the T.S. claims to learn

what it does from real initiates or masters of esoteric wisdom?

A. Not directly. The personal presence of such masters is not required.

Suffice it if they give instructions to some of those who have studied under

their guidance for years, and devoted their whole lives to their service.

Then, in turn, these can give out the knowledge so imparted to others, who

had no such opportunity. A portion of the true sciences is better than a

mass of undigested and misunderstood learning. An ounce of gold is worth a

ton of dust.

Q. But how is one to know whether the ounce is real gold or only a


A. A tree is known by its fruit, a system by its results. When our opponents

are able to prove to us that any solitary student of Occultism throughout

the ages has become a saintly adept like Ammonius Saccas, or even a

Plotinus, or a Theurgist like Iamblichus, or achieved feats such as are

claimed to have been done by St. Germain, without any master to guide him,

and all this without being a medium, a self-deluded psychic, or a

charlatan-then shall we confess ourselves mistaken. But till then,

Theosophists prefer to follow the proven natural law of the tradition of the

Sacred Science. There are mystics who have made great discoveries in

chemistry and physical sciences, almost bordering on alchemy and Occultism;

others who, by the sole aid of their genius, have rediscovered portions, if

not the whole, of the lost alphabets of the "Mystery language," and are,

therefore, able to read correctly Hebrew scrolls; others still, who, being

seers, have caught wonderful glimpses of the hidden secrets of Nature. But

all these are specialists. One is a theoretical inventor, another a Hebrew,

i.e., a Sectarian Cabalist, a third a Swedenborg of modern times, denying

all and everything outside of his own particular science or religion. Not

one of them can boast of having produced a universal or even a national

benefit thereby, not even to himself. With the exception of a few healers-of

that class which the Royal College of Physicians or Surgeons would call

quacks-none have helped with their science Humanity, nor even a number of

men of the same community. Where are the Chaldeans of old, those who wrought

marvelous cures, "not by charms but by simples"? Where is an Apollonius of

Tyana, who healed the sick and raised the dead under any climate and

circumstances? We know some specialists of the former class in Europe, but

none of the latter-except in Asia, where the secret of the Yogi, "to live in

death," is still preserved.

Q. Is the production of such healing adepts the aim of Theosophy?

A. Its aims are several; but the most important of all are those which are

likely to lead to the relief of human suffering under any or every form,

moral as well as physical. And we believe the former to be far more

important than the latter. Theosophy has to inculcate ethics; it has to

purify the soul, if it would relieve the physical body, whose ailments, save

cases of accidents, are all hereditary. It is not by studying Occultism for

selfish ends, for the gratification of one's personal ambition, pride, or

vanity, that one can ever reach the true goal: that of helping suffering

mankind. Nor is it by studying one single branch of the esoteric philosophy

that a man becomes an Occultist, but by studying, if not mastering, them


Q. Is help, then, to reach this most important aim, given only to those who

study the esoteric sciences?

A. Not at all. Every lay member is entitled to general instruction if he

only wants it; but few are willing to become what is called "working

members," and most prefer to remain the drones of Theosophy. Let it be

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understood that private research is encouraged in the T.S., provided it does

not infringe the limit which separates the exoteric from the esoteric, the

blind from the conscious magic.


Difference Between Theosophy and Occultism

Q. You speak of Theosophy and Occultism; are they identical?

A. By no means. A man may be a very good Theosophist indeed, whether in or

outside of the Society, without being in any way an Occultist. But no one

can be a true Occultist without being a real Theosophist; otherwise he is

simply a black magician, whether conscious or unconscious.

Q. What do you mean?

A. I have said already that a true Theosophist must put in practice the

loftiest moral ideal, must strive to realize his unity with the whole of

humanity, and work ceaselessly for others. Now, if an Occultist does not do

all this, he must act selfishly for his own personal benefit; and if he has

acquired more practical power than other ordinary men, he becomes forthwith

a far more dangerous enemy to the world and those around him than the

average mortal. This is clear.

Q. Then is an Occultist simply a man who possesses more power than other


A. Far more-if he is a practical and really learned Occultist, and not one

only in name. Occult sciences are not, as described in Encyclopedias,

… those imaginary sciences of the Middle Ages which related to the supposed

action or influence of Occult qualities or supernatural powers, as alchemy,

magic, necromancy, and astrology …

-for they are real, actual, and very dangerous sciences. They teach the

secret potency of things in Nature, developing and cultivating the hidden

powers "latent in man," thus giving him tremendous advantages over more

ignorant mortals. Hypnotism, now become so common and a subject of serious

scientific inquiry, is a good instance in point. Hypnotic power has been

discovered almost by accident, the way to it having been prepared by

mesmerism; and now an able hypnotist can do almost anything with it, from

forcing a man, unconsciously to himself, to play the fool, to making him

commit a crime-often by proxy for the hypnotist, and for the benefit of the

latter. Is not this a terrible power if left in the hands of unscrupulous

persons? And please to remember that this is only one of the minor branches

of Occultism.

Q. But are not all these Occult sciences, magic, and sorcery, considered by

the most cultured and learned people as relics of ancient ignorance and


A. Let me remind you that this remark of yours cuts both ways. The "most

cultured and learned" among you regard also Christianity and every other

religion as a relic of ignorance and superstition. People begin to believe

now, at any rate, in hypnotism, and some-even of the most cultured-in

Theosophy and phenomena. But who among them, except preachers and blind

fanatics, will confess to a belief in Biblical miracles? And this is where

the point of difference comes in. There are very good and pure Theosophists

who may believe in the supernatural, divine miracles included, but no

Occultist will do so. For an Occultist practices scientific Theosophy, based

on accurate knowledge of Nature's secret workings; but a Theosophist,

practicing the powers called abnormal, minus the light of Occultism, will

simply tend toward a dangerous form of mediumship, because, although holding

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to Theosophy and its highest conceivable code of ethics, he practices it in

the dark, on sincere but blind faith. Anyone, Theosophist or Spiritualist,

who attempts to cultivate one of the branches of Occult science-e.g.,

Hypnotism, Mesmerism, or even the secrets of producing physical phenomena,

etc.-without the knowledge of the philosophic rationale of those powers, is

like a rudderless boat launched on a stormy ocean.


Difference Between Theosophy and Spiritualism

Q. But do you not believe in Spiritualism?

A. If by "Spiritualism" you mean the explanation which Spiritualists give of

some abnormal phenomena, then decidedly we do not. They maintain that these

manifestations are all produced by the "spirits" of departed mortals,

generally their relatives, who return to earth, they say, to communicate

with those they have loved or to whom they are attached. We deny this point

blank. We assert that the spirits of the dead cannot return to earth-save in

rare and exceptional cases, of which I may speak later; nor do they

communicate with men except by entirely subjective means. That which does

appear objectively, is only the phantom of the ex-physical man. But in

psychic, and so to say, "Spiritual" Spiritualism, we do believe, most


Q. Do you reject the phenomena also?

A. Assuredly not-save cases of conscious fraud.

Q. How do you account for them, then?

A. In many ways. The causes of such manifestations are by no means so simple

as the Spiritualists would like to believe. Foremost of all, the deus ex

machina of the so-called "materializations" is usually the astral body or

"double" of the medium or of someone present. This astral body is also the

producer or operating force in the manifestations of slate-writing,

"Davenport"-like manifestations, and so on.

Q. You say usually-then what is it that produces the rest?

A. That depends on the nature of the manifestations. Sometimes the astral

remains, the Kamalokic "shells" of the vanished personalities that were; at

other times, Elementals. Spirit is a word of manifold and wide significance.

I really do not know what Spiritualists mean by the term; but what we

understand them to claim is that the physical phenomena are produced by the

reincarnating Ego, the Spiritual and immortal "individuality." And this

hypothesis we entirely reject. The Conscious Individuality of the

disembodied cannot materialize, nor can it return from its own mental

Devachanic sphere to the plane of terrestrial objectivity.

Q. But many of the communications received from the "spirits" show not only

intelligence, but a knowledge of facts not known to the medium, and

sometimes even not consciously present to the mind of the investigator, or

any of those who compose the audience.

A. This does not necessarily prove that the intelligence and knowledge you

speak of belong to spirits, or emanate from disembodied souls. Somnambulists

have been known to compose music and poetry and to solve mathematical

problems while in their trance state, without having ever learnt music or

mathematics. Others, answered intelligently to questions put to them, and

even, in several cases, spoke languages, such as Hebrew and Latin, of which

they were entirely ignorant when awake-all this in a state of profound

sleep. Will you, then, maintain that this was caused by "spirits"?

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Q. But how would you explain it?

A. We assert that the divine spark in man being one and identical in its

essence with the Universal Spirit, our "spiritual Self" is practically

omniscient, but that it cannot manifest its knowledge owing to the

impediments of matter. Now the more these impediments are removed, in other

words, the more the physical body is paralyzed, as to its own independent

activity and consciousness, as in deep sleep or deep trance, or, again, in

illness, the more fully can the inner Self manifest on this plane. This is

our explanation of those truly wonderful phenomena of a higher order, in

which undeniable intelligence and knowledge are exhibited. As to the lower

order of manifestations, such as physical phenomena and the platitudes and

common talk of the general "spirit," to explain even the most important of

the teachings we hold upon the subject would take up more space and time

than can be allotted to it at present. We have no desire to interfere with

the belief of the Spiritualists any more than with any other belief. The

responsibility must fall on the believers in "spirits." And at the present

moment, while still convinced that the higher sort of manifestations occur

through the disembodied souls, their leaders and the most learned and

intelligent among the Spiritualists are the first to confess that not all

the phenomena are produced by spirits. Gradually they will come to recognize

the whole truth; but meanwhile we have no right nor desire to proselytize

them to our views. The less so, as in the cases of purely psychic and

spiritual manifestations we believe in the intercommunication of the spirit

of the living man with that of disembodied personalities.

We say that in such cases it is not the spirits of the dead who descend on

earth, but the spirits of the living that ascend to the pure spiritual

Souls. In truth there is neither ascending nor descending, but a change of

state or condition for the medium. The body of the latter becoming

paralyzed, or "entranced," the spiritual Ego is free from its trammels, and

finds itself on the same plane of consciousness with the disembodied

spirits. Hence, if there is any spiritual attraction between the two they

can communicate, as often occurs in dreams. The difference between a

mediumistic and a non-sensitive nature is this: the liberated spirit of a

medium has the opportunity and facility of influencing the passive organs of

its entranced physical body, to make them act, speak, and write at its will.

The Ego can make it repeat, echo-like, and in the human language, the

thoughts and ideas of the disembodied entity, as well as its own. But the

non-receptive or non-sensitive organism of one who is very positive cannot

be so influenced. Hence, although there is hardly a human being whose Ego

does not hold free intercourse, during the sleep of his body, with those

whom it loved and lost, yet, on account of the positiveness and

non-receptivity of its physical envelope and brain, no recollection, or a

very dim, dream-like remembrance, lingers in the memory of the person once


Q. This means that you reject the philosophy of Spiritualism in toto?

A. If by "philosophy" you mean their crude theories, we do. But they have no

philosophy, in truth. Their best, their most intellectual and earnest

defenders say so. Their fundamental and only unimpeachable truth, namely,

that phenomena occur through mediums controlled by invisible forces and

intelligences-no one, except a blind materialist of the "Huxley big toe"

school, will or can deny. With regard to their philosophy, however, let me

read to you what the able editor of Light, than whom the Spiritualists will

find no wiser nor more devoted champion, says of them and their philosophy.

This is what "M.A. Oxon," one of the very few philosophical Spiritualists,

writes, with respect to their lack of organization and blind bigotry:

It is worthwhile to look steadily at this point, for it is of vital moment.

We have an experience and a knowledge beside which all other knowledge is

comparatively insignificant. The ordinary Spiritualist waxes wroth if anyone

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ventures to impugn his assured knowledge of the future and his absolute

certainty of the life to come. Where other men have stretched forth feeble

hands groping into the dark future, he walks boldly as one who has a chart

and knows his way. Where other men have stopped short at a pious aspiration

or have been content with a hereditary faith, it is his boast that he knows

what they only believe, and that out of his rich stores he can supplement

the fading faiths built only upon hope. He is magnificent in his dealings

with man's most cherished expectations. He seems to say:

You hope for that which I can demonstrate. You have accepted a traditional

belief in what I can experimentally prove according to the strictest

scientific method. The old beliefs are fading; come out from them and be

separate. They contain as much falsehood as truth. Only by building on a

sure foundation of demonstrated fact can your superstructure be stable. All

round you old faiths are toppling. Avoid the crash and get you out.

When one comes to deal with this magnificent person in a practical way, what

is the result? Very curious and very disappointing. He is so sure of his

ground that he takes no trouble to ascertain the interpretation which others

put upon his facts. The wisdom of the ages has concerned itself with the

explanation of what he rightly regards as proven; but he does not turn a

passing glance on its researches. He does not even agree altogether with his

brother Spiritualist. It is the story over again of the old Scotch body who,

together with her husband, formed a "kirk." They had exclusive keys to

Heaven, or, rather, she had, for she was "na certain aboot Jamie." So the

infinitely divided and subdivided and re-subdivided sects of Spiritualists

shake their heads, and are "na certain aboot" one another. Again, the

collective experience of mankind is solid and unvarying on this point that

union is strength, and disunion a source of weakness and failure. Shoulder

to shoulder, drilled and disciplined, a rabble becomes an army, each man a

match for a hundred of the untrained men that may be brought against it.

Organization in every department of man's work means success, saving of time

and labor, profit and development. Want of method, want of plan, haphazard

work, fitful energy, undisciplined effort-these mean bungling failure. The

voice of humanity attests the truth. Does the Spiritualist accept the

verdict and act on the conclusion? Verily, no. He refuses to organize. He is

a law unto himself, and a thorn in the side of his neighbors.

Q. I was told that the Theosophical Society was originally founded to crush

Spiritualism and belief in the survival of the individuality in man?

A. You are misinformed. Our beliefs are all founded on that immortal

individuality. But then, like so many others, you confuse personality with

individuality. Your Western psychologists do not seem to have established

any clear distinction between the two. Yet it is precisely that difference

which gives the keynote to the understanding of Eastern philosophy, and

which lies at the root of the divergence between the Theosophical and

Spiritualistic teachings. And though it may draw upon us still more the

hostility of some Spiritualists, yet I must state here that it is Theosophy

which is the true and unalloyed Spiritualism, while the modern scheme of

that name is, as now practiced by the masses, simply transcendental


Q. Please explain your idea more clearly.

A. What I mean is that though our teachings insist upon the identity of

spirit and matter, and though we say that spirit is potential matter, and

matter simply crystallized spirit (e.g., as ice is solidified steam), yet

since the original and eternal condition of all is not spirit but

meta-spirit, so to speak, we maintain that the term spirit can only be

applied to the true individuality.

Q. But what is the distinction between this "true individuality" and the "I"

or "Ego" of which we are all conscious?

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A. Before I can answer you, we must argue upon what you mean by "I" or

"Ego." We distinguish between the simple fact of self-consciousness, the

simple feeling that "I am I," and the complex thought that "I am Mr. Smith"

or "Mrs. Brown." Believing as we do in a series of births for the same Ego,

or reincarnation, this distinction is the fundamental pivot of the whole

idea. You see "Mr. Smith" really means a long series of daily experiences

strung together by the thread of memory, and forming what Mr. Smith calls

"himself." But none of these "experiences" are really the "I" or the Ego,

nor do they give "Mr. Smith" the feeling that he is himself, for he forgets

the greater part of his daily experiences, and they produce the feeling of

Egoity in him only while they last. We Theosophists, therefore, distinguish

between this bundle of "experiences," which we call the false (because so

finite and evanescent) personality, and that element in man to which the

feeling of "I am I" is due. It is this "I am I" which we call the true

individuality; and we say that this "Ego" or individuality plays, like an

actor, many parts on the stage of life. Let us call every new life on earth

of the same Ego a night on the stage of a theater. One night the actor, or

"Ego," appears as "Macbeth," the next as "Shylock," the third as "Romeo,"

the fourth as "Hamlet" or "King Lear," and so on, until he has run through

the whole cycle of incarnations. The Ego begins his life-pilgrimage as a

sprite, an "Ariel," or a "Puck"; he plays the part of a super, is a soldier,

a servant, one of the chorus; rises then to "speaking parts," plays leading

roles, interspersed with insignificant parts, till he finally retires from

the stage as "Prospero," the magician.

Q. I understand. You say, then, that this true Ego cannot return to earth

after death. But surely the actor is at liberty, if he has preserved the

sense of his individuality, to return if he likes to the scene of his former


A. We say not, simply because such a return to earth would be incompatible

with any state of unalloyed bliss after death, as I am prepared to prove. We

say that man suffers so much unmerited misery during his life, through the

fault of others with whom he is associated, or because of his environment,

that he is surely entitled to perfect rest and quiet, if not bliss, before

taking up again the burden of life. However, we can discuss this in detail



is Theosophy Accepted?

Q. I understand to a certain extent; but I see that your teachings are far

more complicated and metaphysical than either Spiritualism or current

religious thought. Can you tell me, then, what has caused this system of

Theosophy which you support to arouse so much interest and so much animosity

at the same time?

A. There are several reasons for it, I believe; among other causes that may

be mentioned is:

1. The great reaction from the crassly materialistic theories now prevalent

among scientific teachers.

2. General dissatisfaction with the artificial theology of the various

Christian Churches, and the number of daily increasing and conflicting


3. An ever-growing perception of the fact that the creeds which are so

obviously self-and mutually-contradictory cannot be true, and that claims

which are unverified cannot be real. This natural distrust of conventional

religions is only strengthened by their complete failure to preserve morals

and to purify society and the masses.

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4. A conviction on the part of many, and knowledge by a few, that there must

be somewhere a philosophical and religious system which shall be scientific

and not merely speculative.

5. A belief, perhaps, that such a system must be sought for in teachings far

antedating any modern faith.

Q. But how did this system come to be put forward just now?

A. Just because the time was found to be ripe, which fact is shown by the

determined effort of so many earnest students to reach the truth, at

whatever cost and wherever it may be concealed. Seeing this, its custodians

permitted that some portions at least of that truth should be proclaimed.

Had the formation of the Theosophical Society been postponed a few years

longer, one half of the civilized nations would have become by this time

rank materialists, and the other half anthropomorphists and phenomenalists.

Q. Are we to regard Theosophy in any way as a revelation?

A. In no way whatever-not even in the sense of a new and direct disclosure

from some higher, supernatural, or, at least, superhuman beings; but only in

the sense of an "unveiling" of old, very old, truths to minds hitherto

ignorant of them, ignorant even of the existence and preservation of any

such archaic knowledge.

It has become "fashionable," especially of late, to deride the notion that

there ever was, in the mysteries of great and civilized peoples, such as the

Egyptians, Greeks, or Romans, anything but priestly imposture. Even the

Rosicrucians were no better than half lunatics, half knaves. Numerous books

have been written on them; and tyros, who had hardly heard the name a few

years before, sallied out as profound critics and Gnostics on the subject of

alchemy, the fire-philosophers, and mysticism in general. Yet a long series

of the Hierophants of Egypt, India, Chaldea, and Arabia are known, along

with the greatest philosophers and sages of Greece and the West, to have

included under the designation of wisdom and divine science all knowledge,

for they considered the base and origin of every art and science as

essentially divine. Plato regarded the mysteries as most sacred, and Clemens

Alexandrinus, who had been himself initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries,

has declared "that the doctrines taught therein contained in them the end of

all human knowledge." Were Plato and Clemens two knaves or two fools, we

wonder, or-both?

Q. You spoke of "Persecution." If truth is as represented by Theosophy, why

has it met with such opposition, and with no general acceptance?

A. For many and various reasons again, one of which is the hatred felt by

men for "innovations," as they call them. Selfishness is essentially

conservative, and hates being disturbed. It prefers an easy-going,

unexacting lie to the greatest truth, if the latter requires the sacrifice

of one's smallest comfort. The power of mental inertia is great in anything

that does not promise immediate benefit and reward. Our age is preeminently

unspiritual and matter of fact. Moreover, there is the unfamiliar character

of Theosophic teachings; the highly abstruse nature of the doctrines, some

of which contradict flatly many of the human vagaries cherished by

sectarians, which have eaten into the very core of popular beliefs. If we

add to this the personal efforts and great purity of life exacted of those

who would become the disciples of the inner circle, and the very limited

class to which an entirely unselfish code appeals, it will be easy to

perceive the reason why Theosophy is doomed to such slow, uphill work. It is

essentially the philosophy of those who suffer, and have lost all hope of

being helped out of the mire of life by any other means. Moreover, the

history of any system of belief or morals, newly introduced into a foreign

soil, shows that its beginnings were impeded by every obstacle that

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obscurantism and selfishness could suggest. "The crown of the innovator is a

crown of thorns" indeed! No pulling down of old, worm-eaten buildings can be

accomplished without some danger.

Q. All this refers rather to the ethics and philosophy of the T.S. Can you

give me a general idea of the Society itself, its objects and statutes?

A. This was never made secret. Ask, and you shall receive accurate answers.

Q. But I heard that you were bound by pledges?

A. Only in the Arcane or "Esoteric" Section.

Q. And also, that some members after leaving did not regard themselves bound

by them. Are they right?

A. This shows that their idea of honor is an imperfect one. How can they be

right? As well said in The Path, our theosophical organ at New York,

treating of such a case:

Suppose that a soldier is tried for infringement of oath and discipline, and

is dismissed from the service. In his rage at the justice he has called

down, and of whose penalties he was distinctly forewarned, the soldier turns

to the enemy with false information-a spy and traitor-as a revenge upon his

former Chief, and claims that his punishment has released him from his oath

of loyalty to a cause.

Is he justified, think you? Don't you think he deserves being called a

dishonorable man, a coward?

Q. I believe so; but some think otherwise.

A. So much the worse for them. But we will talk on this subject later, if

you please.

The Working System of the T.S. *1)

The Objects of the Society

Q. What are the objects of the "Theosophical Society"?

A. They are three, and have been so from the beginning.

1. To form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without

distinction of race, color, or creed.

2. To promote the study of Aryan *2) and other Scriptures, of the World's

religions and sciences, and to vindicate the importance of old Asiatic

literature, namely, of the Brahmanical, Buddhist, and Zoroastrian


3. To investigate the hidden mysteries of Nature under every aspect

possible, and the psychic and spiritual powers latent in man especially.

These are, broadly stated, the three chief objects of the Theosophical


*1) See also appendix at the end of this file

*2) H.P.B. means the original Indo-Germanic race from Northern India (see

H.P.B., The Theosophical Glossary, London, 1892

and also the glossary at the end of this file)

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Q. Can you give me some more detailed information upon these?

A. We may divide each of the three objects into as many explanatory clauses

as may be found necessary.

Q. Then let us begin with the first. What means would you resort to, in

order to promote such a feeling of brotherhood among races that are known to

be of the most diversified religions, customs, beliefs, and modes of


A. Allow me to add that which you seem unwilling to express. Of course we

know that with the exception of two remnants of races-the Parsees and the

Jews-every nation is divided, not merely against all other nations, but even

against itself. This is found most prominently among the so-called civilized

Christian nations. Hence your wonder, and the reason why our first object

appears to you a Utopia. Is it not so?

Q. Well, yes; but what have you to say against it?

A. Nothing against the fact; but much about the necessity of removing the

causes which make Universal Brotherhood a Utopia at present.

Q. What are, in your view, these causes?

A. First and foremost, the natural selfishness of human nature. This

selfishness, instead of being eradicated, is daily strengthened and

stimulated into a ferocious and irresistible feeling by the present

religious education, which tends not only to encourage, but positively to

justify it. People's ideas about right and wrong have been entirely

perverted by the literal acceptance of the Jewish Bible. All the

unselfishness of the altruistic teachings of Jesus has become merely a

theoretical subject for pulpit oratory; while the precepts of practical

selfishness taught in the Mosaic Bible, against which Christ so vainly

preached, have become ingrained into the innermost life of the Western

nations. "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" has come to be the

first maxim of your law. Now, I state openly and fearlessly, that the

perversity of this doctrine and of so many others Theosophy alone can



Common Origin of Man

Q. How?

A. Simply by demonstrating on logical, philosophical, metaphysical, and even

scientific grounds that: (a) All men have spiritually and physically the

same origin, which is the fundamental teaching of Theosophy. (b) As mankind

is essentially of one and the same essence, and that essence is

one-infinite, uncreate, and eternal, whether we call it God or

Nature-nothing, therefore, can affect one nation or one man without

affecting all other nations and all other men. This is as certain and as

obvious as that a stone thrown into a pond will, sooner or later, set in

motion every single drop of water therein.

Q. But this is not the teaching of Christ, but rather a pantheistic notion.

A. That is where your mistake lies. It is purely Christian, although not

Judaic, and therefore, perhaps, your Biblical nations prefer to ignore it.

Q. This is a wholesale and unjust accusation. Where are your proofs for such

a statement?

A. They are ready at hand. Christ is alleged to have said: "Love each other"

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and "Love your enemies;" for

… if ye love them (only) which love you, what reward (or merit) have ye? Do

not even the publicans the same? And if you salute your brethren only, what

do ye more than others? Do not even publicans so?

These are Christ's words. But Genesis says "Cursed be Canaan, a servant of

servants shall he be unto his brethren." And, therefore, Christian but

Biblical people prefer the law of Moses to Christ's law of love. They base

upon the Old Testament, which panders to all their passions, their laws of

conquest, annexation, and tyranny over races which they call inferior. What

crimes have been committed on the strength of this infernal (if taken in its

dead letter) passage in Genesis, history alone gives us an idea, however


At the close of the Middle Ages slavery, under the power of moral forces,

had mainly disappeared from Europe; but two momentous events occurred which

overbore the moral power working in European society and let loose a swarm

of curses upon the earth such as mankind had scarcely ever known. One of

these events was the first voyaging to a populated and barbarous coast where

human beings were a familiar article of traffic; and the other the discovery

of a new world, where mines of glittering wealth were open, provided labor

could be imported to work them. For four hundred years men and women and

children were torn from all whom they knew and loved, and were sold on the

coast of Africa to foreign traders; they were chained below decks-the dead

often with the living-during the horrible "middle passage," and, according

to Bancroft, an impartial historian, two hundred and fifty thousand out of

three and a quarter millions were thrown into the sea on that fatal passage,

while the remainder were consigned to nameless misery in the mines, or under

the lash in the cane and rice fields. The guilt of this great crime rests on

the Christian Church. "In the name of the most Holy Trinity" the Spanish

Government (Roman Catholic) concluded more than ten treaties authorizing the

sale of five hundred thousand human beings; in 1562 Sir John Hawkins sailed

on his diabolical errand of buying slaves in Africa and selling them in the

West Indies in a ship which bore the sacred name of Jesus; while Elizabeth,

the Protestant Queen, rewarded him for his success in this first adventure

of Englishmen in that inhuman traffic by allowing him to wear as his crest

"a demi-Moor in his proper color, bound with a cord, or, in other words, a

manacled negro slave."

Q. I have heard you say that the identity of our physical origin is proved

by science, that of our spiritual origin by the Wisdom-Religion. Yet we do

not find Darwinists exhibiting great fraternal affection.

A. Just so. This is what shows the deficiency of the materialistic systems,

and proves that we Theosophists are in the right. The identity of our

physical origin makes no appeal to our higher and deeper feelings. Matter,

deprived of its soul and spirit, or its divine essence, cannot speak to the

human heart. But the identity of the soul and spirit, of real, immortal man,

as Theosophy teaches us, once proven and deep-rooted in our hearts, would

lead us far on the road of real charity and brotherly goodwill.

Q. But how does Theosophy explain the common origin of man?

1. By teaching that the root of all nature, objective and subjective, and

everything else in the universe, visible and invisible, is, was, and

ever will be one absolute essence, from which all starts, and into

which everything returns. This is Aryan *) philosophy, fully

represented only by the Vedantins, and the Buddhist system. With this

object in view, it is the duty of all Theosophists to promote in every

practical way, and in all countries, the spread of non-sectarian


*) See remark on the use of the word Aryan a couple of

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Q. What do the written statutes of your Society advise its members to do

besides this? On the physical plane, I mean?

A. In order to awaken brotherly feeling among nations we have to assist in

the international exchange of useful arts and products, by advice,

information, and cooperation with all worthy individuals and associations

(provided, however, add the statutes, "that no benefit or percentage shall

be taken by the Society or the 'Fellows' for its or their corporate

services"). For instance, to take a practical illustration. The organization

of Society, depicted by Edward Bellamy, in his magnificent work Looking

Backwards, admirably represents the Theosophical idea of what should be the

first great step towards the full realization of universal brotherhood. The

state of things he depicts falls short of perfection, because selfishness

still exists and operates in the hearts of men. But in the main, selfishness

and individualism have been overcome by the feeling of solidarity and mutual

brotherhood; and the scheme of life there described reduces the causes

tending to create and foster selfishness to a minimum.

Q. Then as a Theosophist you will take part in an effort to realize such an


A. Certainly; and we have proved it by action. Have not you heard of the

Nationalist clubs and party which have sprung up in America since the

publication of Bellamy's book? They are now coming prominently to the front,

and will do so more and more as time goes on. Well, these clubs and this

party were started in the first instance by Theosophists. One of the first,

the Nationalist Club of Boston, Massachusetts, has Theosophists for

President and Secretary, and the majority of its executive belong to the

T.S. In the constitution of all their clubs, and of the party they are

forming, the influence of Theosophy and of the Society is plain, for they

all take as their basis, their first and fundamental principle, the

Brotherhood of Humanity as taught by Theosophy. In their declaration of

Principles they state:

The principle of the Brotherhood of Humanity is one of the eternal truths

that govern the world's progress on lines which distinguish human nature

from brute nature.

What can be more Theosophical than this? But it is not enough. What is also

needed is to impress men with the idea that, if the root of mankind is one,

then there must also be one truth which finds expression in all the various

religions-except in the Jewish, as you do not find it expressed even in the


Q. This refers to the common origin of religions, and you may be right

there. But how does it apply to practical brotherhood on the physical plane?

A. First, because that which is true on the metaphysical plane must be also

true on the physical. Secondly, because there is no more fertile source of

hatred and strife than religious differences. When one party or another

thinks himself the sole possessor of absolute truth, it becomes only natural

that he should think his neighbor absolutely in the clutches of Error or the

Devil. But once get a man to see that none of them has the whole truth, but

that they are mutually complementary, that the complete truth can be found

only in the combined views of all, after that which is false in each of them

has been sifted out-then true brotherhood in religion will be established.

The same applies in the physical world.

Q. Please explain further.

A. Take an instance. A plant consists of a root, a stem, and many shoots and

leaves. As humanity, as a whole, is the stem which grows from the spiritual

root, so is the stem the unity of the plant. Hurt the stem and it is obvious

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that every shoot and leaf will suffer. So it is with mankind.

Q. Yes, but if you injure a leaf or a shoot, you do not injure the whole


A. And therefore you think that by injuring one man you do not injure

humanity? But how do you know? Are you aware that even materialistic science

teaches that any injury, however, slight, to a plant will affect the whole

course of its future growth and development? Therefore, you are mistaken,

and the analogy is perfect. If, however, you overlook the fact that a cut in

the finger may often make the whole body suffer, and react on the whole

nervous system, I must all the more remind you that there may well be other

spiritual laws, operating on plants and animals as well as on mankind,

although, as you do not recognize their action on plants and animals, you

may deny their existence.

Q. What laws do you mean?

A. We call them Karmic laws; but you will not understand the full meaning of

the term unless you study Occultism. However, my argument did not rest on

the assumption of these laws, but really on the analogy of the plant. Expand

the idea, carry it out to a universal application, and you will soon find

that in true philosophy every physical action has its moral and everlasting

effect. Hurt a man by doing him bodily harm; you may think that his pain and

suffering cannot spread by any means to his neighbors, least of all to men

of other nations. We affirm that it will, in good time. Therefore, we say,

that unless every man is brought to understand and accept as an axiomatic

truth that by having wronged one man we wrong not only ourselves but the

whole of humanity in the long run, no brotherly feelings such as preached by

all the great Reformers, preeminently by Buddha and Jesus, are possible on



Other Objects

Q. Will you now explain the methods by which you propose to carry out the

second object?

A. To collect for the library at our headquarters of Adyar, Madras-and by

the Fellows of their Branches for their local libraries-all the good works

upon the world's religions that we can. To put into written form correct

information upon the various ancient philosophies, traditions, and legends,

and disseminate the same in such practicable ways as the translation and

publication of original works of value, and extracts from and commentaries

upon the same, or the oral instructions of persons learned in their

respective departments.

Q. And what about the third object, to develop in man his latent spiritual

or psychic powers?

A. This has to be achieved also by means of publications, in those places

where no lectures and personal teachings are possible. Our duty is to keep

alive in man his spiritual intuitions. To oppose and counteract-after due

investigation and proof of its irrational nature-bigotry in every form,

religious, scientific, or social, and cant above all, whether as religious

sectarianism or as belief in miracles or anything supernatural. What we have

to do is to seek to obtain knowledge of all the laws of nature, and to

diffuse it. To encourage the study of those laws least understood by modern

people, the so-called Occult Sciences, based on the true knowledge of

nature, instead of, as at present, on superstitious beliefs based on blind

faith and authority. Popular folklore and traditions, however fanciful at

times, when sifted may lead to the discovery of long-lost, but important,

secrets of nature. The Society, therefore, aims at pursuing this line of

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inquiry, in the hope of widening the field of scientific and philosophical



the Sacredness of the Pledge

Q. Have you any ethical system that you carry out in the Society?

A. The ethics are there, ready and clear enough for whomsoever would follow

them. They are the essence and cream of the world's ethics, gathered from

the teachings of all the world's great reformers. Therefore, you will find

represented therein Confucius and Zoroaster, Lao-tzu and the Bhagavad-Gita ,

the precepts of Gautama Buddha and Jesus of Nazareth, of Hillel and his

school, as of Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and their schools.

Q. Do the members of your Society carry out these precepts? I have heard of

great dissensions and quarrels among them.

A. Very naturally, since although the reform (in its present shape) may be

called new, the men and women to be reformed are the same human, sinning

natures as of old. As already said, the earnest working members are few; but

many are the sincere and well-disposed persons, who try their best to live

up to the Society's and their own ideals. Our duty is to encourage and

assist individual fellows in self-improvement, intellectual, moral, and

spiritual; not to blame or condemn those who fail. We have, strictly

speaking, no right to refuse admission to anyone-especially in the Esoteric

Section of the Society, wherein "he who enters is as one newly born." But if

any member, his sacred pledges on his word of honor and immortal Self

notwithstanding, chooses to continue, after that "new birth," with the new

man, the vices or defects of his old life, and to indulge in them still in

the Society, then, of course, he is more than likely to be asked to resign

and withdraw; or, in case of his refusal, to be expelled. We have the

strictest rules for such emergencies.

Q. Can some of them be mentioned?

A. They can. To begin with, no Fellow in the Society, whether exoteric or

esoteric, has a right to force his personal opinions upon another Fellow.

It is not lawful for any officer of the Parent Society to express in public,

by word or act, any hostility to, or preference for, any one section,

religious or philosophical, more than another. All have an equal right to

have the essential features of their religious belief laid before the

tribunal of an impartial world. And no officer of the Society, in his

capacity as an officer, has the right to preach his own sectarian views and

beliefs to members assembled, except when the meeting consists of his

co-religionists. After due warning, violation of this rule shall be punished

by suspension or expulsion.

This is one of the offenses in the Society at large. As regards the inner

section, now called the Esoteric, the following rules have been laid down

and adopted, so far back as 1880.

No Fellow shall put to his selfish use any knowledge communicated to him by

any member of the first section (now a higher "degree"); violation of the

rule being punished by expulsion.

Now, however, before any such knowledge can be imparted, the applicant has

to bind himself by a solemn oath not to use it for selfish purposes, nor to

reveal anything said except by permission.

Q. But is a man expelled, or resigning, from the section free to reveal

anything he may have learned, or to break any clause of the pledge he has

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A. Certainly not. His expulsion or resignation only relieves him from the

obligation of obedience to the teacher, and from that of taking an active

part in the work of the Society, but surely not from the sacred pledge of


Q. But is this reasonable and just?

A. Most assuredly. To any man or woman with the slightest honorable feeling

a pledge of secrecy taken even on one's word of honor, much more to one's

Higher Self-the God within-is binding till death. And though he may leave

the Section and the Society, no man or woman of honor will think of

attacking or injuring a body to which he or she has been so pledged.

Q. But is not this going rather far?

A. Perhaps so, according to the low standard of the present time and

morality. But if it does not bind as far as this, what use is a pledge at

all? How can anyone expect to be taught secret knowledge, if he is to be at

liberty to free himself from all the obligations he had taken, whenever he

pleases? What security, confidence, or trust would ever exist among men, if

pledges such as this were to have no really binding force at all? Believe

me, the law of retribution (Karma) would very soon overtake one who so broke

his pledge, and perhaps as soon as the contempt of every honorable man

would, even on this physical plane. As well expressed in the New York Path

just cited on this subject,

A pledge once taken, is forever binding in both the moral and the occult

worlds. If we break it once and are punished, that does not justify us in

breaking it again, and so long as we do, so long will the mighty lever of

the Law (of Karma) react upon us.

The Relations of the T.S. to Theosophy

On Self-Improvement

Q. Is moral elevation, then, the principal thing insisted upon in your


A. Undoubtedly! He who would be a true Theosophist must bring himself to

live as one.

Q. If so, then, as I remarked before, the behavior of some members strangely

belies this fundamental rule.

A. Indeed it does. But this cannot be helped among us, any more than amongst

those who call themselves Christians and act like fiends. This is no fault

of our statutes and rules, but that of human nature. Even in some exoteric

public branches, the members pledge themselves on their "Higher Self" to

live the life prescribed by Theosophy. They have to bring their Divine Self

to guide their every thought and action, every day and at every moment of

their lives. A true Theosophist ought "to deal justly and walk humbly."

Q. What do you mean by this?

A. Simply this: the one self has to forget itself for the many selves. Let

me answer you in the words of a true Philaletheian, an F.T.S., who has

beautifully expressed it in The Theosophist:

What every man needs first is to find himself, and then take an honest

inventory of his subjective possessions, and, bad or bankrupt as it may be,

it is not beyond redemption if we set about it in earnest.

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But how many do? All are willing to work for their own development and

progress; very few for those of others. To quote the same writer again:

Men have been deceived and deluded long enough; they must break their idols,

put away their shams, and go to work for themselves-nay, there is one little

word too much or too many, for he who works for himself had better not work

at all; rather let him work himself for others, for all. For every flower of

love and charity he plants in his neighbor's garden, a loathsome weed will

disappear from his own, and so this garden of the gods-Humanity-shall

blossom as a rose. In all Bibles, all religions, this is plainly set

forth-but designing men have at first misinterpreted and finally

emasculated, materialized, besotted them. It does not require a new

revelation. Let every man be a revelation unto himself. Let once man's

immortal spirit take possession of the temple of his body, drive out the

money-changers and every unclean thing, and his own divine humanity will

redeem him, for when he is thus at one with himself he will know the

"builder of the Temple."

Q. This is pure Altruism, I confess.

A. It is. And if only one Fellow of the T.S. out of ten would practice it

ours would be a body of elect indeed. But there are those among the

outsiders who will always refuse to see the essential difference between

Theosophy and the Theosophical Society, the idea and its imperfect

embodiment. Such would visit every sin and shortcoming of the vehicle, the

human body, on the pure spirit which sheds thereon its divine light. Is this

just to either? They throw stones at an association that tries to work up

to, and for the propagation of, its ideal with most tremendous odds against

it. Some vilify the Theosophical Society only because it presumes to attempt

to do that in which other systems-Church and State Christianity

preeminently-have failed most egregiously; others because they would fain

preserve the existing state of things: Pharisees and Sadducees in the seat

of Moses, and publicans and sinners revelling in high places, as under the

Roman Empire during its decadence. Fair-minded people, at any rate, ought to

remember that the man who does all he can, does as much as he who has

achieved the most, in this world of relative possibilities. This is a simple

truism, an axiom supported for believers in the Gospels by the parable of

the talents given by their Master: the servant who doubled his two talents

was rewarded as much as that other fellow-servant who had received five. To

every man it is given "according to his several ability."

Q. Yet it is rather difficult to draw the line of demarcation between the

abstract and the concrete in this case, as we have only the latter to form

our judgment by.

A. Then why make an exception for the T.S.? Justice, like charity, ought to

begin at home. Will you revile and scoff at the "Sermon on the Mount"

because your social, political and even religious laws have, so far, not

only failed to carry out its precepts in their spirit, but even in their

dead letter? Abolish the oath in Courts, Parliament, Army and everywhere,

and do as the Quakers do, if you will call yourselves Christians. Abolish

the Courts themselves, for if you would follow the Commandments of Christ,

you have to give away your coat to him who deprives you of your cloak, and

turn your left cheek to the bully who smites you on the right. "Resist not

evil, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that

hate you," for "whosoever shall break one of the least of these Commandments

and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of

Heaven," and "whosoever shall say 'Thou fool' shall be in danger of hell

fire." And why should you judge, if you would not be judged in your turn?

Insist that between Theosophy and the Theosophical Society there is no

difference, and forthwith you lay the system of Christianity and its very

essence open to the same charges, only in a more serious form.

Q. Why more serious?

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A. Because, while the leaders of the Theosophical Movement, recognizing

fully their shortcomings, try all they can do to amend their ways and uproot

the evil existing in the Society; and while their rules and bylaws are

framed in the spirit of Theosophy, the Legislators and the Churches of

nations and countries which call themselves Christian do the reverse. Our

members, even the worst among them, are no worse than the average Christian.

Moreover, if the Western Theosophists experience so much difficulty in

leading the true Theosophical life, it is because they are all the children

of their generation. Every one of them was a Christian, bred and brought up

in the sophistry of his Church, his social customs, and even his paradoxical

laws. He was this before he became a Theosophist, or rather, a member of the

Society of that name, as it cannot be too often repeated that between the

abstract ideal and its vehicle there is a most important difference.


Abstract and the Concrete

Q. Please elucidate this difference a little more.

A. The Society is a great body of men and women, composed of the most

heterogeneous elements. Theosophy, in its abstract meaning, is Divine

Wisdom, or the aggregate of the knowledge and wisdom that underlie the

Universe-the homogeneity of eternal good; and in its concrete sense it is

the sumtotal of the same as allotted to man by nature, on this earth, and no

more. Some members earnestly endeavor to realize and, so to speak, to

objectivize Theosophy in their lives; while others desire only to know of,

not to practice it; and others still may have joined the Society merely out

of curiosity, or a passing interest, or perhaps, again, because some of

their friends belong to it. How, then, can the system be judged by the

standard of those who would assume the name without any right to it? Is

poetry or its muse to be measured only by those would-be poets who afflict

our ears? The Society can be regarded as the embodiment of Theosophy only in

its abstract motives; it can never presume to call itself its concrete

vehicle so long as human imperfections and weaknesses are all represented in

its body; otherwise the Society would be only repeating the great error and

the outflowing sacrilege of the so-called Churches of Christ. If Eastern

comparisons may be permitted, Theosophy is the shoreless ocean of universal

truth, love, and wisdom, reflecting its radiance on the earth, while the

Theosophical Society is only a visible bubble on that reflection. Theosophy

is divine nature, visible and invisible, and its Society human nature trying

to ascend to its divine parent. Theosophy, finally, is the fixed eternal

sun, and its Society the evanescent comet trying to settle in an orbit to

become a planet, ever revolving within the attraction of the sun of truth.

It was formed to assist in showing to men that such a thing as Theosophy

exists, and to help them to ascend towards it by studying and assimilating

its eternal verities.

Q. I thought you said you had no tenets or doctrines of your own?

A. No more we have. The Society has no wisdom of its own to support or

teach. It is simply the storehouse of all the truths uttered by the great

seers, initiates, and prophets of historic and even prehistoric ages; at

least, as many as it can get. Therefore, it is merely the channel through

which more or less of truth, found in the accumulated utterances of

humanity's great teachers, is poured out into the world.

Q. But is such truth unreachable outside of the society? Does not every

Church claim the same?

A. Not at all. The undeniable existence of great initiates-true "Sons of

God"-shows that such wisdom was often reached by isolated individuals,

never, however, without the guidance of a master at first. But most of the

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followers of such, when they became masters in their turn, have dwarfed the

Catholicism of these teachings into the narrow groove of their own sectarian

dogmas. The commandments of a chosen master alone were then adopted and

followed, to the exclusion of all others-if followed at all, note well, as

in the case of the Sermon on the Mount. Each religion is thus a bit of the

divine truth, made to focus a vast panorama of human fancy which claimed to

represent and replace that truth.

Q. But Theosophy, you say, is not a religion?

A. Most assuredly it is not, since it is the essence of all religion and of

absolute truth, a drop of which only underlies every creed. To resort once

more to metaphor. Theosophy, on earth, is like the white ray of the

spectrum, and every religion only one of the seven prismatic colors.

Ignoring all the others, and cursing them as false, every special colored

ray claims not only priority, but to be that white ray itself, and

anathematizes even its own tints from light to dark, as heresies. Yet, as

the sun of truth rises higher and higher on the horizon of man's perception,

and each colored ray gradually fades out until it is finally reabsorbed in

its turn, humanity will at last be cursed no longer with artificial

polarizations, but will find itself bathing in the pure colorless sunlight

of eternal truth. And this will be Theosophia.

Q. Your claim is, then, that all the great religions are derived from

Theosophy, and that it is by assimilating it that the world will be finally

saved from the curse of its great illusions and errors?

A. Precisely so. And we add that our Theosophical Society is the humble seed

which, if watered and left to live, will finally produce the Tree of

Knowledge of Good and Evil which is grafted on the Tree of Life Eternal. For

it is only by studying the various great religions and philosophies of

humanity, by comparing them dispassionately and with an unbiased mind, that

men can hope to arrive at the truth. It is especially by finding out and

noting their various points of agreement that we may achieve this result.

For no sooner do we arrive-either by study, or by being taught by someone

who knows-at their inner meaning, than we find, almost in every case, that

it expresses some great truth in Nature.

Q. We have heard of a Golden Age that was, and what you describe would be a

Golden Age to be realized at some future day. When shall it be?

A. Not before humanity, as a whole, feels the need of it. A maxim in the

Persian Javidan Khirad says:

Truth is of two kinds-one manifest and self-evident; the other demanding

incessantly new demonstrations and proofs.

It is only when this latter kind of truth becomes as universally obvious as

it is now dim, and therefore liable to be distorted by sophistry and

casuistry; it is only when the two kinds will have become once more one,

that all people will be brought to see alike.

Q. But surely those few who have felt the need of such truths must have made

up their minds to believe in something definite? You tell me that, the

Society having no doctrines of its own, every member may believe as he

chooses and accept what he pleases. This looks as if the Theosophical

Society was bent upon reviving the confusion of languages and beliefs of the

Tower of Babel of old. Have you no beliefs in common?

A. What is meant by the Society having no tenets or doctrines of its own is,

that no special doctrines or beliefs are obligatory on its members; but, of

course, this applies only to the body as a whole. The Society, as you were

told, is divided into an outer and an inner body. Those who belong to the

latter have, of course, a philosophy, or-if you so prefer it-a religious

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system of their own.

Q. May we be told what it is?

A. We make no secret of it. It was outlined a few years ago in The

Theosophist and Esoteric Buddhism, and may be found still more elaborated in

The Secret Doctrine. It is based on the oldest philosophy of the world,

called the Wisdom-Religion or the Archaic Doctrine. If you like, you may ask

questions and have them explained.

The Fundamental Teachings of Theosophy

On God and Prayer

Q. Do you believe in God?

A. That depends what you mean by the term.

Q. I mean the God of the Christians, the Father of Jesus, and the Creator:

the Biblical God of Moses, in short.

A. In such a God we do not believe. We reject the idea of a personal, or an

extra-cosmic and anthropomorphic God, who is but the gigantic shadow of man,

and not of man at his best, either. The God of theology, we say-and prove

it-is a bundle of contradictions and a logical impossibility. Therefore, we

will have nothing to do with him.

Q. State your reasons, if you please.

A. They are many, and cannot all receive attention. But here are a few. This

God is called by his devotees infinite and absolute, is he not?

Q. I believe he is.

A. Then, if infinite-i.e., limitless-and especially if absolute, how can he

have a form, and be a creator of anything? Form implies limitation, and a

beginning as well as an end; and, in order to create, a Being must think and

plan. How can the absolute be supposed to think-i.e., to have any relation

whatever to that which is limited, finite, and conditioned? This is a

philosophical, and a logical absurdity. Even the Hebrew Cabala rejects such

an idea, and therefore, makes of the one and the Absolute Deific

Principle an infinite Unity called Ain-Soph *)

*)Ain-Soph (Greek: toh pan, epeiros), the boundless or limitless, in and of

nature, the non-existing that IS, but that is not a Being.

In order to create, the Creator has to become active; and as this is

impossible for absoluteness, the infinite principle had to be shown becoming

the cause of evolution (not creation) in an indirect way-i.e., through the

emanation from itself (another absurdity, due this time to the translators

of the Cabala) of the Sephiroth.

How can the non-active eternal principle emanate or emit? The Parabrahman of

the Vedantins does nothing of the kind; nor does the Ain-Soph of the

Chaldean Cabala. It is an eternal and periodical law which causes an active

and creative force (the logos) to emanate from the ever-concealed and

incomprehensible one principle at the beginning of every Mah -Manvantara, or

new cycle of life.

Q. How about those Cabalists, who, while being such, still believe in

Jehovah, or the Tetragrammaton?

A. They are at liberty to believe in what they please, as their belief or

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disbelief can hardly affect a self-evident fact. The Jesuits tell us that

two and two are not always four to a certainty, since it depends on the will

of God to make 2 × 2 = 5. Shall we accept their sophistry for all that?

Q. Then you are Atheists?

A. Not that we know of, and not unless the epithet of "Atheist" is to be

applied to those who disbelieve in an anthropomorphic God. We believe in a

Universal Divine Principle, the root of all, from which all proceeds, and

within which all shall be absorbed at the end of the great cycle of Being.

Q. This is the old, old claim of Pantheism. If you are Pantheists, you

cannot be Deists; and if you are not Deists, then you have to answer to the

name of Atheists.

A. Not necessarily so. The term Pantheism is again one of the many abused

terms, whose real and primitive meaning has been distorted by blind

prejudice and a one-sided view of it. If you accept the Christian etymology

of this compound word, and form it of pan , "all," and theos , "god," and

then imagine and teach that this means that every stone and every tree in

Nature is a God or the one God, then, of course, you will be right, and make

of Pantheists fetish-worshippers, in addition to their legitimate name. But

you will hardly be as successful if you etymologize the word Pantheism

esoterically, and as we do.

Q. What is, then, your definition of it?

A. Let me ask you a question in my turn. What do you understand by Pan, or


Q. Nature is, I suppose, the sumtotal of things existing around us; the

aggregate of causes and effects in the world of matter, the creation or


A. Hence the personified sum and order of known causes and effects; the

total of all finite agencies and forces, as utterly disconnected from an

intelligent Creator or Creators, and perhaps "conceived of as a single and

separate force"-as in your encyclopedias?

Q. Yes, I believe so.

A. Well, we neither take into consideration this objective and material

nature, which we call an evanescent illusion, nor do we mean by Nature, in

the sense of its accepted derivation from the Latin Natura (becoming, from

nasci, to be born). When we speak of the Deity and make it identical, hence

coeval, with Nature, the eternal and uncreate nature is meant, and not your

aggregate of flitting shadows and finite unrealities. We leave it to the

hymn-makers to call the visible sky or heaven, God's Throne, and our earth

of mud His footstool. Our deity is neither in a paradise, nor in a

particular tree, building, or mountain: it is everywhere, in every atom of

the visible as of the invisible Cosmos, in, over, and around every invisible

atom and divisible molecule; for it is the mysterious power of evolution and

involution, the omnipresent, omnipotent, and even omniscient creative


Q. Stop! Omniscience is the prerogative of something that thinks, and you

deny to your Absoluteness the power of thought.

A. We deny it to the absolute, since thought is something limited and

conditioned. But you evidently forget that in philosophy absolute

unconsciousness is also absolute consciousness, as otherwise it would not be


Q. Then your Absolute thinks?

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A. No, it does not; for the simple reason that it is Absolute Thought

itself. Nor does it exist, for the same reason, as it is absolute existence,

and Be-ness, not a Being. Read the superb Cabalistic poem by Solomon Ben

Jehudah Gabirol, in the Kether-Malchut, and you will understand:

Thou art one, the root of all numbers, but not as an element of numeration;

for unity admits not of multiplication, change, or form.

Thou art one, and in the secret of Thy unity the wisest of men are lost,

because they know it not.

Thou art one, and Thy unity is never diminished, never extended, and cannot

be changed.

Thou art one, and no thought of mine can fix for Thee a limit, or define


Thou art, but not as one existent, for the understanding and vision of

mortals cannot attain to Thy existence, nor determine for Thee the where,

the how and the why …

In short, our Deity is the eternal, incessantly evolving, not creating,

builder of the universe; that universe itself unfolding out of its own

essence, not being made. It is a sphere, without circumference, in its

symbolism, which has but one ever-acting attribute embracing all other

existing or thinkable attributes-itself. It is the one law, giving the

impulse to manifested, eternal, and immutable laws, within that

never-manifesting, because absolute law, which in its manifesting periods is

The ever-Becoming.

Q. I once heard one of your members remarking that Universal Deity, being

everywhere, was in vessels of dishonor, as in those of honor, and,

therefore, was present in every atom of my cigar ash! Is this not rank


A. I do not think so, as simple logic can hardly be regarded as blasphemy.

Were we to exclude the Omnipresent Principle from one single mathematical

point of the universe, or from a particle of matter occupying any

conceivable space, could we still regard it as infinite?


it Necessary to Pray?

Q. Do you believe in prayer, and do you ever pray?

A. We do not. We act, instead of talking.

Q. You do not offer prayers even to the Absolute Principle?

A. Why should we? Being well-occupied people, we can hardly afford to lose

time in addressing verbal prayers to a pure abstraction. The Unknowable is

capable of relations only in its parts to each other, but is non-existent as

regards any finite relations. The visible universe depends for its existence

and phenomena on its mutually acting forms and their laws, not on prayer or


Q. Do you not believe at all in the efficacy of prayer?

A. Not in prayer taught in so many words and repeated externally, if by

prayer you mean the outward petition to an unknown God as the addressee,

which was inaugurated by the Jews and popularized by the Pharisees.

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Q. Is there any other kind of prayer?

A. Most decidedly; we call it will-prayer, and it is rather an internal

command than a petition.

Q. To whom, then, do you pray when you do so?

A. To "our Father in heaven"-in its esoteric meaning.

Q. Is that different from the one given to it in theology?

A. Entirely so. An Occultist or a Theosophist addresses his prayer to his

Father which is in secret, not to an extra-cosmic and therefore finite God;

and that "Father" is in man himself.

Q. Then you make of man a God?

A. Please say "God" and not a God. In our sense, the inner man is the only

God we can have cognizance of. And how can this be otherwise? Grant us our

postulate that God is a universally diffused, infinite principle, and how

can man alone escape from being soaked through by, and in, the Deity? We

call our "Father in heaven" that deific essence of which we are cognizant

within us, in our heart and spiritual consciousness, and which has nothing

to do with the anthropomorphic conception we may form of it in our physical

brain or its fancy: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the

spirit of (the absolute) God dwelleth in you?"

One often finds in Theosophical writings conflicting statements about the

Christos principle in man. Some call it the sixth principle (Buddhi), others

the seventh (Atma). If Christian Theosophists wish to make use of such

expressions, let them be made philosophically correct by following the

analogy of the old Wisdom-Religion symbols. We say that Christos is not only

one of the three higher principles, but all the three regarded as a Trinity.

This Trinity represents the Holy Ghost, the Father, and the Son, as it

answers to abstract spirit, differentiated spirit, and embodied spirit.

Krishna and Christ are philosophically the same principle under its triple

aspect of manifestation. In the Bhagavad-Gita we find Krishna calling

himself indifferently Atma, the abstract Spirit, Kshetrajña, the Higher or

reincarnating Ego, and the Universal Self, all names which, when transferred

from the Universe to man, answer to Atma, Buddhi, and Manas. The Anugita is

full of the same doctrine.

Yet, let no man anthropomorphize that essence in us. Let no Theosophist, if

he would hold to divine, not human truth, say that this "God in secret"

listens to, or is distinct from, either finite man or the infinite

essence-for all are one. Nor, as just remarked, that a prayer is a petition.

It is a mystery rather; an occult process by which finite and conditioned

thoughts and desires, unable to be assimilated by the absolute spirit which

is unconditioned, are translated into spiritual wills and the will; such

process being called "spiritual transmutation." The intensity of our ardent

aspirations changes prayer into the "philosopher's stone," or that which

transmutes lead into pure gold. The only homogeneous essence, our

"will-prayer" becomes the active or creative force, producing effects

according to our desire.

Q. Do you mean to say that prayer is an occult process bringing about

physical results?

A. I do. Will-Power becomes a living power. But woe unto those Occultists

and Theosophists, who, instead of crushing out the desires of the lower

personal ego or physical man, and saying, addressing their Higher Spiritual

Ego immersed in Atma-Buddhic light, "Thy will be done, not mine," etc., send

up waves of will-power for selfish or unholy purposes! For this is black

magic, abomination, and spiritual sorcery. Unfortunately, all this is the

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favorite occupation of our Christian statesmen and generals, especially when

the latter are sending two armies to murder each other. Both indulge before

action in a bit of such sorcery, by offering respectively prayers to the

same God of Hosts, each entreating his help to cut its enemies' throats.

Q. David prayed to the Lord of Hosts to help him smite the Philistines and

slay the Syrians and the Moabites, and "the Lord preserved David

whithersoever he went." In that we only follow what we find in the Bible.

A. Of course you do. But since you delight in calling yourselves Christians,

not Israelites or Jews, as far as we know, why do you not rather follow that

which Christ says? And he distinctly commands you not to follow "them of old

times," or the Mosaic law, but bids you do as he tells you, and warns those

who would kill by the sword, that they, too, will perish by the sword.

Christ has given you one prayer of which you have made a lip prayer and a

boast, and which none but the true Occultist understands. In it you say, in

your dead-sense meaning: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,"

which you never do. Again, he told you to love your enemies and do good to

them that hate you. It is surely not the "meek prophet of Nazareth" who

taught you to pray to your "Father" to slay, and give you victory over your

enemies! This is why we reject what you call "prayers."

Q. But how do you explain the universal fact that all nations and peoples

have prayed to, and worshiped a God or Gods? Some have adored and

propitiated devils and harmful spirits, but this only proves the

universality of the belief in the efficacy of prayer.

A. It is explained by that other fact that prayer has several other meanings

besides that given it by the Christians. It means not only a pleading or

petition, but meant, in days of old, far more an invocation and incantation.

The mantra, or the rhythmically chanted prayer of the Hindus, has precisely

such a meaning, as the Brahmins hold themselves higher than the common devas

or "Gods." A prayer may be an appeal or an incantation for malediction, and

a curse (as in the case of two armies praying simultaneously for mutual

destruction) as much as for blessing. And as the great majority of people

are intensely selfish, and pray only for themselves, asking to be given

their "daily bread" instead of working for it, and begging God not to lead

them "into temptation" but to deliver them (the memorialists only) from

evil, the result is, that prayer, as now understood, is doubly pernicious:

(a) It kills in man self-reliance; (b) It develops in him a still more

ferocious selfishness and egotism than he is already endowed with by nature.

I repeat, that we believe in "communion" and simultaneous action in unison

with our "Father in secret"; and in rare moments of ecstatic bliss, in the

mingling of our higher soul with the universal essence, attracted as it is

towards its origin and center, a state, called during life Samadhi, and

after death, Nirvana. We refuse to pray to created finite beings-i.e., gods,

saints, angels, etc., because we regard it as idolatry. We cannot pray to

the absolute for reasons explained before; therefore, we try to replace

fruitless and useless prayer by meritorious and good-producing actions.

Q. Christians would call it pride and blasphemy. Are they wrong?

A. Entirely so. It is they, on the contrary, who show Satanic pride in their

belief that the Absolute or the Infinite, even if there was such a thing as

the possibility of any relation between the unconditioned and the

conditioned-will stoop to listen to every foolish or egotistical prayer. And

it is they again, who virtually blaspheme, in teaching that an Omniscient

and Omnipotent God needs uttered prayers to know what he has to do!

This-understood esoterically-is corroborated by both Buddha and Jesus. The

one says:

Seek nought from the helpless Gods-pray not! but rather act; for darkness

will not brighten. Ask nought from silence, for it can neither speak nor


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And the other-Jesus-recommends: "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name (that of

Christos) that will I do." Of course, this quotation, if taken in its

literal sense, goes against our argument. But if we accept it esoterically,

with the full knowledge of the meaning of the term Christos which to us

represents Atma-Buddhi-Manas, the "self," it comes to this: the only God we

must recognize and pray to, or rather act in unison with, is that spirit of

God of which our body is the temple, and in which it dwelleth.


Kills Self-Reliance

Q. But did not Christ himself pray and recommend prayer?

A. It is so recorded, but those "prayers" are precisely of that kind of

communion just mentioned with one's "Father in secret." Otherwise, and if we

identify Jesus with the universal deity, there would be something too

absurdly illogical in the inevitable conclusion that he, the "very God

himself" prayed to himself, and separated the will of that God from his own!

Q. One argument more; an argument, moreover, much used by some Christians.

They say,

I feel that I am not able to conquer any passions and weaknesses in my own

strength. But when I pray to Jesus Christ I feel that he gives me strength

and that in His power I am able to conquer.

A. No wonder. If "Christ Jesus" is God, and one independent and separate

from him who prays, of course everything is, and must be possible to "a

mighty God." But, then, where's the merit, or justice either, of such a

conquest? Why should the pseudo-conqueror be rewarded for something done

which has cost him only prayers? Would you, even a simple mortal man, pay

your laborer a full day's wage if you did most of his work for him, he

sitting under an apple tree, and praying to you to do so, all the while?

This idea of passing one's whole life in moral idleness, and having one's

hardest work and duty done by another-whether God or man-is most revolting

to us, as it is most degrading to human dignity.

Q. Perhaps so, yet it is the idea of trusting in a personal Savior to help

and strengthen in the battle of life, which is the fundamental idea of

modern Christianity. And there is no doubt that, subjectively, such belief

is efficacious; i.e., that those who believe do feel themselves helped and


A. Nor is there any more doubt, that some patients of "Christian" and

"Mental Scientists"-the great "Deniers"-are also sometimes cured; nor that

hypnotism, and suggestion, psychology, and even mediumship, will produce

such results, as often, if not oftener. You take into consideration, and

string on the thread of your argument, successes alone. And how about ten

times the number of failures? Surely you will not presume to say that

failure is unknown even with a sufficiency of blind faith, among fanatical


Q. But how can you explain those cases which are followed by full success?

Where does a Theosophist look to for power to subdue his passions and


A. To his Higher Self, the divine spirit, or the God in him, and to his

Karma. How long shall we have to repeat over and over again that the tree is

known by its fruit, the nature of the cause by its effects? You speak of

subduing passions, and becoming good through and with the help of God or

Christ. We ask, where do you find more virtuous, guiltless people,

abstaining from sin and crime, in Christendom or Buddhism-in Christian

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countries or in heathen lands? Statistics are there to give the answer and

corroborate our claims. According to the last census in Ceylon and India, in

the comparative table of crimes committed by Christians, Muslims, Hindus,

Eurasians, Buddhists, etc., etc., on two millions of population taken at

random from each, and covering the misdemeanors of several years, the

proportion of crimes committed by the Christian stands as 15 to 4 as against

those committed by the Buddhist population. No Orientalist, no historian of

any note, or traveler in Buddhist lands, from Bishop Bigandet and Abbé Huc,

to Sir William Hunter and every fair-minded official, will fail to give the

palm of virtue to Buddhists before Christians. Yet the former (not the true

Buddhist Siamese sect, at all events) do not believe in either God or a

future reward, outside of this earth. They do not pray, neither priests nor

laymen. "Pray!" they would exclaim in wonder, "to whom, or what?"

Q. Then they are truly Atheists.

A. Most undeniably, but they are also the most virtue-loving and

virtue-keeping men in the whole world. Buddhism says: Respect the religions

of other men and remain true to your own; but Church Christianity,

denouncing all the gods of other nations as devils, would doom every

non-Christian to eternal perdition.

Q. Does not the Buddhist priesthood do the same?

A. Never. They hold too much to the wise precept found in the Dhammapada to

do so, for they know that,

If any man, whether he be learned or not, consider himself so great as to

despise other men, he is like a blind man holding a candle-blind himself, he

illumines others.


the Source of the Human Soul

Q. How, then, do you account for man being endowed with a Spirit and Soul?

Whence these?

A. From the Universal Soul. Certainly not bestowed by a personal God. Whence

the moist element in the jelly-fish? From the Ocean which surrounds it, in

which it lives and breathes and has its being, and whither it returns when


Q. So you reject the teaching that Soul is given, or breathed into man, by


A. We are obliged to. The "Soul" spoken of in Genesis is, as therein stated,

the "living Soul" or Nephesh (the vital, animal soul) with which God (we say

"nature" and immutable law) endows man like every animal. Is not at all the

thinking soul or mind; least of all is it the immortal Spirit.

Q. Well, let us put it otherwise: is it God who endows man with a human

rational Soul and immortal Spirit?

A. Again, in the way you put the question, we must object to it. Since we

believe in no personal God, how can we believe that he endows man with

anything? But granting, for the sake of argument, a God who takes upon

himself the risk of creating a new Soul for every new-born baby, all that

can be said is that such a God can hardly be regarded as himself endowed

with any wisdom or prevision. Certain other difficulties and the

impossibility of reconciling this with the claims made for the mercy,

justice, equity and omniscience of that God, are so many deadly reefs on

which this theological dogma is daily and hourly broken.

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Q. What do you mean? What difficulties?

A. I am thinking of an unanswerable argument offered once in my presence by

a Singhalese Buddhist priest, a famous preacher, to a Christian

missionary-one in no way ignorant or unprepared for the public discussion

during which it was advanced. It was near Colombo, and the Missionary had

challenged the priest Megattivati to give his reasons why the Christian God

should not be accepted by the "heathen." Well, the Missionary came out of

that forever memorable discussion second best, as usual.

Q. I should be glad to learn in what way.

A. Simply this: the Buddhist priest premised by asking the padre whether his

God had given commandments to Moses only for men to keep, but to be broken

by God himself. The missionary denied the supposition indignantly. Well,

said his opponent,

… you tell us that God makes no exceptions to this rule, and that no Soul

can be born without his will. Now God forbids adultery, among other things,

and yet you say in the same breath that it is he who creates every baby

born, and he who endows it with a Soul. Are we then to understand that the

millions of children born in crime and adultery are your God's work? That

your God forbids and punishes the breaking of his laws; and that,

nevertheless, he creates daily and hourly souls for just such children?

According to the simplest logic, your God is an accomplice in the crime;

since, but for his help and interference, no such children of lust could be

born. Where is the justice of punishing not only the guilty parents but even

the innocent babe for that which is done by that very God, whom yet you

exonerate from any guilt himself?

The missionary looked at his watch and suddenly found it was getting too

late for further discussion.

Q. You forget that all such inexplicable cases are mysteries, and that we

are forbidden by our religion to pry into the mysteries of God.

A. No, we do not forget, but simply reject such impossibilities. Nor do we

want you to believe as we do. We only answer the questions you ask. We have,

however, another name for your "mysteries."


Buddhist Teachings on the Above

Q. What does Buddhism teach with regard to the Soul?

A. It depends whether you mean exoteric, popular Buddhism, or its esoteric

teachings. The former explains itself in The Buddhist Catechism in this


Soul it considers a word used by the ignorant to express a false idea. If

everything is subject to change, then man is included, and every material

part of him must change. That which is subject to change is not permanent,

so there can be no immortal survival of a changeful thing.

This seems plain and definite. But when we come to the question that the new

personality in each succeeding rebirth is the aggregate of "Skandhas," or

the attributes, of the old personality, and ask whether this new aggregation

of Skandhas is a new being likewise, in which nothing has remained of the

last, we read that:

In one sense it is a new being, in another it is not. During this life the

Skandhas are continually changing, while the man A.B. of forty is identical

as regards personality with the youth A.B. of eighteen, yet by the continual

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waste and reparation of his body and change of mind and character, he is a

different being. Nevertheless, the man in his old age justly reaps the

reward or suffering consequent upon his thoughts and actions at every

previous stage of his life. So the new being of the rebirth, being the same

individuality as before (but not the same personality), with but a changed

form, or new aggregation of Skandhas, justly reaps the consequences of his

actions and thoughts in the previous existence.

This is abstruse metaphysics, and plainly does not express disbelief in Soul

by any means.

Q. Is not something like this spoken of in Esoteric Buddhism?

A. It is, for this teaching belongs both to Esoteric Budhism or Secret

Wisdom, and to the exoteric Buddhism, or the religious philosophy of Gautama


Q. But we are distinctly told that most of the Buddhists do not believe in

the Soul's immortality?

A. No more do we, if you mean by Soul the personal Ego, or

life-Soul-Nephesh. But every learned Buddhist believes in the individual or

divine Ego. Those who do not, err in their judgment. They are as mistaken on

this point, as those Christians who mistake the theological interpolations

of the later editors of the Gospels about damnation and hellfire, for

verbatim utterances of Jesus. Neither Buddha nor "Christ" ever wrote

anything themselves, but both spoke in allegories and used "dark sayings,"

as all true Initiates did, and will do for a long time yet to come. Both

Scriptures treat of all such metaphysical questions very cautiously, and

both, Buddhist and Christian records, sin by that excess of exotericism; the

dead letter meaning far overshooting the mark in both cases.

Q. Do you mean to suggest that neither the teachings of Buddha nor those of

Christ have been heretofore rightly understood?

A. What I mean is just as you say. Both Gospels, the Buddhist and the

Christian, were preached with the same object in view. Both reformers were

ardent philanthropists and practical altruists-preaching most unmistakably

Socialism of the noblest and highest type, self-sacrifice to the bitter end.

"Let the sins of the whole world fall upon me that I may relieve man's

misery and suffering!" cries Buddha. "I would not let one cry whom I could

save!" exclaims the Prince-beggar, clad in the refuse rags of the

burial-grounds. "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I

will give you rest," is the appeal to the poor and the disinherited made by

the "Man of Sorrows," who hath not where to lay his head. The teachings of

both are boundless love for humanity, charity, forgiveness of injury,

forgetfulness of self, and pity for the deluded masses; both show the same

contempt for riches, and make no difference between meum and tuum. Their

desire was, without revealing to all the sacred mysteries of initiation, to

give the ignorant and the misled, whose burden in life was too heavy for

them, hope enough and an inkling into the truth sufficient to support them

in their heaviest hours. But the object of both Reformers was frustrated,

owing to excess of zeal of their later followers. The words of the Masters

having been misunderstood and misinterpreted, behold the consequences!

Q. But surely Buddha must have repudiated the soul's immortality, if all the

Orientalists and his own Priests say so!

A. The Arhats began by following the policy of their Master and the majority

of the subsequent priests were not initiated, just as in Christianity; and

so, little by little, the great esoteric truths became almost lost. A proof

in point is, that, out of the two existing sects in Ceylon, the Siamese

believes death to be the absolute annihilation of individuality and

personality, and the other explains Nirvana, as we Theosophists do.

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Q. But why, in that case, do Buddhism and Christianity represent the two

opposite poles of such belief?

A. Because the conditions under which they were preached were not the same.

In India the Brahmins, jealous of their superior knowledge, and excluding

from it every caste save their own, had driven millions of men into idolatry

and almost fetishism. Buddha had to give the death-blow to an exuberance of

unhealthy fancy and fanatical superstition resulting from ignorance, such as

has rarely been known before or after. Better a philosophical atheism than

such ignorant worship for those:

Who cry upon their gods and are not heard,

Or are not heeded …

-and who live and die in mental despair. He had to arrest first of all this

muddy torrent of superstition, to uproot errors before he gave out the

truth. And as he could not give out all, for the same good reason as Jesus,

who reminds his disciples that the Mysteries of Heaven are not for the

unintelligent masses, but for the elect alone, and therefore "spake he to

them in parables"-so his caution led Buddha to conceal too much. He even

refused to say to the monk Vacchagotta whether there was, or was not an Ego

in man. When pressed to answer, "the Exalted one maintained silence."

Buddha gives to Ananda, his initiated disciple, who inquires for the reason

of this silence, a plain and unequivocal answer in the dialogue translated

by Oldenburg from the Samyutta-Nikaya:

If I, Ananda, when the wandering monk Vacchagotta asked me: "Is there the

Ego?" had answered "The Ego is," then that, Ananda, would have confirmed the

doctrine of the Samanas and Brahmans, who believed in permanence. If I,

Ananda, when the wandering monk Vacchagotta asked me, "Is there not the

Ego?" had answered, "The Ego is not," then that, Ananda, would have

confirmed the doctrine of those who believed in annihilation. If I, Ananda,

when the wandering monk Vacchagotta asked me, "Is there the Ego?" had

answered, "The Ego is," would that have served my end, Ananda, by producing

in him the knowledge: all existences (dhamma) are non-ego? But if I, Ananda,

had answered, "The Ego is not," then that, Ananda, would only have caused

the wandering monk Vacchagotta to be thrown from one bewilderment to

another: "My Ego, did it not exist before? But now it exists no longer!"

This shows, better than anything, that Gautama Buddha withheld such

difficult metaphysical doctrines from the masses in order not to perplex

them more. What he meant was the difference between the personal temporary

Ego and the Higher Self, which sheds its light on the imperishable Ego, the

spiritual "I" of man.

Q. This refers to Gautama, but in what way does it touch the Gospels?

A. Read history and think over it. At the time the events narrated in the

Gospels are alleged to have happened, there was a similar intellectual

fermentation taking place in the whole civilized world, only with opposite

results in the East and the West. The old gods were dying out. While the

civilized classes drifted in the train of the unbelieving Sadducees into

materialistic negations and mere dead-letter Mosaic form in Palestine, and

into moral dissolution in Rome, the lowest and poorer classes ran after

sorcery and strange gods, or became hypocrites and Pharisees. Once more the

time for a spiritual reform had arrived. The cruel, anthropomorphic and

jealous God of the Jews, with his sanguinary laws of "an eye for eye and

tooth for tooth," of the shedding of blood and animal sacrifice, had to be

relegated to a secondary place and replaced by the merciful "Father in

Secret." The latter had to be shown, not as an extra-Cosmic God, but as a

divine Savior of the man of flesh, enshrined in his own heart and soul, in

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the poor as in the rich. No more here than in India, could the secrets of

initiation be divulged, lest by giving that which is holy to the dogs, and

casting pearls before swine, both the Revealer and the things revealed

should be trodden under foot. Thus, the reticence of both Buddha and

Jesus-whether the latter lived out the historic period allotted to him or

not, and who equally abstained from revealing plainly the Mysteries of Life

and Death-led in the one case to the blank negations of Southern Buddhism,

and in the other, to the three clashing forms of the Christian Church and

the 300 sects in Protestant England alone.

Theosophical Teachings as to Nature and Man

The Unity of All in All

Q. Having told me what God, the Soul and Man are not, in your views, can you

inform me what they are, according to your teachings?

A. In their origin and in eternity the three, like the universe and all

therein, are one with the absolute Unity, the unknowable deific essence I

spoke about some time back. We believe in no creation, but in the periodical

and consecutive appearances of the universe from the subjective onto the

objective plane of being, at regular intervals of time, covering periods of

immense duration.

Q. Can you elaborate the subject?

A. Take as a first comparison and a help towards a more correct conception,

the solar year, and as a second, the two halves of that year, producing each

a day and a night of six months' duration at the North Pole. Now imagine, if

you can, instead of a Solar year of 365 days, eternity. Let the sun

represent the universe, and the polar days and nights of six months

each-days and nights lasting each 182 trillions and quadrillions of years,

instead of 182 days each. As the sun arises every morning on our objective

horizon out of its (to us) subjective and antipodal space, so does the

Universe emerge periodically on the plane of objectivity, issuing from that

of subjectivity-the antipodes of the former. This is the "Cycle of Life."

And as the sun disappears from our horizon, so does the Universe disappear

at regular periods, when the "Universal night" sets in. The Hindus call such

alternations the "Days and Nights of Brahm ," or the time of Manvantara and

that of Pralaya (dissolution). The Westerns may call them Universal Days and

Nights if they prefer. During the latter (the nights) All is in All; every

atom is resolved into one Homogeneity.


and Illusion

Q. But who is it that creates each time the Universe?

A. No one creates it. Science would call the process evolution; the

pre-Christian philosophers and the Orientalists called it emanation: we,

Occultists and Theosophists, see in it the only universal and eternal

reality casting a periodical reflection of itself on the infinite Spatial

depths. This reflection, which you regard as the objective material

universe, we consider as a temporary illusion and nothing else. That alone

which is eternal is real.

Q. At that rate, you and I are also illusions.

A. As flitting personalities, today one person, tomorrow another-we are.

Would you call the sudden flashes of the aurora borealis, the Northern

lights, a "reality," though it is as real as can be while you look at it?

Certainly not; it is the cause that produces it, if permanent and eternal,

which is the only reality, while the other is but a passing illusion.

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Q. All this does not explain to me how this illusion called the universe

originates; how the conscious to be, proceeds to manifest itself from the

unconsciousness that is.

A. It is unconsciousness only to our finite consciousness. Verily may we

paraphrase St. John and say:

… and (Absolute) light (which is darkness) shineth in darkness (which is

illusionary material light); and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

This absolute light is also absolute and immutable law. Whether by radiation

or emanation-we need not quarrel over terms-the universe passes out of its

homogeneous subjectivity onto the first plane of manifestation, of which

planes there are seven, we are taught. With each plane it becomes more dense

and material until it reaches this, our plane, on which the only world

approximately known and understood in its physical composition by Science,

is the planetary or Solar system-one sui generis, we are told.

Q. What do you mean by sui generis?

A. I mean that, though the fundamental law and the universal working of laws

of Nature are uniform, still our Solar system (like every other such system

in the millions of others in Cosmos) and even our Earth, has its own program

of manifestations differing from the respective programs of all others. We

speak of the inhabitants of other planets and imagine that if they are men,

i.e., thinking entities, they must be as we are. The fancy of poets and

painters and sculptors never fails to represent even the angels as a

beautiful copy of man-plus wings. We say that all this is an error and a

delusion; because, if on this little earth alone one finds such a diversity

in its flora, fauna, and mankind-from the seaweed to the cedar of Lebanon,

from the jellyfish to the elephant, from the Bushman and negro to the Apollo

Belvedere-alter the conditions cosmic and planetary, and there must be as a

result quite a different flora, fauna, and mankind. The same laws will

fashion quite a different set of things and beings even on this our plane,

including in it all our planets. How much more different then must be

external nature in other Solar systems, and how foolish is it to judge of

other stars and worlds and human beings by our own, as physical science


Q. But what are your data for this assertion?

A. What science in general will never accept as proof-the cumulative

testimony of an endless series of Seers who have testified to this fact.

Their spiritual visions, real explorations by, and through, physical and

spiritual senses untrammeled by blind flesh, were systematically checked and

compared one with the other, and their nature sifted. All that was not

corroborated by unanimous and collective experience was rejected, while that

only was recorded as established truth which, in various ages, under

different climes, and throughout an untold series of incessant observations,

was found to agree and receive constantly further corroboration. The methods

used by our scholars and students of the psycho-spiritual sciences do not

differ from those of students of the natural and physical sciences, as you

may see. Only our fields of research are on two different planes, and our

instruments are made by no human hands, for which reason perchance they are

only the more reliable. The retorts, accumulators, and microscopes of the

chemist and naturalist may get out of order; the telescope and the

astronomer's horological instruments may get spoiled; our recording

instruments are beyond the influence of weather or the elements.

Q. And therefore you have implicit faith in them?

A. Faith is a word not to be found in theosophical dictionaries: we say

knowledge based, on observation and experience. There is this difference,

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however, that while the observation and experience of physical science lead

the Scientists to about as many "working" hypotheses as there are minds to

evolve them, our knowledge consents to add to its lore only those facts

which have become undeniable, and which are fully and absolutely

demonstrated. We have no two beliefs or hypotheses on the same subject.

Q. Is it on such data that you came to accept the strange theories we find

in Esoteric Buddhism?

A. Just so. These theories may be slightly incorrect in their minor details,

and even faulty in their exposition by lay students; they are facts in

nature, nevertheless, and come nearer the truth than any scientific



The Septenary Constitution of Our Planet

Q. I understand that you describe our earth as forming part of a chain of


A. We do. But the other six "earths" or globes, are not on the same plane of

objectivity as our earth is; therefore we cannot see them.

Q. Is that on account of the great distance?

A. Not at all, for we see with our naked eye planets and even stars at

immeasurably greater distances; but it is owing to those six globes being

outside our physical means of perception, or plane of being. It is not only

that their material density, weight, or fabric are entirely different from

those of our earth and the other known planets; but they are (to us) on an

entirely different layer of space, so to speak; a layer not to be perceived

or felt by our physical senses. And when I say "layer," please do not allow

your fancy to suggest to you layers like strata or beds laid one over the

other, for this would only lead to another absurd misconception. What I mean

by "layer" is that plane of infinite space which by its nature cannot fall

under our ordinary waking perceptions, whether mental or physical; but which

exists in nature outside of our normal mentality or consciousness, outside

of our three-dimensional space, and outside of our division of time. Each of

the seven fundamental planes (or layers) in space-of course as a whole, as

the pure space of Locke's definition, not as our finite space-has its own

objectivity and subjectivity, its own space and time, its own consciousness

and set of senses. But all this will be hardly comprehensible to one trained

in the modern ways of thought.

Q. What do you mean by a different set of senses? Is there anything on our

human plane that you could bring as an illustration of what you say, just to

give a clearer idea of what you may mean by this variety of senses, spaces,

and respective perceptions?

A. None; except, perhaps, that which for Science would be rather a handy peg

on which to hang a counter argument. We have a different set of senses in

dreamlife, have we not? We feel, talk, hear, see, taste and function in

general on a different plane; the change of state of our consciousness being

evidenced by the fact that a series of acts and events embracing years, as

we think, pass ideally through our mind in one instant. Well, that extreme

rapidity of our mental operations in dreams, and the perfect naturalness,

for the time being, of all the other functions, show us that we are on quite

another plane. Our philosophy teaches us that, as there are seven

fundamental forces in nature, and seven planes of being, so there are seven

states of consciousness in which man can live, think, remember and have his

being. To enumerate these here is impossible, and for this one has to turn

to the study of Eastern metaphysics. But in these two states-the waking and

the dreaming-every ordinary mortal, from a learned philosopher down to a

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poor untutored savage, has a good proof that such states differ.

Q. You do not accept, then, the well-known explanations of biology and

physiology to account for the dream state?

A. We do not. We reject even the hypotheses of your psychologists,

preferring the teachings of Eastern Wisdom. Believing in seven planes of

Kosmic being and states of Consciousness, with regard to the Universe or the

Macrocosm, we stop at the fourth plane, finding it impossible to go with any

degree of certainty beyond. But with respect to the Microcosm, or man, we

speculate freely on his seven states and principles.

Q. How do you explain these?

A. We find, first of all, two distinct beings in man; the spiritual and the

physical, the man who thinks, and the man who records as much of these

thoughts as he is able to assimilate. Therefore we divide him into two

distinct natures; the upper or the spiritual being, composed of three

principles or aspects; and the lower or the physical quaternary, composed of

four-in all seven.


Septenary Nature of Man

Q. Is it what we call Spirit and Soul, and the man of flesh?

A. It is not. That is the old Platonic division. Plato was an Initiate, and

therefore could not go into forbidden details; but he who is acquainted with

the archaic doctrine finds the seven in Plato's various combinations of Soul

and Spirit. He regarded man as constituted of two parts-one eternal, formed

of the same essence as the Absoluteness, the other mortal and corruptible,

deriving its constituent parts from the minor "created" Gods. Man is

composed, he shows, of (1) A mortal body, (2) An immortal principle, and (3)

A "separate mortal kind of Soul." It is that which we respectively call the

physical man, the Spiritual Soul or Spirit, and the animal Soul (the Nous

and psuche). This is the division adopted by Paul, another Initiate, who

maintains that there is a psychical body which is sown in the corruptible

(astral soul or body), and a spiritual body that is raised in incorruptible

substance. Even James corroborates the same by saying that the "wisdom" (of

our lower soul) descendeth not from the above, but is terrestrial

("psychical," "demoniacal," see the Greek text) while the other is heavenly

wisdom. Now so plain is it that Plato and even Pythagoras, while speaking

but of three principles, give them seven separate functions, in their

various combinations, that if we contrast our teachings this will become

quite plain. Let us take a cursory view of these seven aspects by drawing

two tables.

Theosophical Division of the Lower Quaternary

Sanskrit Term Exoteric Meaning Explanation

1. Rupa, or Sthula-sarira Physical body Is the vehicle of all the

other principles during life.

1. Prana Life, or Vital principle Necessary only to a, c,

d, and the functions of the lower Manas, which

embrace all those limited to the (physical) brain.

(c) Linga- sarira Astral Body The Double, the phantom body.

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(d) Kamarupa The seat of animal desires and passions This is the center of

the animal man, where lies the line of demarcation which separates the

mortal man from the immortal entity.

Theosophical Division of the Upper Imperishable Triad

Sanskrit Term Exoteric Meaning Explanation

(e) Manas-a dual principle in its functions. Mind, Intelligence: which is

the higher human mind, whose light, or radiation links the Monad, for the

lifetime, to the mortal man. The future state and the Karmic destiny of man

depend on whether Manas gravitates more downward to Kamarupa, the seat of

the animal passions, or upwards to Buddhi, the Spiritual Ego. In the later

case, the higher consciousness of the individual Spiritual aspirations of

mind (Manas), assimilating Buddhi, are absorbed by it and form the Ego,

which goes into Devachanic bliss.

(f) Buddhi The Spiritual Soul The vehicle of pure universal spirit.

(g) Atma Spirit One with the Absolute, as its radiation.

In Mr. Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism d, e, and f, are respectively called the

Animal, the Human, and the Spiritual Souls, which answers as well. Though

the principles in Esoteric Buddhism are numbered, this is, strictly

speaking, useless. The dual Monad alone ( Atma-Buddhi) is susceptible of

being thought of as the two highest numbers (the sixth and seventh). As to

all others, since that principle only which is predominant in man has to be

considered as the first and foremost, no numeration is possible as a general

rule. In some men it is the higher Intelligence (Manas or the fifth) which

dominates the rest; in others the Animal Soul (Kamarupa) that reigns

supreme, exhibiting the most bestial instincts, etc.


what does Plato teach? He speaks of the interior man as constituted of

two parts-one immutable and always the same, formed of the same substance as

Deity, and the other mortal and corruptible. These "two parts" are found in

our upper Triad, and the lower Quaternary (see table above, ). He explains

that when the Soul, psuche, "allies herself to the Nous (divine spirit or

substance *)), she does everything aright and felicitously;" but the case is

otherwise when she attaches herself to Anoia, (folly, or the irrational

animal Soul). Here, then, we have Manas (or the Soul in general) in its two

aspects: when attaching itself to Anoia (our Kamarupa, or the "Animal Soul"

in Esoteric Buddhism) it runs towards entire annihilation, as far as the

personal Ego is concerned; when allying itself to the Nous ( Atma-Buddhi) it

merges into the immortal, imperishable Ego, and then its spiritual

consciousness of the personal that was, becomes immortal.

*) St. Paul calls Plato's nous 'spirit';but since this spirit is

'substance', Buddhi is meant then and not Atma; philosophically speaking

this (Atma) cannot be called 'substance'. We count Atma as a human

'principle' in order to not create yet more confusion. In reality it is not

a 'human' but the universal absolute principle of which buddhi, the

soul-spirit, is the vehicle. [reversely translated

note from Dutch translation - editor]


Distinction Between Soul and Spirit

Q. Do you really teach, as you are accused of doing by some Spiritualists

and French Spiritists, the annihilation of every personality?

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A. We do not. But as this question of the duality-the individuality of the

Divine Ego, and the personality of the human animal-involves that of the

possibility of the real immortal Ego appearing in Seance rooms as a

"materialized spirit," which we deny as already explained, our opponents

have started the nonsensical charge.

Q. You have just spoken of psuche running towards its entire annihilation if

it attaches itself to Anoia. What did Plato, and do you mean by this?

A. The entire annihilation of the personal consciousness, as an exceptional

and rare case, I think. The general and almost invariable rule is the

merging of the personal into the individual or immortal consciousness of the

Ego, a transformation or a divine transfiguration, and the entire

annihilation only of the lower quaternary. Would you expect the man of

flesh, or the temporary personality, his shadow, the "astral," his animal

instincts and even physical life, to survive with the "spiritual Ego" and

become everlasting, eternal? Naturally all this ceases to exist, either at,

or soon after corporeal death. It becomes in time entirely disintegrated and

disappears from view, being annihilated as a whole.

Q. Then you also reject resurrection in the flesh?

A. Most decidedly we do! Why should we, who believe in the archaic esoteric

philosophy of the Ancients, accept the unphilosophical speculations of the

later Christian theology, borrowed from the Egyptian and Greek exoteric

Systems of the Gnostics?

Q. The Egyptians revered Nature-Spirits, and deified even onions: your

Hindus are idolaters, to this day; the Zoroastrians worshiped, and do still

worship, the Sun; and the best Greek philosophers were either dreamers or

materialists-witness Plato and Democritus. How can you compare!

A. It may be so in your modern Christian and even Scientific catechism; it

is not so for unbiased minds. The Egyptians revered the "One-Only-One," as

Nout; and it is from this word that Anaxagoras got his denomination Nous, or

as he calls it, nous autokrates , "the Mind or Spirit Self-potent", the

archetes kinedeos , the leading motor, or primum-mobile of all. With him the

Nous was God, and the logos was man, his emanation. The Nous is the spirit

(whether in Kosmos or in man), and the logos, whether Universe or astral

body, the emanation of the former, the physical body being merely the

animal. Our external powers perceive phenomena; our Nous alone is able to

recognize their noumena. It is the logos alone, or the noumenon, that

survives, because it is immortal in its very nature and essence, and the

logos in man is the Eternal Ego, that which reincarnates and lasts forever.

But how can the evanescent or external shadow, the temporary clothing of

that divine Emanation which returns to the source whence it proceeded, be

that which is raised in incorruptibility?

Q. Still you can hardly escape the charge of having invented a new division

of man's spiritual and psychic constituents; for no philosopher speaks of

them, though you believe that Plato does.

A. And I support the view. Besides Plato, there is Pythagoras, who also

followed the same idea.

Says Plutarch:

Plato and Pythagoras distribute the soul into two parts, the rational

(noetic) and irrational (agnoia); that part of the soul of man which is

rational is eternal; for though it be not God, yet it is the product of an

eternal deity, but that part of the soul which is divested of reason

(agnoia) dies.

The modern term Agnostic comes from Agnosis, a cognate word. We wonder why

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Mr. Huxley, the author of the word, should have connected his great

intellect with "the soul divested of reason" which dies? Is it the

exaggerated humility of the modern materialist?

Pythagoras described the Soul as a self-moving Unit (monad) composed of

three elements, the Nous (Spirit), the phren (mind), and the thumos (life,

breath or the Nephesh of the Cabalists) which three correspond to our "

Atma-buddhi," (higher Spirit-Soul), to Manas (the Ego), and to Kamarupa in

conjunction with the lower reflection of Manas. That which the Ancient Greek

philosophers termed Soul, in general, we call Spirit, or Spiritual Soul,

Buddhi, as the vehicle of Atma (the Agathon, or Plato's Supreme Deity). The

fact that Pythagoras and others state that phren and thumos are shared by us

with the brutes, proves that in this case the lower Manasic reflection

(instinct) and Kamarupa (animal living passions) are meant. And as Socrates

and Plato accepted the clue and followed it, if to these five, namely,

Agathon (Deity or Atma), Psuche (Soul in its collective sense), Nous (Spirit

or Mind), Phren (physical mind), and Thumos (Kamarupa or passions) we add

the eidolon of the Mysteries, the shadowy form or the human double, and the

physical body, it will be easy to demonstrate that the ideas of both

Pythagoras and Plato were identical with ours. Even the Egyptians held to

the Septenary division. In its exit, they taught, the Soul (Ego) had to pass

through its seven chambers, or principles, those it left behind, and those

it took along with itself. The only difference is that, ever bearing in mind

the penalty of revealing Mystery-doctrines, which was death, they gave out

the teaching in a broad outline, while we elaborate it and explain it in its

details. But though we do give out to the world as much as is lawful, even

in our doctrine more than one important detail is withheld, which those who

study the esoteric philosophy and are pledged to silence, are alone entitled

to know.


Greek Teachings

Q. We have magnificent Greek and Latin, Sanskrit and Hebrew scholars. How is

it that we find nothing in their translations that would afford us a clue to

what you say?

A. Because your translators, their great learning notwithstanding, have made

of the philosophers, the Greeks especially, misty instead of mystic writers.

Take as an instance Plutarch, and read what he says of "the principles" of

man. That which he describes was accepted literally and attributed to

metaphysical superstition and ignorance. Let me give you an illustration in

point. Says Plutarch:

Man is compound; and they are mistaken who think him to be compounded of two

parts only. For they imagine that the understanding (brain intellect) is a

part of the soul (the upper Triad), but they err in this no less than those

who make the soul to be a part of the body, i.e., those who make of the

Triad part of the corruptible mortal quaternary. For the understanding

(nous) as far exceeds the soul, as the soul is better and diviner than the

body. Now this composition of the soul ( psuche) with the understanding

(nous) makes reason; and with the body (or thumos, the animal soul) passion;

of which the one is the beginning or principle of pleasure and pain, and the

other of virtue and vice. Of these three parts conjoined and compacted

together, the earth has given the body, the moon the soul, and the sun the

understanding to the generation of man.

This last sentence is purely allegorical, and will be comprehended only by

those who are versed in the esoteric science of correspondences and know

which planet is related to every principle. Plutarch divides the latter into

three groups, and makes of the body a compound of physical frame, astral

shadow, and breath, or the triple lower part, which "from earth was taken

and to earth returns"; of the middle principle and the instinctual soul, the

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second part, derived from and through and ever influenced by the moon; and

only of the higher part or the Spiritual Soul, with the tmic and Manasic

elements in it does he make a direct emanation of the Sun, who stands here

for Agathon the Supreme Deity. This is proven by what he says further as


Now of the deaths we die, the one makes man two of three and the other one

of (out of) two. The former is in the region and jurisdiction of Demeter,

whence the name given to the Mysteries, telein , resembled that given to

death, teleutan. The Athenians also heretofore called the deceased sacred to

Demeter. As for the other death, it is in the moon or region of Persephone.

Here you have our doctrine, which shows man a septenary during life; a

quintile just after death, in Kamaloka; and a threefold Ego, Spirit-Soul,

and consciousness in Devachan. This separation, first in "the Meadows of

Hades," as Plutarch calls the Kamaloka, then in Devachan, was part and

parcel of the performances during the sacred Mysteries, when the candidates

for initiation enacted the whole drama of death, and the resurrection as a

glorified spirit, by which name we mean Consciousness. This is what Plutarch

means when he says:

And as with the one, the terrestrial, so with the other celestial Hermes

doth dwell. This suddenly and with violence plucks the soul from the body;

but Prospina mildly and in a long time disjoins the understanding from the


(Proserpina, or Persephone, stands here for postmortem Karma, which is said

to regulate the separation of the lower from the higher principles: the

Soul, as Nephesh, the breath of animal life, which remains for a time in

Kamaloka, from the higher compound Ego, which goes into the state of

Devachan, or bliss.)

For this reason she is called Monogenes, only begotten, or rather begetting

one alone; for the better part of man becomes alone when it is separated by

her. Now both the one and the other happens thus according to nature. It is

ordained by Fate (Fatum or Karma) that every soul, whether with or without

understanding (mind), when gone out of the body, should wander for a time,

though not all for the same, in the region lying between the earth and moon

(Kamaloka). For those that have been unjust and dissolute suffer then the

punishment due to their offenses; but the good and virtuous are there

detained till they are purified, and have, by expiation, purged out of them

all the infections they might have contracted from the contagion of the

body, as if from foul health, living in the mildest part of the air, called

the Meadows of Hades, where they must remain for a certain prefixed and

appointed time. And then, as if they were returning from a wandering

pilgrimage or long exile into their country, they have a taste of joy, such

as they principally receive who are initiated into Sacred Mysteries, mixed

with trouble, admiration, and each one's proper and peculiar hope.

This is Nirvanic bliss, and no Theosophist could describe in plainer though

esoteric language the mental joys of Devachan, where every man has his

paradise around him, erected by his consciousness. But you must beware of

the general error into which too many even of our Theosophists fall. Do not

imagine that because man is called septenary, then quintuple and a triad, he

is a compound of seven, five, or three entities; or, as well expressed by a

Theosophical writer, of skins to be peeled off like the skins of an onion.

The principles, as already said, save the body, the life, and the astral

eidolon, all of which disperse at death, are simply aspects and states of

consciousness. There is but one real man, enduring through the cycle of life

and immortal in essence, if not in form, and this is Manas, the Mind-man or

embodied Consciousness. The objection made by the materialists, who deny the

possibility of mind and consciousness acting without matter is worthless in

our case. We do not deny the soundness of their argument; but we simply ask

our opponents,

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Are you acquainted with all the states of matter, you who knew hitherto but

of three? And how do you know whether that which we refer to as absolute

consciousness or Deity forever invisible and unknowable, be not that which,

though it eludes forever our human finite conception, is still universal

Spirit-matter or matter-Spirit in its absolute infinitude?

It is then one of the lowest, and in its manvantaric manifestations

fractioned-aspects of this Spirit-matter, which is the conscious Ego that

creates its own paradise, a fool's paradise, it may be, still a state of


Q. But what is Devachan?

A. The "land of gods" literally; a condition, a state of mental bliss.

Philosophically a mental condition analogous to, but far more vivid and real

than, the most vivid dream. It is the state after death of most mortals.

On the Various Postmortem States

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 exist and 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 through Buddhi, 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


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.

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.

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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 difference?

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

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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


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


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

old Alexandrian School, derived the Soul of 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 unalloyed essence 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 human Spirit (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 the anima 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


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

the Ego-matter?

A. Not matter, but substance assuredly; 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 from meta-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 man?

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


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

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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 Light.

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 Genesis

especially, 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 word nephesh was indifferently

applied to immortal man and to mortal beast. "And surely your blood of your

nepheshim (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. "Nephesh for 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 kill that 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.


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 Paradise and Hell, or in future rewards and punishments

as taught by the Orthodox churches?

A. As described in your catechisms, we reject them absolutely; least of all

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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 an Ego

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 the logos (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 of one

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 senseless fiend 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

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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

preexistent, and not have been created for the occasion. In The Zohar,

however, there is a still better proof. Speaking of the reincarnating Egos

(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 Kingdom of Heaven, or the Paradise, since according to

every Orientalist of note Nirvana is a synonym of annihilation!

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 Kingdom of Heaven,

and the modern commentators on the Buddhist Sutra of the Foundation of the

Kingdom of Righteousness, have muddled the sense of the great apostle of

Christianity as of the great reformer of India. The former have smothered

the word psuchikos , so that no reader imagines it to have any relation with

soul; and with this confusion of soul and spirit together, Bible readers get

only a perverted sense of anything on the subject. 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 philosophy annihilation 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

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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-ness

itself. 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 an animal, 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


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


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.


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On the Various Principles in Man

Q. I have heard a good deal about this constitution of the "inner man" as

you call it, but could never make "head or tail on't" as Gabalis expresses


A. Of course, it is most difficult, and, as you say, "puzzling" to

understand correctly and distinguish between the various aspects, called by

us the principles of the real Ego. It is the more so as there exists a

notable difference in the numbering of those principles by various Eastern

schools, though at the bottom there is the same identical substratum of


Q. Do you mean the Vedantins, as an instance? Don't they divide your seven

principles into five only?

1. They do; but though I would not presume to dispute the point with a

learned Vedantin, I may yet state as my private opinion that they have

an obvious reason for it. With them it is only that compound spiritual

aggregate which consists of various mental aspects that is called Man

at all, the physical body being in their view something beneath

contempt, and merely an illusion. Nor is the Vedanta the only

philosophy to reckon in this manner. Lao-tzu, in his Tao Te Ching,

mentions only five principles, because he, like the Vedantins, omits to

include two principles, namely, the spirit ( Atma) and the physical

body, the latter of which, moreover, he calls "the cadaver." Then there

is the Taraka Raja-Yoga School. Its teaching recognizes only three

principles in fact; but then, in reality, their Sthulopadhi, or the

physical body, in its waking conscious state, their Sukshmopadhi, the

same body in Svapna, or the dreaming state, and their Karanopadhi or

"causal body," or that which passes from one incarnation to another,

are all dual in their aspects, and thus make six. Add to this Atma, the

impersonal divine principle or the immortal element in Man,

undistinguished from the Universal Spirit, and you have the same seven

again. They are welcome to hold to their division; we hold to ours.

[See 'Secret Doctrine', part 1, p. 182 for a clearer exposition]

Q. Then it seems almost the same as the division made by the mystic

Christians: body, soul, and spirit?

A. Just the same. We could easily make of the body the vehicle of the "vital

Double"; of the latter the vehicle of Life or Prana; of Kamarupa, or

(animal) soul, the vehicle of the higher and the lower mind, and make of

this six principles, crowning the whole with the one immortal spirit. In

Occultism every qualitative change in the state of our consciousness gives

to man a new aspect, and if it prevails and becomes part of the living and

acting Ego, it must be (and is) given a special name, to distinguish the man

in that particular state from the man he is when he places himself in

another state.

Q. It is just that which it is so difficult to understand.

A. It seems to me very easy, on the contrary, once that you have seized the

main idea, i.e., that man acts on this or another plane of consciousness, in

strict accordance with his mental and spiritual condition. But such is the

materialism of the age that the more we explain the less people seem capable

of understanding what we say. Divide the terrestrial being called man into

three chief aspects, if you like, and unless you make of him a pure animal

you cannot do less. Take his objective body; the thinking principle in

him-which is only a little higher than the instinctual element in the

animal-or the vital conscious soul; and that which places him so

immeasurably beyond and higher than the animal-i.e., his reasoning soul or

"spirit." Well, if we take these three groups or representative entities,

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and subdivide them, according to the occult teaching, what do we get?

First of all, Spirit (in the sense of the Absolute, and therefore,

indivisible All), or Atma. As this can neither be located nor limited in

philosophy, being simply that which is in Eternity, and which cannot be

absent from even the tiniest geometrical or mathematical point of the

universe of matter or substance, it ought not to be called, in truth, a

"human" principle at all. Rather, and at best, it is in Metaphysics, that

point in space which the human Monad and its vehicle man occupy for the

period of every life. Now that point is as imaginary as man himself, and in

reality is an illusion, a Maya ; but then for ourselves, as for other

personal Egos, we are a reality during that fit of illusion called life, and

we have to take ourselves into account, in our own fancy at any rate, if no

one else does. To make it more conceivable to the human intellect, when

first attempting the study of Occultism, and to solve the a-b-c of the

mystery of man, Occultism calls this seventh principle the synthesis of the

sixth, and gives it for vehicle the Spiritual Soul, Buddhi. Now the latter

conceals a mystery, which is never given to any one, with the exception of

irrevocably pledged Chelas, or those, at any rate, who can be safely

trusted. Of course, there would be less confusion, could it only be told;

but, as this is directly concerned with the power of projecting one's double

consciously and at will, and as this gift, like the "ring of Gyges," would

prove very fatal to man at large and to the possessor of that faculty in

particular, it is carefully guarded. But let us proceed with the principles.

This divine soul, or Buddhi, then, is the vehicle of the Spirit. In

conjunction, these two are one, impersonal and without any attributes (on

this plane, of course), and make two spiritual principles. If we pass onto

the Human Soul, Manas or mens, everyone will agree that the intelligence of

man is dual to say the least: e.g., the high-minded man can hardly become

low-minded; the very intellectual and spiritual-minded man is separated by

an abyss from the obtuse, dull, and material, if not animal-minded man.

Q. But why should not man be represented by two principles or two aspects,


A. Every man has these two principles in him, one more active than the

other, and in rare cases, one of these is entirely stunted in its growth, so

to say, or paralysed by the strength and predominance of the other aspect,

in whatever direction. These, then, are what we call the two principles or

aspects of Manas, the higher and the lower; the former, the higher Manas, or

the thinking, conscious Ego gravitating toward the spiritual Soul (Buddhi);

and the latter, or its instinctual principle, attracted to Kama, the seat of

animal desires and passions in man. Thus, we have four principles justified;

the last three being (1) the "Double," which we have agreed to call Protean,

or Plastic Soul; the vehicle of (2) the life principle; and (3) the physical

body. Of course no physiologist or biologist will accept these principles,

nor can he make head or tail of them. And this is why, perhaps, none of them

understand to this day either the functions of the spleen, the physical

vehicle of the Protean Double, or those of a certain organ on the right side

of man, the seat of the above-mentioned desires, nor yet does he know

anything of the pineal gland, which he describes as a horny gland with a

little sand in it, which gland is in truth the very seat of the highest and

divinest consciousness in man, his omniscient, spiritual and all-embracing

mind. And this shows to you still more plainly that we have neither invented

these seven principles, nor are they new in the world of philosophy, as we

can easily prove.

Q. But what is it that reincarnates, in your belief?

A. The Spiritual thinking Ego, the permanent principle in man, or that which

is the seat of Manas. It is not Atma, or even Atma-Buddhi, regarded as the

dual Monad, which is the individual, or divine man, but Manas; for Atma is

the Universal All, and becomes the Higher-Self of man only in conjunction

with Buddhi, its vehicle, which links it to the individuality (or divine

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man). For it is the Buddhi-Manas which is called the Causal body, (the

United fifth and sixth Principles) and which is Consciousness, that connects

it with every personality it inhabits on earth. Therefore, Soul being a

generic term, there are in men three aspects of Soul-the terrestrial, or

animal; the Human Soul; and the Spiritual Soul; these, strictly speaking,

are one Soul in its three aspects. Now of the first aspect, nothing remains

after death; of the second (nous or Manas) only its divine essence if left

unsoiled survives, while the third in addition to being immortal becomes

consciously divine, by the assimilation of the higher Manas. But to make it

clear, we have to say a few words first of all about Reincarnation.

Q. You will do well, as it is against this doctrine that your enemies fight

the most ferociously.

A. You mean the Spiritualists? I know; and many are the absurd objections

laboriously spun by them over the

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Pages of Light. So obtuse and malicious

are some of them, that they will stop at nothing. One of them found recently

a contradiction, which he gravely discusses in a letter to that journal, in

two statements picked out of Mr. Sinnett's lectures. He discovers that grave

contradiction in these two sentences: "Premature returns to earth-life in

the cases when they occur may be due to Karmic complication … "; and "there

is no accident in the supreme act of divine justice guiding evolution." So

profound a thinker would surely see a contradiction of the law of

gravitation if a man stretched out his hand to stop a falling stone from

crushing the head of a child!

On Reincarnation or Rebirth

What is Memory According to Theosophical Teaching?

Q. The most difficult thing for you to do, will be to explain and give

reasonable grounds for such a belief. No Theosophist has ever yet succeeded

in bringing forward a single valid proof to shake my skepticism. First of

all, you have against this theory of reincarnation, the fact that no single

man has yet been found to remember that he has lived, least of all who he

was, during his previous life.

A. Your argument, I see, tends to the same old objection; the loss of memory

in each of us of our previous incarnation. You think it invalidates our

doctrine? My answer is that it does not, and that at any rate such an

objection cannot be final.

Q. I would like to hear your arguments.

A. They are short and few. Yet when you take into consideration (a) the

utter inability of the best modern psychologists to explain to the world the

nature of mind; and (b) their complete ignorance of its potentialities, and

higher states, you have to admit that this objection is based on an a priori

conclusion drawn from prima facie and circumstantial evidence more than

anything else. Now what is "memory" in your conception, pray?

Q. That which is generally accepted: the faculty in our mind of remembering

and of retaining the knowledge of previous thoughts, deeds, and events.

A. Please add to it that there is a great difference between the three

accepted forms of memory. Besides memory in general you have Remembrance,

Recollection, and Reminiscence, have you not? Have you ever thought over the

difference? Memory, remember, is a generic name.

Q. Yet, all these are only synonyms.

A. Indeed, they are not-not in philosophy, at all events. Memory is simply

an innate power in thinking beings, and even in animals, of reproducing past

impressions by an association of ideas principally suggested by objective

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things or by some action on our external sensory organs. Memory is a faculty

depending entirely on the more or less healthy and normal functioning of our

physical brain; and remembrance and recollection are the attributes and

handmaidens of that memory. But reminiscence is an entirely different thing.

Reminiscence is defined by the modern psychologist as something intermediate

between remembrance and recollection, or "a conscious process of recalling

past occurrences, but without that full and varied reference to particular

things which characterizes recollection." Locke, speaking of recollection

and remembrance, says:

When an idea again recurs without the operation of the like object on the

external sensory, it is remembrance; if it be sought after by the mind, and

with pain and endeavor found and brought again into view, it is


But even Locke leaves reminiscence without any clear definition, because it

is no faculty or attribute of our physical memory, but an intuitional

perception apart from and outside our physical brain; a perception which,

covering as it does (being called into action by the ever-present knowledge

of our spiritual Ego) all those visions in man which are regarded as

abnormal-from the pictures suggested by genius to the ravings of fever and

even madness-are classed by science as having no existence outside of our

fancy. Occultism and Theosophy, however, regard reminiscence in an entirely

different light. For us, while memory is physical and evanescent and depends

on the physiological conditions of the brain-a fundamental proposition with

all teachers of mnemonics, who have the researches of modern scientific

psychologists to back them-we call reminiscence the memory of the soul. And

it is this memory which gives the assurance to almost every human being,

whether he understands it or not, of his having lived before and having to

live again. Indeed, as Wordsworth has it:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting,

The soul that rises with us, our life's star,

Hath elsewhere had its setting,

And cometh from afar.

Q. If it is on this kind of memory-poetry and abnormal fancies, on your own

confession-that you base your doctrine, then you will convince very few, I

am afraid.

A. I did not "confess" it was a fancy. I simply said that physiologists and

scientists in general regard such reminiscences as hallucinations and fancy,

to which learned conclusion they are welcome. We do not deny that such

visions of the past and glimpses far back into the corridors of time, are

not abnormal, as contrasted with our normal daily life experience and

physical memory. But we do maintain with Professor W. Knight, that: The

absence of memory of any action done in a previous state cannot be a

conclusive argument against our having lived through it.

And every fair-minded opponent must agree with what is said in Butler's

Lectures on Platonic Philosophy:

That the feeling of extravagance with which it (preexistence) affects us has

its secret source in materialistic or semi-materialistic prejudices.

Besides which we maintain that memory, as Olympiodorus called it, is simply

fantasy, and the most unreliable thing in us.

Say Olympiodorus, in Platonis Phaed.:

The fantasy is an impediment to our intellectual conceptions; and hence,

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when we are agitated by the inspiring influence of the Divinity, if the

fantasy intervenes, the enthusiastic energy ceases: for enthusiasm and the

ecstasy are contrary to each other. Should it be asked whether the soul is

able to energize without the fantasy, we reply, that its perception of

universals proves that it is able. It has perceptions, therefore,

independent of the fantasy; at the same time, however, the fantasy attends

in its energies, just as a storm pursues him who sails on the sea.

Ammonius Saccas asserted that the only faculty in man directly opposed to

prognostication, or looking into futurity, is memory. Furthermore, remember

that memory is one thing and mind or thought is another; one is a recording

machine, a register which very easily gets out of order; the other

(thoughts) are eternal and imperishable. Would you refuse to believe in the

existence of certain things or men only because your physical eyes have not

seen them? Would not the collective testimony of past generations who have

seen him be a sufficient guarantee that Julius Caesar once lived? Why should

not the same testimony of the psychic senses of the masses be taken into

consideration ?

Q. But don't you think that these are too fine distinctions to be accepted

by the majority of mortals?

A. Say rather by the majority of materialists. And to them we say, behold:

even in the short span of ordinary existence, memory is too weak to register

all the events of a lifetime. How frequently do even most important events

lie dormant in our memory until awakened by some association of ideas, or

aroused to function and activity by some other link. This is especially the

case with people of advanced age, who are always found suffering from

feebleness of recollection. When, therefore, we remember that which we know

about the physical and the spiritual principles in man, it is not the fact

that our memory has failed to record our precedent life and lives that ought

to surprise us, but the contrary, were it to happen.


Do We Not Remember Our Past Lives?

Q. You have given me a bird's eye view of the seven principles; now how do

they account for our complete loss of any recollection of having lived


A. Very easily. Since those principles which we call physical, and none of

which is denied by science, though it calls them by other names-namely, the

body, life, passional and animal instincts, and the astral eidolon of every

man (whether perceived in thought or our mind's eye, or objectively and

separate from the physical body), which principles we call Sthula-sharira,

Prana, Kamarupa, and Linga-sharira (see above).

[Those principles] are disintegrated after death with their constituent

elements, memory along with its brain, this vanished memory of a vanished

personality, can neither remember nor record anything in the subsequent

reincarnation of the Ego. Reincarnation means that this Ego will be

furnished with a new body, a new brain, and a new memory. Therefore it would

be as absurd to expect this memory to remember that which it has never

recorded as it would be idle to examine under a microscope a shirt never

worn by a murderer, and seek on it for the stains of blood which are to be

found only on the clothes he wore. It is not the clean shirt that we have to

question, but the clothes worn during the perpetration of the crime; and if

these are burnt and destroyed, how can you get at them?

Q. Aye! How can you get at the certainty that the crime was ever committed

at all, or that the "man in the clean shirt" ever lived before?

A. Not by physical processes, most assuredly; nor by relying on the

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testimony of that which exists no longer. But there is such a thing as

circumstantial evidence, since our wise laws accept it, more, perhaps, even

than they should. To get convinced of the fact of reincarnation and past

lives, one must put oneself in rapport with one's real permanent Ego, not

one's evanescent memory.

Q. But how can people believe in that which they do not know, nor have ever

seen, far less put themselves in rapport with it?

A. If people, and the most learned, will believe in the Gravity, Ether,

Force, and what not of Science, abstractions "and working hypotheses," which

they have neither seen, touched, smelt, heard, nor tasted-why should not

other people believe, on the same principle, in one's permanent Ego, a far

more logical and important "working hypothesis" than any other?

Q. What is, finally, this mysterious eternal principle? Can you explain its

nature so as to make it comprehensible to all?

A. The Ego which reincarnates, the individual and immortal-not personal-"I";

the vehicle, in short, of the Atma-Buddhic Monad, that which is rewarded in

Devachan and punished on earth, and that, finally, to which the reflection

only of the Skandhas, or attributes, of every incarnation attaches itself.

There are five Skandhas or attributes in the Buddhist teachings: Rupa (form

or body), material qualities; Vedana , sensation; Sanna , abstract ideas;

Samkhara, tendencies of mind; Vinnana, mental powers. Of these we are

formed, by them we are conscious of existence; and through them communicate

with the world about us.

Q. What do you mean by Skandhas?

A. Just what I said: "attributes," among which is memory, all of which

perish like a flower, leaving behind them only a feeble perfume. Here is

another paragraph from H.S. Olcott's Buddhist Catechism which bears directly

upon the subject. It deals with the question as follows:

The aged man remembers the incidents of his youth, despite his being

physically and mentally changed. Why, then, is not the recollection of past

lives brought over by us from our last birth into the present birth? Because

memory is included within the Skandhas, and the Skandhas having changed with

the new existence, a memory, the record of that particular existence,

develops. Yet the record or reflection of all the past lives must survive,

for when Prince Siddh rtha became Buddha, the full sequence of His previous

births were seen by Him … and any one who attains to the state of Jñana can

thus retrospectively trace the line of his lives.

This proves to you that while the undying qualities of the personality-such

as love, goodness, charity, etc.-attach themselves to the immortal Ego,

photographing on it, so to speak, a permanent image of the divine aspect of

the man who was, his material Skandhas (those which generate the most marked

Karmic effects) are as evanescent as a flash of lightning, and cannot

impress the new brain of the new personality; yet their failing to do so

impairs in no way the identity of the reincarnating Ego.

Q. Do you mean to infer that which survives is only the Soul-memory, as you

call it, that Soul or Ego being one and the same, while nothing of the

personality remains?

A. Not quite; something of each personality, unless the latter was an

absolute materialist with not even a chink in his nature for a spiritual ray

to pass through, must survive, as it leaves its eternal impress on the

incarnating permanent Self or Spiritual Ego. (Or the Spiritual, in

contradistinction to the personal Self. The student must not confuse this

Spiritual Ego with the "higher self" which is Atma, the God within us, and

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inseparable from the Universal Spirit.)

The personality with its Skandhas is ever changing with every new birth. It

is, as said before, only the part played by the actor (the true Ego) for one

night. This is why we preserve no memory on the physical plane of our past

lives, though the real "Ego" has lived them over and knows them all.

Q. Then how does it happen that the real or Spiritual man does not impress

his new personal "I" with this knowledge?

A. How is it that the servant-girls in a poor farmhouse could speak Hebrew

and play the violin in their trance or somnambular state, and knew neither

when in their normal condition? Because, as every genuine psychologist of

the old, not your modern, school, will tell you, the Spiritual Ego can act

only when the personal Ego is paralyzed. The Spiritual "I" in man is

omniscient and has every knowledge innate in it; while the personal self is

the creature of its environment and the slave of the physical memory. Could

the former manifest itself uninterruptedly, and without impediment, there

would be no longer men on earth, but we should all be gods.

Q. Still there ought to be exceptions, and some ought to remember.

A. And so there are. But who believes in their report? Such sensitives are

generally regarded as hallucinated hysteriacs, as crack-brained enthusiasts,

or humbugs, by modern materialism. Let them read, however, works on this

subject, preeminently Reincarnation, a Study of Forgotten Truth by E.D.

Walker, F.T.S., and see in it the mass of proofs which the able author

brings to bear on this vexed question. One speaks to people of soul, and

some ask "What is Soul?" "Have you ever proved its existence?" Of course it

is useless to argue with those who are materialists. But even to them I

would put the question:

Can you remember what you were or did when a baby? Have you preserved the

smallest recollection of your life, thoughts, or deeds, or that you lived at

all during the first eighteen months or two years of your existence? Then

why not deny that you have ever lived as a babe, on the same principle?

When to all this we add that the reincarnating Ego, or individuality,

retains during the Devachanic period merely the essence of the experience of

its past earth-life or personality, the whole physical experience involving

into a state of in potentia, or being, so to speak, translated into

spiritual formulae; when we remember further that the term between two

rebirths is said to extend from ten to fifteen centuries, during which time

the physical consciousness is totally and absolutely inactive, having no

organs to act through, and therefore no existence, the reason for the

absence of all remembrance in the purely physical memory is apparent.

Q. You just said that the Spiritual Ego was omniscient. Where, then, is that

vaunted omniscience during his Devachanic life, as you call it?

A. During that time it is latent and potential, because, first of all, the

Spiritual Ego (the compound of Buddhi-Manas) is not the Higher Self, which

being one with the Universal Soul or Mind is alone omniscient; and,

secondly, because Devachan is the idealized continuation of the terrestrial

life just left behind, a period of retributive adjustment, and a reward for

unmerited wrongs and sufferings undergone in that special life. It is

omniscient only potentially in Devachan, and de facto exclusively in

Nirvana, when the Ego is merged in the Universal Mind-Soul. Yet it rebecomes

quasi omniscient during those hours on earth when certain abnormal

conditions and physiological changes in the body make the Ego free from the

trammels of matter. Thus the examples cited above of somnambulists, a poor

servant speaking Hebrew, and another playing the violin, give you an

illustration of the case in point. This does not mean that the explanations

of these two facts offered us by medical science have no truth in them, for

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one girl had, years before, heard her master, a clergyman, read Hebrew works

aloud, and the other had heard an artist playing a violin at their farm. But

neither could have done so as perfectly as they did had they not been

ensouled by that which, owing to the sameness of its nature with the

Universal Mind, is omniscient. Here the higher principle acted on the

Skandhas and moved them; in the other, the personality being paralyzed, the

individuality manifested itself. Pray do not confuse the two.


Individuality and Personality

Q. But what is the difference between the two?

A. Even Col. Olcott, forced to it by the logic of Esoteric philosophy, found

himself obliged to correct the mistakes of previous Orientalists who made no

such distinction, and gives the reader his reasons for it. Thus he says:

The successive appearances upon the earth, or "descents into generation," of

the tanhaically coherent parts (Skandhas) of a certain being, are a

succession of personalities. In each birth the personality differs from that

of a previous or next succeeding birth. Karma, the deus ex machina, masks

(or shall we say reflects?) itself now in the personality of a sage, again

as an artisan, and so on throughout the string of births. But though

personalities ever shift, the one line of life along which they are strung,

like beads, runs unbroken; it is ever that particular line, never any other.

It is therefore individual, an individual vital undulation, which began in

Nirvana, or the subjective side of nature, as the light or heat undulation

through aether, began at its dynamic source; is careering through the

objective side of nature under the impulse of Karma and the creative

direction of Tanha (the unsatisfied desire for existence); and leads through

many cyclic changes back to Nirvana. Mr. Rhys-Davids calls that which passes

from personality to personality along the individual chain character, or

doing. Since character is not a mere metaphysical abstraction, but the sum

of one's mental qualities and moral propensities, would it not help to

dispel what Mr. Rhys-Davids calls "the desperate expedient of a mystery" if

we regarded the life-undulation as individuality, and each of its series of

natal manifestations as a separate personality? The perfect individual,

Buddhist speaking, is a Buddha, I should say; for Buddha is but the rare

flower of humanity, without the least supernatural admixture. And as

countless generations ("four asankheyyas and a hundred thousand cycles,")

are required to develop a man into a Buddha, and the iron will to become one

runs throughout all the successive births, what shall we call that which

thus wills and perseveres? Character? One's individuality: an individuality

but partly manifested in any one birth, but built up of fragments from all

the births?

Q. I confess that I am still in the dark. Indeed it is just that difference,

then, that you cannot impress too much on our minds.

A. I try to; but alas, it is harder with some than to make them feel a

reverence for childish impossibilities, only because they are orthodox, and

because orthodoxy is respectable. To understand the idea well, you have to

first study the dual sets of principles: the spiritual, or those which

belong to the imperishable Ego; and the material, or those principles which

make up the ever-changing bodies or the series of personalities of that Ego.

Let us fix permanent names to these, and say that:

1. Atma, the "Higher Self," is neither your Spirit nor mine, but like

sunlight shines on all. It is the universally diffused "divine principle,"

and is inseparable from its one and absolute Meta-Spirit, as the sunbeam is

inseparable from sunlight.

2. Buddhi (the spiritual soul) is only its vehicle. Neither each separately,

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nor the two collectively, are of any more use to the body of man, than

sunlight and its beams are for a mass of granite buried in the earth, unless

the divine Duad is assimilated by, and reflected in, some consciousness.

Neither Atma nor Buddhi are ever reached by Karma, because the former is the

highest aspect of Karma, its working agent of itself in one aspect, and the

other is unconscious on this plane. This consciousness or mind is,

3. Manas, the derivation or product in a reflected form of Ahankara, "the

conception of I," or Ego-ship. It is, therefore, when inseparably united to

the first two, called the Spiritual Ego, and Taijasi (the radiant). This is

the real Individuality, or the divine man. It is this Ego which-having

originally incarnated in the senseless human form animated by, but

unconscious (since it had no consciousness) of, the presence in itself of

the dual monad-made of that human-like form a real man.

Mahat or the "Universal Mind" is the source of Manas. The latter is Mahat,

i.e., mind, in man. Manas is also called Kshetrajña, "embodied Spirit,"

because it is, according to our philosophy, the Manasaputras, or "Sons of

the Universal Mind," who created, or rather produced, the thinking man,

"manu," by incarnating in the third Race mankind in our Round. It is Manas,

therefore, which is the real incarnating and permanent Spiritual Ego, the

individuality, and our various and numberless personalities only its

external masks.

It is that Ego, that "Causal Body," which overshadows every personality

Karma forces it to incarnate into; and this Ego which is held responsible

for all the sins committed through, and in, every new body or

personality-the evanescent masks which hide the true Individual through the

long series of rebirths.

Q. But is this just? Why should this Ego receive punishment as the result of

deeds which it has forgotten?

A. It has not forgotten them; it knows and remembers its misdeeds as well as

you remember what you have done yesterday. Is it because the memory of that

bundle of physical compounds called "body" does not recollect what its

predecessor (the personality that was) did, that you imagine that the real

Ego has forgotten them? As well say it is unjust that the new boots on the

feet of a boy, who is flogged for stealing apples, should be punished for

that which they know nothing of.

Q. But are there no modes of communication between the Spiritual and human

consciousness or memory?

A. Of course there are; but they have never been recognized by your

scientific modern psychologists. To what do you attribute intuition, the

"voice of the conscience," premonitions, vague undefined reminiscences,

etc., etc., if not to such communications? Would that the majority of

educated men, at least, had the fine spiritual perceptions of Coleridge, who

shows how intuitional he is in some of his comments. Hear what he says with

respect to the probability that "all thoughts are in themselves


If the intelligent faculty (sudden 'revivals' of memory) should be rendered

more comprehensive, it would require only a different and appropriate

organization, the body celestial instead of the body terrestrial, to bring

before every human soul the collective experience of its whole past

existence (existences, rather).

And this body celestial is our Manasic Ego.


the Reward and Punishment of the Ego

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Q. I have heard you say that the Ego, whatever the life of the person he

incarnated in may have been on Earth, is never visited with postmortem


A. Never, save in very exceptional and rare cases of which we will not speak

here, as the nature of the "punishment" in no way approaches any of your

theological conceptions of damnation.

Q. But if it is punished in this life for the misdeeds committed in a

previous one, then it is this Ego that ought to be rewarded also, whether

here, or when disincarnated.

A. And so it is. If we do not admit of any punishment outside of this earth,

it is because the only state the Spiritual Self knows of, hereafter, is that

of unalloyed bliss.

Q. What do you mean?

A. Simply this: crimes and sins committed on a plane of objectivity and in a

world of matter, cannot receive punishment in a world of pure subjectivity.

We believe in no hell or paradise as localities; in no objective hellfires

and worms that never die, nor in any Jerusalem with streets paved with

sapphires and diamonds. What we believe in is a postmortem state or mental

condition, such as we are in during a vivid dream. We believe in an

immutable law of absolute Love, Justice, and Mercy. And believing in it, we

say: Whatever the sin and dire results of the original Karmic transgression

of the now incarnated Egos no man (or the outer material and periodical form

of the Spiritual Entity) can be held, with any degree of justice,

responsible for the consequences of his birth. He does not ask to be born,

nor can he choose the parents that will give him life. In every respect he

is a victim to his environment, the child of circumstances over which he has

no control; and if each of his transgressions were impartially investigated,

there would be found nine out of every ten cases when he was the one sinned

against, rather than the sinner.

It is on this transgression that the cruel and illogical dogma of the Fallen

Angels has been built. It is explained in Vol. II of The Secret Doctrine.

All our "Egos" are thinking and rational entities (Manasaputas) who had

lived, whether under human or other forms, in the precedent life cycle

(Manvantara), and whose Karma it was to incarnate in the man of this one. It

was taught in the Mysteries that, having delayed to comply with this law (or

having "refused to create" as Hinduism says of the Kumaras and Christian

legend of the Archangel Michael), i.e., having failed to incarnate in due

time, the bodies predestined for them got defiled, hence the original sin of

the senseless forms and the punishment of the Egos. That which is meant by

the rebellious angels being hurled down into Hell is simply explained by

these pure Spirits or Egos being imprisoned in bodies of unclean matter,


Life is at best a heartless play, a stormy sea to cross, and a heavy burden

often too difficult to bear. The greatest philosophers have tried in vain to

fathom and find out its raison d'être, and have all failed except those who

had the key to it, namely, the Eastern sages. Life is, as Shakespeare

describes it:

… but a walking shadow-a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

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Signifying nothing.

Nothing in its separate parts, yet of the greatest importance in its

collectivity or series of lives. At any rate, almost every individual life

is, in its full development, a sorrow. And are we to believe that poor,

helpless man, after being tossed about like a piece of rotten timber on the

angry billows of life, is, if he proves too weak to resist them, to be

punished by never-ending damnation, or even a temporary punishment? Never!

Whether a great or an average sinner, good or bad, guilty or innocent, once

delivered of the burden of physical life, the tired and worn-out Manu

("thinking Ego") has won the right to a period of absolute rest and bliss.

The same unerringly wise and just rather than merciful Law, which inflicts

upon the incarnated Ego the Karmic punishment for every sin committed during

the preceding life on Earth, provided for the now disembodied Entity a long

lease of mental rest, i.e., the entire oblivion of every sad event, aye, to

the smallest painful thought, that took place in its last life as a

personality, leaving in the soul-memory but the reminiscence of that which

was bliss, or led to happiness. Plotinus, who said that our body was the

true river of Lethe, for "souls plunged into it forget all," meant more than

he said. For, as our terrestrial body is like Lethe, so is our celestial

body in Devachan, and much more.

Q. Then am I to understand that the murderer, the transgressor of law divine

and human in every shape, is allowed to go unpunished?

A. Who ever said that? Our philosophy has a doctrine of punishment as stern

as that of the most rigid Calvinist, only far more philosophical and

consistent with absolute justice. No deed, not even a sinful thought, will

go unpunished; the latter more severely even than the former, as a thought

is far more potential in creating evil results than even a deed.

Verily I say unto you, that whosoever looketh at a woman to lust after her,

hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

We believe in an unerring law of Retribution, called Karma, which asserts

itself in a natural concatenation of causes and their unavoidable results.

Q. And how, or where, does it act?

A. Every laborer is worthy of his hire, saith Wisdom in the Gospel; every

action, good or bad, is a prolific parent, saith the Wisdom of the Ages. Put

the two together, and you will find the "why." After allowing the Soul,

escaped from the pangs of personal life, a sufficient, aye, a hundredfold

compensation, Karma, with its army of Skandhas, waits at the threshold of

Devachan, whence the Ego reemerges to assume a new incarnation. It is at

this moment that the future destiny of the now-rested Ego trembles in the

scales of just Retribution, as it now falls once again under the sway of

active Karmic law. It is in this rebirth which is ready for it, a rebirth

selected and prepared by this mysterious, inexorable, but in the equity and

wisdom of its decrees infallible law, that the sins of the previous life of

the Ego are punished. Only it is into no imaginary Hell, with theatrical

flames and ridiculous tailed and horned devils, that the Ego is cast, but

verily onto this earth, the plane and region of his sins, where he will have

to atone for every bad thought and deed. As he has sown, so will he reap.

Reincarnation will gather around him all those other Egos who have suffered,

whether directly or indirectly, at the hands, or even through the

unconscious instrumentality, of the past personality. They will be thrown by

Nemesis in the way of the new man, concealing the old, the eternal Ego, and

Q. But where is the equity you speak of, since these new "personalities" are

not aware of having sinned or been sinned against?

A. Has the coat torn to shreds from the back of the man who stole it, by

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another man who was robbed of it and recognizes his property, to be regarded

as fairly dealt with? The new "personality" is no better than a fresh suit

of clothes with its specific characteristics, color, form, and qualities;

but the real man who wears it is the same culprit as of old. It is the

individuality who suffers through his "personality." And it is this, and

this alone, that can account for the terrible, still only apparent,

injustice in the distribution of lots in life to man. When your modern

philosophers will have succeeded in showing to us a good reason, why so many

apparently innocent and good men are born only to suffer during a whole

lifetime; why so many are born poor unto starvation in the slums of great

cities, abandoned by fate and men; why, while these are born in the gutter,

others open their eyes to light in palaces; while a noble birth and fortune

seem often given to the worst of men and only rarely to the worthy; while

there are beggars whose inner selves are peers to the highest and noblest of

men; when this, and much more, is satisfactorily explained by either your

philosophers or theologians, then only, but not till then, you will have the

right to reject the theory of reincarnation. The highest and grandest of

poets have dimly perceived this truth of truths. Shelley believed in it,

Shakespeare must have thought of it when writing on the worthlessness of

Birth. Remember his words:

Why should my birth keep down my mounting spirit?

Are not all creatures subject unto time?

There's legions now of beggars on the earth,

That their original did spring from Kings,

And many monarchs now, whose fathers were

The riff-raff of their age …

Alter the word fathers into Egos-and you will have the truth.

On the Kamaloka and Devachan

On the Fate of the Lower Principles

Q. You spoke of Kamaloka, what is it?

A. When the man dies, his lower three principles leave him forever; i.e.,

body, life, and the vehicle of the latter, the astral body or the double of

the living man. And then, his four principles-the central or middle

principle, the animal soul or Kamarupa, with what it has assimilated from

the lower Manas, and the higher triad find themselves in Kamaloka. The

latter is an astral locality, the limbus of scholastic theology, the Hades

of the ancients, and, strictly speaking, a locality only in a relative

sense. It has neither a definite area nor boundary, but exists within

subjective space; i.e., is beyond our sensuous perceptions. Still it exists,

and it is there that the astral eidolons of all the beings that have lived,

animals included, await their second death. For the animals it comes with

the disintegration and the entire fading out of their astral particles to

the last. For the human eidolon it begins when the Atma-Buddhi-Manasic triad

is said to "separate" itself from its lower principles, or the reflection of

the ex-personality, by falling into the Devachanic state.

Q. And what happens after this?

A. Then the Kamarupic phantom, remaining bereft of its informing thinking

principle, the higher Manas, and the lower aspect of the latter, the animal

intelligence, no longer receiving light from the higher mind, and no longer

having a physical brain to work through, collapses.

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Q. In what way?

A. Well, it falls into the state of the frog when certain portions of its

brain are taken out by the vivisector. It can think no more, even on the

lowest animal plane. Henceforth it is no longer even the lower Manas, since

this "lower" is nothing without the "higher."

Q. And is it this nonentity which we find materializing in Seance rooms with


A. It is this nonentity. A true nonentity, however, only as to reasoning or

cogitating powers, still an Entity, however astral and fluidic, as shown in

certain cases when, having been magnetically and unconsciously drawn toward

a medium, it is revived for a time and lives in him by proxy, so to speak.

This "spook," or the Kamarupa, may be compared with the jelly-fish, which

has an ethereal gelatinous appearance so long as it is in its own element,

or water (the medium's specific aura), but which, no sooner is it thrown out

of it, than it dissolves in the hand or on the sand, especially in sunlight.

In the medium's Aura, it lives a kind of vicarious life and reasons and

speaks either through the medium's brain or those of other persons present.

But this would lead us too far, and upon other people's grounds, whereon I

have no desire to trespass. Let us keep to the subject of reincarnation.

Q. What of the latter? How long does the incarnating Ego remain in the

Devachanic state?

A. This, we are taught, depends on the degree of spirituality and the merit

or demerit of the last incarnation. The average time is from ten to fifteen

centuries, as I already told you.

Q. But why could not this Ego manifest and communicate with mortals as

Spiritualists will have it? What is there to prevent a mother from

communicating with the children she left on earth, a husband with his wife,

and so on? It is a most consoling belief, I must confess; nor do I wonder

that those who believe in it are so averse to give it up.

A. Nor are they forced to, unless they happen to prefer truth to fiction,

however "consoling." Uncongenial our doctrines may be to Spiritualists; yet,

nothing of what we believe in and teach is half as selfish and cruel as what

they preach.

Q. I do not understand you. What is selfish?

A. Their doctrine of the return of Spirits, the real "personalities" as they

say; and I will tell you why. If Devachan-call it "paradise" if you like, a

"place of bliss and of supreme felicity," if it is anything-is such a place

(or say state), logic tells us that no sorrow or even a shade of pain can be

experienced therein. "God shall wipe away all the tears from the eyes" of

those in paradise, we read in the book of many promises. And if the "Spirits

of the dead" are enabled to return and see all that is happening on earth,

and especially in their homes, what kind of bliss can be in store for them?


Theosophists Do Not Believe in the Return of Pure "Spirits"

Q. What do you mean? Why should this interfere with their bliss?

A. Simply this; and here is an instance. A mother dies, leaving behind her

little helpless children-orphans whom she adores-perhaps a beloved husband

also. We say that her "Spirit" or Ego-that individuality which is now all

impregnated, for the entire Devachanic period, with the noblest feelings

held by its late personality, i.e., love for her children, pity for those

who suffer, and so on-we say that it is now entirely separated from the

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"vale of tears," that its future bliss consists in that blessed ignorance of

all the woes it left behind. Spiritualists say, on the contrary, that it is

as vividly aware of them, and more so than before, for "Spirits see more

than mortals in the flesh do." We say that the bliss of the Devachanee

consists in its complete conviction that it has never left the earth, and

that there is no such thing as death at all; that the postmortem spiritual

consciousness of the mother will represent to her that she lives surrounded

by her children and all those whom she loved; that no gap, no link, will be

missing to make her disembodied state the most perfect and absolute

happiness. The Spiritualists deny this point blank. According to their

doctrine, unfortunate man is not liberated even by death from the sorrows of

this life. Not a drop from the life-cup of pain and suffering will miss his

lips; and whether willing or unwilling, since he sees everything now, shall

he drink it to the bitter dregs. Thus, the loving wife, who during her

lifetime was ready to save her husband sorrow at the price of her heart's

blood, is now doomed to see, in utter helplessness, his despair, and to

register every hot tear he sheds for her loss. Worse than that, she may see

the tears dry too soon, and another beloved face shine on him, the father of

her children; find another woman replacing her in his affections; doomed to

hear her orphans giving the holy name of "mother" to one indifferent to

them, and to see those little children neglected, if not ill-treated.

According to this doctrine the "gentle wafting to immortal life" becomes

without any transition the way into a new path of mental suffering! And yet,

the columns of the Banner of Light, the veteran journal of the American

Spiritualists, are filled with messages from the dead, the "dear departed

ones," who all write to say how very happy they are! Is such a state of

knowledge consistent with bliss? Then bliss stands in such a case for the

greatest curse, and orthodox damnation must be a relief in comparison to it!

Q. But how does your theory avoid this? How can you reconcile the theory of

Soul's omniscience with its blindness to that which is taking place on


A. Because such is the law of love and mercy. During every Devachanic period

the Ego, omniscient as it is per se, clothes itself, so to say, with the

reflection of the "personality" that was. I have just told you that the

ideal efflorescence of all the abstract, therefore undying and eternal

qualities or attributes, such as love and mercy, the love of the good, the

true and the beautiful, that ever spoke in the heart of the living

"personality," clung after death to the Ego, and therefore followed it to

Devachan. For the time being, then, the Ego becomes the ideal reflection of

the human being it was when last on earth, and that is not omniscient. Were

it that, it would never be in the state we call Devachan at all.

Q. What are your reasons for it?

A. If you want an answer on the strict lines of our philosophy, then I will

say that it is because everything is illusion (Maya ) outside of eternal

truth, which has neither form, color, nor limitation. He who has placed

himself beyond the veil of Maya -and such are the highest Adepts and

Initiates-can have no Devachan. As to the ordinary mortal, his bliss in it

is complete. It is an absolute oblivion of all that gave it pain or sorrow

in the past incarnation, and even oblivion of the fact that such things as

pain or sorrow exist at all. The Devachanee lives its intermediate cycle

between two incarnations surrounded by everything it had aspired to in vain,

and in the companionship of everyone it loved on earth. It has reached the

fulfillment of all its soul-yearnings. And thus it lives throughout long

centuries an existence of unalloyed happiness, which is the reward for its

sufferings in earth-life. In short, it bathes in a sea of uninterrupted

felicity spanned only by events of still greater felicity in degree.

Q. But this is more than simple delusion, it is an existence of insane


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A. From your standpoint it may be, not so from that of philosophy. Besides

which, is not our whole terrestrial life filled with such delusions? Have

you never met men and women living for years in a fool's paradise? And

because you should happen to learn that the husband of a wife, whom she

adores and believes herself as beloved by him, is untrue to her, would you

go and break her heart and beautiful dream by rudely awakening her to the

reality? I think not. I say it again, such oblivion and hallucination-if you

call it so-are only a merciful law of nature and strict justice. At any

rate, it is a far more fascinating prospect than the orthodox golden harp

with a pair of wings. The assurance that

The soul that lives ascends frequently and runs familiarly through the

streets of the heavenly Jerusalem, visiting the patriarchs and prophets,

saluting the apostles, and admiring the army of martyrs.

-may seem of a more pious character to some. Nevertheless, it is a

hallucination of a far more delusive character, since mothers love their

children with an immortal love, we all know, while the personages mentioned

in the "heavenly Jerusalem" are still of a rather doubtful nature. But I

would, still, rather accept the "new Jerusalem," with its streets paved like

the show windows of a jeweler's shop, than find consolation in the heartless

doctrine of the Spiritualists. The idea alone that the intellectual

conscious souls of one's father, mother, daughter, or brother find their

bliss in a "Summerland"-only a little more natural, but just as ridiculous

as the "New Jerusalem" in its description-would be enough to make one lose

every respect for one's "departed ones." To believe that a pure spirit can

feel happy while doomed to witness the sins, mistakes, treachery, and, above

all, the sufferings of those from whom it is severed by death and whom it

loves best, without being able to help them, would be a maddening thought.

Q. There is something in your argument. I confess to having never seen it in

this light.

A. Just so, and one must be selfish to the core and utterly devoid of the

sense of retributive justice, to have ever imagined such a thing. We are

with those whom we have lost in material form, and far, far nearer to them

now, than when they were alive. And it is not only in the fancy of the

Devachanee, as some may imagine, but in reality. For pure divine love is not

merely the blossom of a human heart, but has its roots in eternity.

Spiritual holy love is immortal, and Karma brings sooner or later all those

who loved each other with such a spiritual affection to incarnate once more

in the same family group. Again we say that love beyond the grave, illusion

though you may call it, has a magic and divine potency which reacts on the

living. A mother's Ego filled with love for the imaginary children it sees

near itself, living a life of happiness, as real to it as when on earth-that

love will always be felt by the children in flesh. It will manifest in their

dreams, and often in various events-in providential protection and escape,

for love is a strong shield, and is not limited by space or time. As with

this Devachanic "mother," so with the rest of human relationships and

attachments, save the purely selfish or material. Analogy will suggest to

you the rest.

Q. In no case, then, do you admit the possibility of the communication of

the living with the disembodied spirit?

A. Yes, there is a case, and even two exceptions to the rule.

The first exception is during the few days that follow immediately the death

of a person and before the Ego passes into the Devachanic state. Whether any

living mortal, save a few exceptional cases has derived much benefit from

the return of the spirit into the objective plane is another question. The

spirit is dazed after death and falls very soon into what we call

"predevachanic unconsciousness." When the intensity of the desire in the

dying person to return for some purpose forced the higher consciousness to

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remain awake, and therefore it was really the individuality, the "Spirit"

that communicated.

The second exception is found in the Nirmanakayas.

Q. What about them? And what does the name mean for you?

A. It is the name given to those who, though they have won the right to

Nirvana and cyclic rest have out of pity for mankind and those they left on

earth renounced the Nirv ic state. This is not "Devachan," as the latter is

an illusion of our consciousness, a happy dream, and as those who are fit

for Nirvana must have lost entirely every desire or possibility of the

world's illusions.

Such an adept, or Saint, or whatever you may call him, believing it a

selfish act to rest in bliss while mankind groans under the burden of misery

produced by ignorance, renounces Nirvana, and determines to remain invisible

in spirit on this earth. They have no material body, as they have left it

behind; but otherwise they remain with all their principles even in astral

life in our sphere. And such can and do communicate with a few elect ones,

only surely not with ordinary mediums.

Q. I have put you the question about Nirmanakayas because I read in some

German and other works that it was the name given to the terrestrial

appearances or bodies assumed by Buddhas in the Northern Buddhist teachings.

A. So they are, only the Orientalists have confused this terrestrial body by

understanding it to be objective and physical instead of purely astral and


Q. And what good can they do on earth?

A. Not much, as regards individuals, as they have no right to interfere with

Karma, and can only advise and inspire mortals for the general good. Yet

they do more beneficent actions than you imagine.

Q. To this Science would never subscribe, not even modern psychology. For

them, no portion of intelligence can survive the physical brain. What would

you answer them?

A. I would not even go to the trouble of answering, but would simply say, in

the words given to "M.A. Oxon,"

Intelligence is perpetuated after the body is dead. Though it is not a

question of the brain only … It is reasonable to propound the

indestructibility of the human spirit from what we know.

Q. But "M.A. Oxon" is a Spiritualist?

A. Quite so, and the only true Spiritualist I know of, though we may still

disagree with him on many a minor question. Apart from this, no Spiritualist

comes nearer to the occult truths than he does. Like any one of us he speaks


… of the surface dangers that beset the ill-equipped, feather-headed muddler

with the occult, who crosses the threshold without counting the cost. Some

things that I do know of Spiritualism and some that I do not.

Our only disagreement rests in the question of "Spirit Identity." Otherwise,

I, for one, coincide almost entirely with him, and accept the three

propositions he embodied in his address of July, 1884. It is this eminent

Spiritualist, rather, who disagrees with us, not we with him.

Q. What are these propositions?

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A. They are:

1. That there is a life coincident with, and independent of the physical

life of the body.

2. That, as a necessary corollary, this life extends beyond the life of the

body. We say it extends throughout Devachan.

3. That there is communication between the denizens of that state of

existence and those of the world in which we now live.

All depend, you see, on the minor and secondary aspects of these fundamental

propositions. Everything depends on the views we take of Spirit and Soul, or

Individuality and Personality. Spiritualists confuse the two "into one." We

separate them, and say that, with the exceptions above enumerated, no Spirit

will revisit the earth, though the animal Soul may. But let us return once

more to our direct subject, the Skandhas.

Q. I begin to understand better now. It is the Spirit, so to say, of those

Skandhas which are the most ennobling, which, attaching themselves to the

incarnating Ego, survive, and are added to the stock of its angelic

experiences. And it is the attributes connected with the material Skandhas,

with selfish and personal motives. which, disappearing from the field of

action between two incarnations, reappear at the subsequent incarnation as

Karmic results to be atoned for; and therefore the Spirit will not leave

Devachan. Is it so?

A. Very nearly so. If you add to this that the law of retribution, or Karma,

rewarding the highest and most spiritual in Devachan, never fails to reward

them again on earth by giving them a further development, and furnishing the

Ego with a body fitted for it, then you will be quite correct.


Few Words About the Skandhas

Q. What becomes of the other, the lower Skandhas of the personality, after

the death of the body? Are they quite destroyed?

A. They are and yet they are not-a fresh metaphysical and occult mystery for

you. They are destroyed as the working stock in hand of the personality;

they remain as Karmic effects, as germs, hanging in the atmosphere of the

terrestrial plane, ready to come to life, as so many avenging fiends, to

attach themselves to the new personality of the Ego when it reincarnates.

Q. This really passes my comprehension, and is very difficult to understand.

A. Not once that you have assimilated all the details. For then you will see

that for logic, consistency, profound philosophy, divine mercy and equity,

this doctrine of Reincarnation has not its equal on earth. It is a belief in

a perpetual progress for each incarnating Ego, or divine soul, in an

evolution from the outward into the inward, from the material to the

Spiritual, arriving at the end of each stage at absolute unity with the

divine Principle. From strength to strength, from the beauty and perfection

of one plane to the greater beauty and perfection of another, with

accessions of new glory, of fresh knowledge and power in each cycle, such is

the destiny of every Ego, which thus becomes its own Savior in each world

and incarnation.

Q. But Christianity teaches the same. It also preaches progression.

A. Yes, only with the addition of something else. It tells us of the

impossibility of attaining Salvation without the aid of a miraculous Savior,

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and therefore dooms to perdition all those who will not accept the dogma.

This is just the difference between Christian theology and Theosophy. The

former enforces belief in the Descent of the Spiritual Ego into the Lower

Self; the latter inculcates the necessity of endeavoring to elevate oneself

to the Christos, or Buddhi state.

Q. By teaching the annihilation of consciousness in case of failure,

however, don't you think that it amounts to the annihilation of Self, a in

the opinion of the non-metaphysical?

A. From the standpoint of those who believe in the resurrection of the body

literally, and insist that every bone, every artery and atom of flesh will

be raised bodily on the Judgment Day-of course it does. If you still insist

that it is the perishable form and finite qualities that make up immortal

man, then we shall hardly understand each other. And if you do not

understand that, by limiting the existence of every Ego to one life on

earth, you make of Deity an ever-drunken Indra of the Pur ic dead letter, a

cruel Moloch, a god who makes an inextricable mess on Earth, and yet claims

thanks for it, then the sooner we drop the conversation the better.

Q. But let us return, now that the subject of the Skandhas is disposed of,

to the question of the consciousness which survives death. This is the point

which interests most people. Do we possess more knowledge in Devachan than

we do in earthlife?

A. In one sense, we can acquire more knowledge; that is, we can develop

further any faculty which we loved and strove after during life, provided it

is concerned with abstract and ideal things, such as music, painting,

poetry, etc., since Devachan is merely an idealized and subjective

continuation of earth-life.

Q. But if in Devachan the Spirit is free from matter, why should it not

possess all knowledge?

A. Because, as I told you, the Ego is, so to say, wedded to the memory of

its last incarnation. Thus, if you think over what I have said, and string

all the facts together, you will realize that the Devachanic state is not

one of omniscience, but a transcendental continuation of the personal life

just terminated. It is the rest of the soul from the toils of life.

Q. But the scientific materialists assert that after the death of man

nothing remains; that the human body simply disintegrates into its component

elements; and that what we call soul is merely a temporary

self-consciousness produced as a byproduct of organic action, which will

evaporate like steam. Is not theirs a strange state of mind?

A. Not strange at all, that I see. If they say that self-consciousness

ceases with the body, then in their case they simply utter an unconscious

prophecy, for once they are firmly convinced of what they assert, no

conscious after-life is possible for them. For there are exceptions to every



Postmortem and Postnatal Consciousness

Q. But if human self-consciousness survives death as a rule, why should

there be exceptions?

A. In the fundamental principles of the spiritual world no exception is

possible. But there are rules for those who see, and rules for those who

prefer to remain blind.

Q. Quite so, I understand. This is but an aberration of the blind man, who

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denies the existence of the sun because he does not see it. But after death

his spiritual eyes will certainly compel him to see. Is this what you mean?

A. He will not be compelled, nor will he see anything. Having persistently

denied during life the continuance of existence after death, he will be

unable to see it, because his spiritual capacity having been stunted in

life, it cannot develop after death, and he will remain blind. By insisting

that he must see it, you evidently mean one thing and I another. You speak

of the spirit from the spirit, or the flame from the flame-of Atma, in

short-and you confuse it with the human soul-Manas … You do not understand

me; let me try to make it clear. The whole gist of your question is to know

whether, in the case of a downright materialist, the complete loss of

self-consciousness and self-perception after death is possible? Isn't it so?

I answer, it is possible. Because, believing firmly in our Esoteric

Doctrine, which refers to the postmortem period, or the interval between two

lives or births, as merely a transitory state, I say, whether that interval

between two acts of the illusionary drama of life lasts one year or a

million, that postmortem state may, without any breach of the fundamental

law, prove to be just the same state as that of a man who is in a dead


Q. But since you have just said that the fundamental laws of the after-death

state admit of no exceptions, how can this be?

A. Nor do I say that it does admit of an exception. But the spiritual law of

continuity applies only to things which are truly real. To one who has read

and understood Mundakya Upanishad and Vedantasara all this becomes very

clear. I will say more: it is sufficient to understand what we mean by

Buddhi and the duality of Manas to gain a clear perception why the

materialist may fail to have a self-conscious survival after death. Since

Manas, in its lower aspect, is the seat of the terrestrial mind, it can,

therefore, give only that perception of the Universe which is based on the

evidence of that mind; it cannot give spiritual vision. It is said in the

Eastern school, that between Buddhi and Manas (the Ego), or Isvara and

Prajña *1) there is in reality no more difference than between a forest and

its trees, a lake and its waters, as the Mundakya teaches. One or hundreds

of trees dead from loss of vitality, or uprooted, are yet incapable of

preventing the forest from being still a forest.

1. But, as I understand it, Buddhi represents in this simile the forest,

and Manas-Taijasi *2) the trees. And if Buddhi is immortal, how can

that which is similar to it, i.e., Manas-Taijasi , entirely lose its

consciousness till the day of its new incarnation? I cannot understand


*1) Isvara is the collective consciousness of the manifested godhead,

Brahma, i.e. the collective consciousness of the host of Dhyan Chohans (see

Secret Doctrine); Prajña is their individual wisdom.

*2) Taijasi means the 'radiant', as a consequence of its union with Buddhi,

i.e. Manas, the human soul, enlightened by the rays of the divine soul.

Hence Manas-Taijasi can be described as radiant intellect, the human reason

enlightened by the light of the spirit; and Buddhi-Manas is the revelation

of the divine plus the human intellect and self-consciousness.

(These two footnotes reversely translated from Dutch.[ editor])

A. You cannot, because you will mix up an abstract representation of the

whole with its casual changes of form. Remember that if it can be said of

Buddhi-Manas that it is unconditionally immortal, the same cannot be said of

the lower Manas, still less of Taijasi , which is merely an attribute.

Neither of these, neither Manas nor Taijasi , can exist apart from Buddhi,

the divine soul, because the first (Manas) is, in its lower aspect, a

quality of the terrestrial personality, and the second (Taijasi ) is

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identical with the first, because it is the same Manas only with the light

of Buddhi reflected on it. In its turn, Buddhi would remain only an

impersonal spirit without this element which it borrows from the human soul,

which conditions and makes of it, in this illusive Universe, as it were

something separate from the universal soul for the whole period of the cycle

of incarnation. Say rather that Buddhi-Manas can neither die nor lose its

compound self-consciousness in Eternity, nor the recollection of its

previous incarnations in which the two-i.e., the spiritual and the human

soul-had been closely linked together. But it is not so in the case of a

materialist, whose human soul not only receives nothing from the divine

soul, but even refuses to recognize its existence. You can hardly apply this

axiom to the attributes and qualities of the human soul, for it would be

like saying that because your divine soul is immortal, therefore the bloom

on your cheek must also be immortal; whereas this bloom, like Taijasi , is

simply a transitory phenomenon.

Q. Do I understand you to say that we must not mix in our minds the noumenon

with the phenomenon, the cause with its effect?

A. I do say so, and repeat that, limited to Manas or the human soul alone,

the radiance of Taijas itself becomes a mere question of time; because both

immortality and consciousness after death become, for the terrestrial

personality of man, simply conditioned attributes, as they depend entirely

on conditions and beliefs created by the human soul itself during the life

of its body. Karma acts incessantly: we reap in our after-life only the

fruit of that which we have ourselves sown in this.

Q. But if my Ego can, after the destruction of my body, become plunged in a

state of entire unconsciousness, then where can be the punishment for the

sins of my past life?

A. Our philosophy teaches that Karmic punishment reaches the Ego only in its

next incarnation. After death it receives only the reward for the unmerited

sufferings endured during its past incarnation.

(Some Theosophists have taken exception to this phrase, but the words are

those of Master, and the meaning attached to the word unmerited is that

given above. In the T.P.S. pamphlet No. 6, a phrase, criticized subsequently

in Lucifer, was used which was intended to convey the same idea. In form,

however, it was awkward and open to the criticism directed against it; but

the essential idea was that men often suffer from the effects of the actions

done by others, effects which thus do not strictly belong to their own

Karma-and for these sufferings they of course deserve compensation.)

The whole punishment after death, even for the materialist, consists,

therefore, in the absence of any reward, and the utter loss of the

consciousness of one's bliss and rest. Karma is the child of the terrestrial

Ego, the fruit of the actions of the tree which is the objective personality

visible to all, as much as the fruit of all the thoughts and even motives of

the spiritual "I"; but Karma is also the tender mother, who heals the wounds

inflicted by her during the preceding life, before she will begin to torture

this Ego by inflicting upon him new ones. If it may be said that there is

not a mental or physical suffering in the life of a mortal which is not the

direct fruit and consequence of some sin in a preceding existence; on the

other hand, since he does not preserve the slightest recollection of it in

his actual life, and feels himself not deserving of such punishment, and

therefore thinks he suffers for no guilt of his own, this alone is

sufficient to entitle the human soul to the fullest consolation, rest, and

bliss in his postmortem existence. Death comes to our spiritual selves ever

as a deliverer and friend. For the materialist who, notwithstanding his

materialism, was not a bad man, the interval between the two lives will be

like the unbroken and placid sleep of a child, either entirely dreamless, or

filled with pictures of which he will have no definite perception; while for

the average mortal it will be a dream as vivid as life, and full of

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realistic bliss and visions.

Q. Then the personal man must always go on suffering blindly the Karmic

penalties which the Ego has incurred?

A. Not quite so. At the solemn moment of death every man, even when death is

sudden, sees the whole of his past life marshaled before him, in its

minutest details. For one short instant the personal becomes one with the

individual and all-knowing Ego. But this instant is enough to show to him

the whole chain of causes which have been at work during his life. He sees

and now understands himself as he is, unadorned by flattery or

self-deception. He reads his life, remaining as a spectator looking down

into the arena he is quitting; he feels and knows the justice of all the

suffering that has overtaken him.

Q. Does this happen to everyone?

A. Without any exception. Very good and holy men see, we are taught, not

only the life they are leaving, but even several preceding lives in which

were produced the causes that made them what they were in the life just

closing. They recognize the law of Karma in all its majesty and justice.

Q. Is there anything corresponding to this before rebirth?

A. There is. As the man at the moment of death has a retrospective insight

into the life he has led, so, at the moment he is reborn onto earth, the

Ego, awaking from the state of Devachan, has a prospective vision of the

life which awaits him, and realizes all the causes that have led to it. He

realizes them and sees futurity, because it is between Devachan and rebirth

that the Ego regains his full manasic consciousness, and rebecomes for a

short time the god he was, before, in compliance with Karmic law, he first

descended into matter and incarnated in the first man of flesh. The "golden

thread" sees all its "pearls" and misses not one of them.


is Really Meant by Annihilation

Q. I have heard some Theosophists speak of a golden thread on which their

lives were strung. What do they mean by this?

A. In the Hindu Sacred books it is said that the part of us which undergoes

periodical incarnation is the Sutratman, which means literally the "Thread

Soul." It is a synonym of the reincarnating Ego-Manas conjoined with

Buddhi-which absorbs the Manasic recollections of all our preceding lives.

It is so called, because, like the pearls on a thread, so is the long series

of human lives strung together on that one thread. In some Upanishad these

recurrent rebirths are likened to the life of a mortal which oscillates

periodically between sleep and waking.

Q. This, I must say, does not seem very clear, and I will tell you why. For

the man who awakes, another day commences, but that man is the same in soul

and body as he was the day before; whereas at every incarnation a full

change takes place not only of the external envelope, sex, and personality,

but even of the mental and psychic capacities. The simile does not seem to

me quite correct. The man who arises from sleep remembers quite clearly what

he has done yesterday, the day before, and even months and years ago. But

none of us has the slightest recollection of a preceding life or of any fact

or event concerning it … I may forget in the morning what I have dreamt

during the night, still I know that I have slept and have the certainty that

I lived during sleep; but what recollection can I have of my past

incarnation until the moment of death? How do you reconcile this?

A. Some people do recollect their past incarnations during life; but these

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are Buddhas and Initiates. This is what the Yogis call Samm -Sambuddha, or

the knowledge of the whole series of one's past incarnations.

Q. But we ordinary mortals who have not reached Samm -Sambuddha, how are we

to understand this simile?

A. By studying it and trying to understand more correctly the

characteristics and the three kinds of sleep. Sleep is a general and

immutable law for man as for beast, but there are different kinds of sleep

and still more different dreams and visions.

Q. But this takes us to another subject. Let us return to the materialist

who, while not denying dreams, which he could hardly do, yet denies

immortality in general and the survival of his own individuality.

A. And the materialist, without knowing it, is right. One who has no inner

perception of, and faith in, the immortality of his soul, in that man the

soul can never become Buddhi-Taijasi , but will remain simply Manas, and for

Manas alone there is no immortality possible. In order to live in the world

to come a conscious life, one has to believe first of all in that life

during the terrestrial existence. On these two aphorisms of the Secret

Science all the philosophy about the postmortem consciousness and the

immortality of the soul is built. The Ego receives always according to its

deserts. After the dissolution of the body, there commences for it a period