The Physical and the Spiritual Man     

(To help us understand the post mortem states HPB looks in greater detail at the seven principles.  If you are not familiar with these it might be helpful to look back on our previous section - 'Theosophical Teachings as to the Nature of Man Part Four'.  The table of the seven principles can be found on pp91-92 of The Key to Theosophy.  Peter.)

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

THEOSOPHIST. Not of "the Soul," but of the divine Spirit; or rather in the immortality of the re-incarnating Ego.

ENQUIRER. What is the difference?

THEOSOPHIST. A very great one in our philosophy, but this is too abstruse and difficult a question to touch lightly upon. We shall have to analyse them separately, and then in conjunction. We may begin with Spirit.

   We say that the Spirit (the "Father in secret" of Jesus), or Atman, 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.†

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*In its generic sense, the word "rational" meaning something emanating from the Eternal Wisdom.

† Irrational in the sense that as a pure emanation of the Universal mind it can have no individual reason of its own on this plane of matter, but like the Moon, who borrows her light from the Sun and her life from the Earth, so Buddhi, receiving its light of Wisdom from Atma, gets its rational qualities from Manas. Per se, as something homogeneous, it is devoid of attributes.

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ENQUIRER. I laboured under the impression that the "Animal Soul" alone was irrational, not the Divine.

THEOSOPHIST. 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."

ENQUIRER. 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 mediaeval Kabalists, though they do agree in some particulars.

THEOSOPHIST. 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 Kabalists 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 Kabalists still maintain the same, as they are unable to break quite loose from their anthropomorphic and Biblical doctrines.

ENQUIRER. And what do you say?

THEOSOPHIST. 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.

The Key to Theosophy pp101-104

You can study the complete section on line at http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/key/key-7.htm 

Comments, reflections, questions are all welcome.

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There are a number of elements in the above passage that we might look at and explore.  Here are just a few of them to get us started:

-  What does it mean that Atma (the Divine Essense) does not exist and yet is?

-  HPB says that both the spiritual soul (buddhi) and the animal soul (kama) are “irrational”, how should we understand this? 

-   HPB states:  ‘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.”’   What, then, is a principle?  What is it that brings about the correlation of spiritual powers as well as a correlation of chemical and physical forces?

 ‘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.’ (page 103)    If the personality and the individual Ego are both entities, what distinguishes one from the other?  How does one kind of entity have the attribute of immortality while the other doesn't?

By all means, feel free to bring other points or questions to light that you feel are important or just feel curious about.

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Thanks Peter. Looking forward to the study again here. :)

I'm quite interested in your first question. So want to throw out a few thoughts/quotes on that.

There's a wonderful statement in the SD that has always stuck with me. It is:

"The idea that things can cease to exist and still BE, is a fundamental one in Eastern psychology. Under this apparent contradiction in terms, there rests a fact of Nature to realise which in the mind, rather than to argue about words, is the important thing." (SD I:54)

In the SD, HPB talks about both "space" and the "one life" as self-existent. And talks of "pre-existing material" before manvantara. She also refers to Moksha or Nirvana as "the bliss of non-existence" (SD I:38), and that "everything that exists has only a relative, not an absolute, reality." (SD I:38)

There seems to be two places in the SD where this idea is really explored, first in the proem, and then later in around pages 38-55 etc. in the first volume.

"Parabrahm (the One Reality, the Absolute) is the field of Absolute Consciousness, i.e., that Essence which is out of all relation to conditioned existence, and of which conscious existence is a conditioned symbol. But once that we pass in thought from this (to us) Absolute Negation, duality supervenes in the contrast of Spirit (or consciousness) and Matter, Subject and Object.  . . . Hence it will be apparent that the contrast of these two aspects of the Absolute is essential to the existence of the "Manifested Universe." . . . The "Manifested Universe," therefore, is pervaded by duality, which is, as it were, the very essence of its EX-istence as "manifestation."" (SD I:15)

"A noumenon can become a phenomenon on any plane of existence only by manifesting on that plane through an appropriate basis or vehicle; and during the long night of rest called Pralaya, when all the existences are dissolved, the "UNIVERSAL MIND" remains as a permanent possibility of mental action, or as that abstract absolute thought, of which mind is the concrete relative manifestation." (SD I:38)

"By "that which is and yet is not" is meant the Great Breath itself, which we can only speak of as absolute existence, but cannot picture to our imagination as any form of existence that we can distinguish from Non-existence." . . . "The Past time is the Present time, as also the Future, which, though it has not come into existence, still is"; according to a precept in the Prasanga Madhyamika teaching..." (SD I:43)

""The Causes of Existence" mean not only the physical causes known to science, but the metaphysical causes, the chief of which is the desire to exist, an outcome of Nidana and Maya. This desire for a sentient life shows itself in everything, from an atom to a sun, and is a reflection of the Divine Thought propelled into objective existence, into a law that the Universe should exist. According to esoteric teaching, the real cause of that supposed desire, and of all existence, remains for ever hidden, and its first emanations are the most complete abstractions mind can conceive." (SD I:44)

So we seem to have a line drawn between that which "exists" and the neumena that causes it. There is "material", "consciousness" and even "desire" prior to existence. And existence is said to be founded on the duality of spirit and matter. So it seems, in a way, that we're talking about the distinction between "cosmic" subjective and objective, unmanifest and manifest, arupa and rupa, etc..

As an illustration, I suppose we could say that the chair I am sitting on exists. If I utterly destroy that chair (and all other chairs in all of existence) then it (and they) cease to exist. There is then "no chair". But this does nothing to effect the idea and potentiality of "chair". Destroying all chairs cannot destroy the possibility that another chair will someday exist. So when someone finally constructs another chair, somewhere, they are simply bringing "chair" back into existence—a sort of "individualized" (and imperfect) example or expression of the universal archtype "chair".

Thoughts?

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Jon, that’s a fine post which has a distinctly Platonic note to it towards the end.   Since HPB states the theosophical doctrines are in agreement with the Neo-Platonic doctrines it might be pertinent to share from Plotinus, who is often referred to as the founder of Neo-Platonism.  Plotinus felt he was explaining the true doctrines of Plato which were partly revealed and partly concealed in his (Plato’s) writings and oral teaching.  Plotinus put forward the view of the three hypostases.

The Good  (the Absolute, the Infinite, the Unconditioned).

The Intellectual Principle or Nous (the Divine Mind, Divine Intelligence, the Intelligible).

The Soul (the Universal Soul, the All Soul).

We could call the Intellectual Principle Spirit.  Here is the realm of the Forms, the Ideas, the Archetypes of all that manifests via the hypostases of Soul in sensible matter.  This is also called the realm of Authentic Existence or true Being as the Ideas or Forms are the real essences of all that we experience in the world of appearances - the realm of the senses. 

From the third hypostases, the Soul or All Soul, comes the soul of everything, whether it be the World Soul or the Individual Soul.  For Plotinus, the upper reaches of the Soul are one with Nous while its lower reaches, so to speak are coupled with Matter.  This couplement, made up of Soul and Matter is called by Plotinus ‘the Animate’ which is made up of the fleshy appetites and desires.   Between ‘the Animate’ and that highest part of the Soul which is almost at one with Nous is the reasoning soul, the discursive intellect (diannoia), which is not to be confused with the Intellectual Principle or Nous.   It is the rational mind working in conjunction with the senses.   So, we might see a similarity between Soul as described by Plotinus and Manas as defined by Theosophy, particularly in its choice to reach upwards to Nous or gravitate downwards to the appetitive nature (kama).

The hypostases of All Soul is the One Life and an emanation of Nous.

I said that in Plotinus’ system the Intellectual Principle or Nous is the realm of true Being, Authentic Existence.  The Good is That which underpins the realm of true Being but which, philosophically, cannot be considered as Being or Existing.  The Good is not a thing or entity which exists but rather That which makes the Being of all truly existent things possible.  Speaking of the Absolute in the SD, HPB refers to it as Be-ness rather than Being - the essence from which Being arises.   In Plotinus’ system we might think of it as follows.

Be-ness  (unrelated to both Time and Space)

Being  (Timeless and non-differentiated space)

Becoming.  (Time and differentiated space)

Be-ness is ‘The Good’ or Absolute;  Being is the Intellectual Principle (Nous); Becoming is the Divine Mind projected through the All Soul onto or into sensible matter.  Not that the Divine Mind is part of the becoming for it is already perfect, out of time, and rests always in its own nature.   An analogy would be that of the Sun who presence is the cause of all the becoming on the earth while itself remaining unchanged by that becoming.

There are similarities and some differences between Theosophy and Plotinus' system and I'm not suggesting we study Plotinus, but his system might provide us with ways to understand theosophical concepts.

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Thanks Peter. Much to absorb there. I'm still very much a beginner in Platonic philosophy, so these insights are helpful.

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  HPB says that both the spiritual soul (buddhi) and the animal soul (kama) are “irrational”, how should we understand this?

This one came up at one of our study classes in Ventura. What we came up with is the idea that both Buddhi and animal soul lie outside the domain of manas and therefore not rational, not manasic.  The term HPB uses here throws us off (irrational) because it bears a negative connotation in conventional speech.  But in philosophical language it merely means not of the world of rational thought.  Buddhi functions above the level of manas and therefore is "irrational", think trans-rational.

That made the most sense in our group at least.

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Yes, that does makes sense, Gerry.  Interestingly, it begs the further question with regards to the human being whether there is such a thing as Higher Manas that doesn't include Buddhi?

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This is a great question.  We are told that there is no definitive line where Buddhi leaves off and manas starts up because ultimately consciousness is one and in some higher sense cannot be divided.   But perhaps the pace of perception might be one determining factor in this distinction.  To arrive at the truth, or correctness lets say requires a series of logical steps and questions for the clear thinking manas.  These steps clear the way so to speak to reveal more and more.  Buddhi, presumably is closer to reality and looks upon it more directly with less intermediate steps.

Plato's Divided Line is helpful here: Noesis would stand for Buddhi here, Dianoia  Manas

The gap between Knowing, knower  and  known shrinks as you move up the pyramid suggesting more direct cognition.

 

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 ‘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.’ (page 103)    If the personality and the individual Ego are both entities, what distinguishes one from the other?  How does one kind of entity have the attribute of immortality while the other doesn't?

Would the roles an actor plays serve as a good analogy here?

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Yes, it could well do, Gerry. I wonder what other people think about this?   I guess my original question is, 'what is it that makes one kind of entity immortal and another mortal?'  What's going on in the make up and constitution of those entities that has such a profound difference between the two?

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One way of deciphering Immortality from mortality is  by knowing which are the principles that reincarnate.   Aside from Atma - Buddi being a part of the Universal Spirit that is Eternal, it is the Manas Ego which reincarnates, sometimes this is also called the reincarnating Ego.  The lower  quarternary, kama, prana, linga- sarira, and sthula-sarira are mortal components and they do not reincarnate.

 

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Question: If the personality and the individual Ego are both entities, what distinguishes one from the other?  How does one kind of entity have the attribute of immortality while the other doesn't?

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I’ve not asked this previous question very clearly - apologies.  I think what we might need to bear in mind when looking at the seven principles is that they are all aspects of the ONE, they are not really seven different and separate things.  If this is the case we might ask ‘what makes some aspects of this One Element immortal while others are deemed to be mortal?’  Is the lower quaternary mortal only in its compound nature while the elements which constitute it are immortal in essence?   Hence at the end of life time, the compound form breaks up while the elements which constitute it are enduring?  

What, then, of the higher principles Atma-Buddhi-Manas?  Are they immortal because they are uncompounded? Are uncompounded? Are they One or Three, One and Three, Three in One, One in Three & so on?  If the higher triad is a compound does that mean it can’t be immortal as a triad, for the nature of a compound entity is that it only persists as an entity for as along as the elements which constitute it hold together.   Or, are there different theosophical definitions of the term 'immortal' one of which meaning, ‘lasts the length of a manvanatara’ but no longer.   Yet we are taught that it is the same Monad which emerges again after the Mahapralaya or Paranirvana.  

These are questions that might have a bearing on post mortem states, on what is destroyed and what remains - and why.

Here is a passage from HPB on the One Element:

. . the Occultists recognize but One Element which they divide into seven parts, which include the five exoteric elements and the two esoteric ones of the ancients. As to that Element, they call it, indifferently, matter or spirit, claiming that as matter is infinite and indestructible and Spirit likewise, and as there cannot exist in the infinite Universe two omnipresent Eternal elements, any more than two Indestructibles or Infinites can exist—hence Matter and Spirit must be one. “All is Spirit and all is Matter,” they say: Purusha Prakriti are inseparable and the one cannot exist without the other.  (Collected Writings, V 52)

Following this line of inquiry we might also ask, if both Spirit and Matter are infinite and indestructible why is it that certain thoughts, feelings and aspirations are worthy of being assimilated by the “immortal ego” while others are not?   Is it to do with the substance, the intention, the state of consciousness?  Has it something to do with the quality of the self-reflective consciousness which underpins the substance, intention and state?  What would such a quality be, if that were the case?

Here are a couple of passages from The Mahatma Letters:

". . . you will have to bear in mind (a) that we recognise but one element in Nature (whether spiritual or physical) outside which there can be no Nature since it is Nature itself, and which as the Akasa pervades our solar system every atom being part of itself pervades throughout space and is space in fact, which pulsates as in profound sleep during the pralayas and the universal Proteus, the ever active Nature during the Manwantaras; (b) that consequently spirit and matter are one, being but a differentiation of states not essences . ."  (Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett no. XI - Barker edition)

". . there is but one element and it is impossible to comprehend our system before a correct conception of it is firmly fixed in one's mind."  (ML no. XV - Barker edition)

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The phrase HPB uses in reference to the Monad, Ego, Immortal Soul is " a ray of universal consciousness".  This expression could be connected to the notion that Man is the Microcosm of the Microcosm.  So when you say Entity, it is an entity of a higher order than the  clothes of the actor or the role of the actor (personality metaphor).  This business of a monadic entity has a shelf life of at least a manvanatara which from the standpoint of the personal, in-the-world, consciousness might as well be forever it is so vast.  Hence "Immortality" is not too far off, since what is real does not "die" anyhow.. If I understand the teachings correctly, it is only when we cast off identification with a separate, personal, in the world self and identify with the Whole, then and only then will the full flowering of the Monadic Entity which is a our Immortal Self come forth.  

the Voice says, " 1. Give up the life of physical personality if you would live in spirit." p.6

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Permalink Reply by Peter on September 9, 2013 at 6:39am
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Would any one like to have a go at this earlier question?

-   HPB states:  ‘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.”’   What, then, is a principle?  What is it that brings about the correlation of spiritual powers as well as a correlation of chemical and physical forces? 

Permalink Reply by barbaram on September 9, 2013 at 9:28pm
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The definition of principle in the Theosophical Glossary is "the Elements or original essences, the basic differentiations upon and of which all things are built up.  We use the term to denote the seven individual and fundamental aspects of the One Universal Reality in Kosmos and in man.  Hence also the seven aspects in their manifestation in the human being - divine, spiritual, psychic, astral, physiological and simply physical."

Another reminder of the One Life is the relationship between the seven principles (microcosm man) with the Macrocosm.  The septenary division is separated into three Principles and four vehicles; the former is related to the spiritual powers and the latter is the chemical, physical forces.    The seven components forming the Cosmos are -

7. Paramatman

6. Alaya

5. Mahat

4. Cosmic Kama

3. Cosmic Jiva

2. Astral Light

1. Sthula-sarira

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 12, 2013 at 9:54am
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That’s an interesting passage, Barbara.  Thanks.  One moment we are talking about seven principles and then here we are told there are just three principles with their four vehicles.  In other places HPB divides up the number of principles and aspects differently again.  So your post is also a reminder that we need to be cautious not to set our understanding of the ‘seven’ principles in stone.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 11, 2013 at 1:07pm
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And what does it mean to say that the forces "correlate"?

Permalink Reply by Casady on October 20, 2013 at 9:49am
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''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,..."

In this metaphysical point of discussion, HPB relates it to Neo-Platonist doctrine - in this case, I think that she's mainly referring to Plotinus, as it is a concept that is usually considered to be distinctively Plotinian,  see Ennead 4.8 - on the Descent of the Soul into Bodies:

http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2012/2012-11-23.html

The Physical and Spiritual Man (continued…)   

(Towards the end of our previous study section HPB refers to the fate of those personalities whose life of evil results in a complete break between the personal consciousness and the spiritual Ego - the true individuality. There is no devachanic experience for the personal consciousness in these cases and the spiritual Ego enjoys “for a short time its freedom as a planetary spirit” before almost immediate reincarnation.  The enquirer asks about the nature of such planetary spirits.)

ENQUIRER. 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.

THEOSOPHIST. 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 re-become men on this one. Yet all these will live again in the next and far higher Mahamanvantara, 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?

ENQUIRER. Yes; but this specialisation has been in all ages the stumbling-block of metaphysicians.

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

ENQUIRER. If the “Spirit,” or the divine portion of the soul, is pre-existent as a distinct being from all eternity, as Origen, Synesius, and other semi-Christians and semi-Platonic philosophers taught, and if it is the same, and nothing more than the metaphysically-objective soul, how can it be otherwise than eternal? And what matters it in such a case, whether man leads a pure life or an animal, if, do what he may, he can never lose his individuality?

THEOSOPHIST. This doctrine, as you have stated it, is just as pernicious in its consequences as that of vicarious atonement. Had the latter dogma, in company with the false idea that we are all immortal, been demonstrated to the world in its true light, humanity would have been bettered by its propagation.

   Let me repeat to you again. Pythagoras, Plato, Timæus 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, Æther (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 re-incarnating Spiritual Ego, and Buddhi, the Spiritual soul, are pre-existent. But, while the former exists as a distinct entity, an individualization, the soul exists as pre-existing breath, an unscient portion of an intelligent whole. Both were originally formed from the Eternal Ocean of light; but as the Fire- Philosophers, the mediaeval 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 without.

The Key to Theosophy pp104-106

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Please share any questions you may have no matter how simple or basic they may appear - these are often the most fruitful.    Any other thoughts, comments or reflections are very welcome.

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"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."

Would anyone like to share some thoughts as to what HPB means by the above?  

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To me it hinges on the idea of "continuity of consciousness". I think a very common interpretation of "immortality" is "living forever in the same form, as the same personality", whether that form be "physical" or "spiritual", but I don't think this is in-line with eastern teachings or that of theosophy. It seems to me that one who is fully identified with the SELF, would maintain that "sense of self" regardless of which vehicle they were currently operating in, a little like an actor playing many roles, but never really losing themselves through the process.

Reminds me of the way Krishna self-identifies in the Gita, verses how Arjuna self-identifies. Arjuna imagines himself to be only that individual, only Arjuna. But Krishna tells him that while Arjuna doesn't remember his past births, Krishna does, and says that he (Krishna) was there in the beginning. Krishna is fully identified as the SELF, not as the individual prince of dwarka.

So, to me, immortality is less about the vehicles used and more about the continuance of consciousness / self-identification throughout all changes of vehicle/plane/personality/etc.. If one could maintain the same fully-conscious sense of self throughout the full waking/sleeping cycle that would seem to be a start in the direction towards immortality.

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'Continuity of consciousness' is a good phrase, Jon.  What do other people think?  

We would also need to ask, 'what exactly is entailed in identifying with the Self?' Is it just a decision we make, the result of following certain practices & so on?  Also - who is it that does the identifying or fails to do it?

Why is the devachanic experience important?  HPB's brief mention of it appears to be in order to show that something is lost to the spiritual Ego if there is nothing that thepersonality-that-was can take into devachan after death.    What might that be and why is it important?

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We have the expression, "we are now living our immortal lives."  So I think the challenge is to bring the immortal perspective into the moral life.  How might that change our outlook about things?

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"...to bring the immortal perspective into the moral life."

What a profound injunction, Gerry. Thank you.  Would you mind offering an example of what that might entail?  

What would  bringing the immortal perspective into the moral life mean for the devachanic experience that HPB refers to?  I asking the group to look at this because this section of The Key is focusing on post mortem states.

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It was a profundity  born of an accident.  I meant to say "bringing the immortal perspective into the mortal (not moral) life. In short it means placing our focus on what really matters to the immortal soul (character, wisdom, compassion, altruism) into the mortal every day life.rather than "getting and spending".All of which we cannot take with us as we move from life to life.

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I preferred the 'accident'.  :-)

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OK fair enough. Many wonderful music inventions are sublime accidents.  So then I must turn it around since you are the one who sees profundity in the statement.   What does it mean to you?

The earlier point had to do with with bringing immortal considerations into the mortal realm.  So you like the idea of bringing the immortal into the moral realm. Interesting.  I am beginning to get a glimpse of what you see in this.

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Gerry, it's not that I "like the idea".  Your first statement just seemed to go straight to the heart of the issue.  It is our moral life, more than anything else, which needs uplifting for it is from there that we choose either to help others or help ourselves.

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I see your point on this.  Wonderful. It comes down to choice.

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Towards the end of our previous study section HPB refers to the fate of those personalities whose life of evil results in a complete break between the personal consciousness and the spiritual Ego - the true individuality. There is no devachanic experience for the personal consciousness in these cases and the spiritual Ego enjoys “for a short time its freedom as a planetary spirit” before almost immediate reincarnation.  HPB continues in this study section by saying that some classes of planetary spirits have already been 'men' in previous manvantaras.  The suggestion appears to be that among the classes of planetary spirits (dhyan-chohans) some have yet to become 'mankind' in some future manvantara, some are undergoing this phase of (human) evolution in this manvatara (i.e. our spiritual egos), while others have already passed through this stage and are the "liberated Spirits".  Any comments on this view?  Does it help us towards an understanding of role of devachanic experience, for example? 

Any other thoughts or questions on these passages?

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Would you mind giving a brief explanation of what devachan is?

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 19, 2013 at 3:34pm
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It's an important question, Gerry, and HPB has touched on the subject of Devachan a number of times in our study of the seven principles. My hope is that the long standing students here, of which you are one, will share their own understanding and clarify some of these topics as we go along.  The more voices sharing their understand the better, in my view.

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 20, 2013 at 5:53am
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HPB doesn’t really discuss devachan - which is a state and not a place - until section 9 of The Key; we are in section 7. Yet right at the outset of the discussion of the septenary nature of Man (section 6) she brings it in as something important for us to note. For example, when laying out the table of the seven principles for the first time, she states:

“The future state and the Karmic destiny of Man depend on whether Manas gravitates more downward to Kama rupa, the seat of the animal passions, or upwards to Buddhi, the Spiritual Ego. In the latter 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.” (Key to Theosophy, p92.)

Members can view this table in our earlier study section -http://theosophynexus.com/group/key-to-theosophy/forum/topics/theos...

In our previous study section HPB makes a point of saying that unless the personal ego (the lower Manas) effects a union with the higher or spiritual Ego during the lifetime of the person then it is entirely annihilated after death. In this case the spiritual Ego loses the devachanic state. This is so because there are no Spiritual aspirations generated by the personal consciousness capable of a) assimilating Buddhi and b) being absorbed by Buddhi.  (We should note the two way process mentioned here.)

For the vast majority of human beings the post mortem process with its succession of states is undergone unconsciously and the devachanic state is a spiritual, yet still illusory, bliss. The initiate has to go through these consciously, minus the illusion, while still incarnated -  as the Mahatma M. Explains:

“[the Individuality], to run successfully its seven-fold downward and upward course has to assimilate to itself the eternal life-power residing but in the seventh and then blend the three (fourth, fifth and seventh) into one -- the sixth. Those who succeed in doing so become Buddhs, Dyan Chohans, etc. The chief object of our struggles and initiations is to achieve this union while yet on this earth.” (Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, no. 13)

If devachan is a sort-of culmination of the spiritual aspiration of the personality that was, what might be it’s deeper purpose, if any? Perhaps HPB’s explanation in the following passage affords a clue?

‘“Buddhi” per se can have neither self-consciousness nor mind; viz., the sixth principle in man can preserve an essence of personal self-consciousness or “personal individuality” only by absorbing within itself its own waters, which have run through that finite faculty..’ (“The Septenary Principle in Esotericism”, in Collected Writings, vol 4. p581)

Paradoxically, there may be many a clue as to the art of living in these, sometimes dry, descriptions of the seven principles and the post mortem states.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on September 20, 2013 at 8:28pm
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Hi Peter:

 "devachan - which is a state and not a place"

In H. P. Blavatsky’s Talks With Students, she describes devachan as a state or a dream.

Mme. Blavatsky: It is a dream—the most vivid, so vivid that even in this life there are dreams that sometimes you awaken and are not sure whether it was reality or not. You just imagine yourself a dream as vivid as life.

"In our previous study section HPB makes a point of saying that unless the personal ego (the lower Manas) effects a union with the higher or spiritual Ego during the lifetime of the person then it is entirely annihilated after death. In this case the spiritual Ego loses the devachanic state. This is so because there are no Spiritual aspirations generated by the personal consciousness capable of a) assimilating Buddhi and b) being absorbed by Buddhi.  (We should note the two way process mentioned here.)"

I really do not understand the above paragraph -

What is annihilated after death?  Is it the spiritual Ego goes into the devachanic state?  What does assimilation of buddhi have to do with devachan?

Thank you.

 

 

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 21, 2013 at 4:09am
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Great questions, Barbara.  I only have time for a brief reply today - more tomorrow.  Hopefully other members will share their thoughts as well.  These are just my thoughts and subject to correction and improvement.

“What is annihilated after death?”

HPB says the personality of an evil person beyond redemption has nothing in it which can attach to the spiritual ego after death.  Hence when it is dissolved back into its elements in kama loka it is effectively annililated as a form of personal consciousness.    HPB and the Mahatmas say that such an occurrence is very rare.  In other words the majority of people have some element of the personal consciousness, even though perhaps very small, that is pure enough to go into devachan.

There are a number of stages in the after death process which we have yet to explore, one of which is  ‘the gestation state’ in which the spiritual component of the personality-that-was is assimilated by the spiritual Ego and which then goes to form the ‘idealised Ego’ that goes into devachan.  The transition from the gestation state to devachan is sometimes described as the butterfly developing in the chrysalis.  

We will look at all this in more detail as we go along and I don’t want us to get too far ahead of ourselves - which isn’t easy, of course!  At this stage of The Key HPB is seeking to get us to appreciate the general distinction between the two types of soul/ego, i.e., the spiritual soul/Ego (the Individuality) and the animal soul/ego (the Personality).  Without this general yet crucial understanding of the two types of Soul HPB believes we won’t properly understanding such topics as the after death states, devachan, reincarnation, what/who reincarnates, karma etc etc. 

“Is it the spiritual Ego goes into the devachanic state?”

It is the ‘idealised form’ of the personal consciousness derived from the incarnation just completed that goes into the devachanic state. (i.e. only that personal consciousness which is pure enough once separated from the grosser components of the personality-that-was).  Hence HPB’s statement on p92  “…the higher consciousness of the individual Spiritual aspirations ofmind (Manas), assimilating Buddhi, are absorbed by it and form the Ego,which goes into Devachanic bliss.”

“What does assimilation of buddhi have to do with devachan?”

A lovely question.  Let’s see if anyone can throw any light on this statement by HPB.

More later.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 21, 2013 at 2:14pm
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This is great Peter. Thanks.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 21, 2013 at 1:49pm
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I'd like to take a shot at posing some answer to these questions, though I'm unsure how correct the following ideas may be.

Damodar seems to touch on the first sentence in the paragraph above in aletter to WQJ. In it he approaches the question of Nirvana and Individuality, and says:

"And here I must state I believe that a man can attain Nirvana only in thislife and no other. If I do not go to Nirvana some time after death, where do I go in the end, you will naturally ask? My reply is that if I do not keep up my Individuality, I lose it. My Ego remains; but my Individuality is lost. I lose that something which at present furnishes to me the consciousness that I am Damodar, that I exist as such. My Spiritual Soul or Ego if pure and good may be etherealised and reach Nirvana state but it will no longer be the Individuality of Damodar that will attain that state. Therefore I must keep up that Individuality until I reach Nirvana state."

So we see here that it is the identification of individuality, the self-identification or "personal ego" that is annihilated after death (or, rather, might we say it is disintegrated slowly in kama-loka, as the kama-rupa?).

I would suppose that if the life lived was so entirely materialistic (i.e. so entirely void of anything spiritual, aspirational, etc., and/or in complete denial of there even being anything divine or spiritual in man) that this would mean that the Ego would have nothing, or next-to-nothing "usable" from that life, nothing to incorporate into its own character (or in other words: nothing from "higher manas" to assimilate into "buddhi"). Now, the teaching seems to be that the devachanic experience is composed of or drawn from all that was good and noble in the preceding life, so it would seem that the very experience of a devachanic dream would depend on their being something of use from that life—if there's nothing noble enough to be used in devachan, then that state would be "lost", or perhaps to put it another way: the dream would consist of nothing, would be but a "blankness" or an "unconsciousness" (from one perspective).

I suspect this may be partly what the Chohan is speaking of in his famous letter when he mentions modern intellectuals preparing for "long periods of temporary annihilation or states of non-consciousness".

So while it is the Spiritual Ego that goes into the devachanic state, that state only occurs under certain conditions. Perhaps we could enumerate those conditions as:

1. there has been some level of union between the personal ego and the Spiritual Ego during the preceding life, such that there is something "usable" by the Spiritual Ego in order to furnish a devachanic dream.

2. there is some level (even if slight) of identification of the personal ego with the Spiritual Ego, such that some level of individuality is 'present' in order to consciously experience the devachanic dream as an individuality. (?) (i.e. if Jon has no identification in any way with the essence of the Ego (has never tasted of its qualities during this life), then there is nothing of Jon that could be carried up into a devachanic experience, and in that case the Spiritual Ego would still pass through such a state (or rather, would pass through that plane) but would do so "unconsciously", so to speak (i.e. a state of "non-consciousness"). (?)

Perhaps those two are really one and the same.

These are just my working thoughts. Any corrections are more than welcome.

Permalink Reply by Jimmy on September 21, 2013 at 8:05pm
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"And here I must state I believe that a man can attain Nirvana only in this life and no other. If I do not go to Nirvana some time after death, where do I go in the end, you will naturally ask? My reply is that if I do not keep up my Individuality, I lose it."

Really? I wonder, who or what is the "I" that this man is referring to?
Permalink Reply by Peter on September 22, 2013 at 4:01pm
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Jon,  this is just to follow on the passage you quoted from Damodor.  I think he uses the term individuality slightly differently to HPB in the Key, as there she applies the term to the incarnating spiritual Ego (p106),  but the spirit of what he says is the same.  For humanity at large, only that portion of the personal consciousness which is pure enough is added to the spiritual Ego that survives the gestation state after death and enters into devachan.  The spiritual Ego thereby contains all that has been added in this way throughout the long series of incarnations of that Individuality, while the personality in each incarnation is a ‘new’ one each time.  The difference for the Adept is that s/he is able to maintain his/her personal consciousness throughout a long series of lives, presumably because s/he does consciously what the average human only achieves to a smaller degree unconsciously, after death.  Here is a passage from the Mahatma Letters to Sinnett which throws more a little more light on the subject:

    'We call “immortal” but the one Life in its universal collectivity and entire or Absolute Abstraction; that which has neither beginning nor end, nor any break in its continuity. Does the term apply to anything else? Certainly it does not. Therefore the earliest Chaldeans had several prefixes to the word “immortality,” one of which is the Greek, rarely used term -- panaeonic immortality, i.e. beginning with the manvantaraand ending with the pralaya of our Solar Universe. It lasts the aeon, or “period” of our pan or “all nature.” Immortal then is he, in the panaeonicimmortality whose distinct consciousness and perception of Self under whatever form -- undergoes no disjunction at any time not for one second, during the period of his Egoship. Those periods are several in number, each having its distinct name in the secret doctrines of the Chaldeans, Greeks, Egyptians and Aryans, and, were they but amenable to translation, – which they are not, at least so long as the idea involved remains inconceivable to the Western mind – I could give them to you. 

    'Suffice for you, for the present to know, that a man, an Ego like yours or mine, may be immortal from one to the other Round. Let us say I begin my immortality at the present fourth Round, i.e., having become a full adept (which unhappily I am not) I arrest the hand of Death at will, and when finally obliged to submit to it, my knowledge of the secrets of nature puts me in a position to retain my consciousness and distinct perception of Self as an object to my own reflective consciousness and cognition; and thus avoiding all such dismemberments of principles, that as a rule take place after the physical death of average humanity, I remain as Koothoomi in my Ego throughout the whole series of births and lives across the seven worlds and Arupa-lokas until finally I land again on this earth among the fifth race men of the full fifth Round beings. I would have been, in such a case – “immortal” for an inconceivable (to you) long period, embracing many milliards of years. And yet am “I” truly immortal for all that? Unless I make the same efforts as I do now, to secure for myself another such furlough from Nature's Law, Koothoomi will vanish and may become a Mr. Smith or an innocent Babu, when his leave expires. There are men who become such mighty beings, there are men among us who may become immortal during the remainder of the Rounds, and then take their appointed place among the highest Chohans, the Planetary conscious “Ego-Spirits.”'

(ML 20c, Barker edition)

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 22, 2013 at 5:07pm
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Thanks Peter. Very helpful. I should have tried to clarify that in my post, that Damodar is indeed using the term "individuality" in a different sense than HPB.

This quote from KH is wonderful as well. Thanks.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 23, 2013 at 9:44pm
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I think it is the word "annihilated" that so troubles people.  It sounds so...... permanent.  I wonder if the word disintegrated also could  serve as a synonym. 

Where is baby Gerry, or adolescent Gerry?  Are those people not gone and out of the picture now?  How is that different from annihilation of the babystage?  Does that make any sense to anyone?

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 24, 2013 at 6:46am
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Yes, it is a very strong word, which HPB uses twice in just a short passage.   Perhaps it really is meant to carry that sense of permanency to it.  I'm not sure how you are relating it to earlier stages of the personality in this life?  Can you say a bit more, please?

Here's the passage from The Key, just to remind people what we are referring to:

    '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.'  (The Key, p103)

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 22, 2013 at 12:01pm
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"What does assimilation of buddhi have to do with devachan?”

It would appear that only the kind of personal consciousness capable of assimilating buddhi is eligible to go into devachan.  In one respect Devachan is the fulfillment of the higher aspirations of the personality, whether these aspirations are towards doing good, love of the arts, abstract thought & so on.   It is just these aspirations that in life bring us, albeit temporarily / momentarily, in touch with the universal - at least to some extent.   It seems that only the higher attributes of the personal consciousness are capable of becoming joined to that which is immortal and universal.  At the same time the spiritual Soul (Buddhi, the Divine Pilgrim) can only ‘awaken’ to a form of ‘self-consciousness’ that is similar in nature to itself - pure and unalloyed.  There is a two way process involved here, as I understand it at present, though I don’t feel able to find the right words to express it.   Here is a passage from the Mahatma Letters to Sinnett which might help:

 "… the sixth and seventh principles apart from the rest constitute the eternal imperishable, but also unconscious “Monad.” To awaken in it to life the latent consciousness, especially that of personal individuality, requires the monad plus the highest attributes of the fifth - the “animal Soul”; and it is that which makes the ethereal Ego that lives and enjoys bliss in the Deva-Chan. Spirit, or the unalloyed emanations of the ONE - the latter forming with the seventh and sixth principles the highest triad - neither of the two emanations are capable of assimilating but that which is good, pure and holy; hence, no sensual, material or unholy recollection can follow the purified memory of the Ego to the region of Bliss."   (ML no.16, Barker edition)

Please ask more if the above is not helpful.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by barbaram on September 22, 2013 at 9:51pm
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"It would appear that only the kind of personal consciousness capable of assimilating buddhi is eligible to go into devachan.'

Personal consciousness here means higher manas? "

"In one respect Devachan is the fulfillment of the higher aspirations of the personality,"

I think this confirms devachan is as much an illusion as the phenomenal world.

 "It is just these aspirations that in life bring us, albeit temporarily / momentarily, in touch with the universal - at least to some extent.   It seems that only the higher attributes of the personal consciousness are capable of becoming joined to that which is immortal and universal.  At the same time the spiritual Soul (Buddhi, the Divine Pilgrim) can only ‘awaken’ to a form of ‘self-consciousness’ that is similar in nature to itself - pure and unalloyed."

Is the personal consciousness still under the illusion of separateness?  I think the confusion lies in the idea something "personal" is going to survive through death.  Is the "personal individuality" mentioned above the ahamkara? 

Thanks.

barbara  

 

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 23, 2013 at 12:02pm
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Hi Barbara - I've inserted some thoughts of my own in your post below. Thanks for the questions.

"It would appear that only the kind of personal consciousness capable of assimilating buddhi is eligible to go into devachan.'

Personal consciousness here means higher manas? "

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PETER:  Not quite - at least as I understand it.  The Higher Manas is of another plane of consciousness entirely to our own.  As the reincarnating Ego it can only garner experience of our manifested world through the agency of the lower manas, which is its projection or ray. Now, having free will, it is up to the lower manas (the personality) whether it is going to follow kama (the desires) or seek to unite itself with its parent (Higher Manas, the Individuality).  If it can bring itself under the guidance and influence of the Higher Manas then whatever 'good' it does has the possibility of being assimilated by Buddhi (really buddhi-manas, I would think) after death and goes into Devachan.  Anything not worthy or not pure enough is dissolved over time in the kama-loka after death to return under the impetus of Karma as the tanhic elements, the skandhas, of the next personality in the new incarnation.  

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"In one respect Devachan is the fulfillment of the higher aspirations of the personality,"

I think this confirms devachan is as much an illusion as the phenomenal world.

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PETER:  Yes, I would think it has to be illusory, because the idealised ego in devachan still believes it is surrounded by those it loved, the objects of its highest aspirations & so on.  Perhaps we could say it is real in so far as the love, beauty and aspirations the devachanic ego experiences are buddhic in nature, yet illusory in the sense that this experience is clothed with the devachanic ego's purest memories and images of the life just completed.

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 "It is just these aspirations that in life bring us, albeit temporarily / momentarily, in touch with the universal - at least to some extent.   It seems that only the higher attributes of the personal consciousness are capable of becoming joined to that which is immortal and universal.  At the same time the spiritual Soul (Buddhi, the Divine Pilgrim) can only ‘awaken’ to a form of ‘self-consciousness’ that is similar in nature to itself - pure and unalloyed."

Is the personal consciousness still under the illusion of separateness?  I think the confusion lies in the idea something "personal" is going to survive through death.  Is the "personal individuality" mentioned above the ahamkara? 

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PETER:  Yes, I see your point about the confusion.  Perhaps one way to look at it is with the analogy HPB uses? She says to think about it as the bee (the reincarnating Ego) collecting the nectar from the different flowers (the personalities of each life time).  The nectar from each life comes only from the efforts of the personal consciousness to unite with the higher.  Each life something is added to the spiritual Ego (or rather 'assimilated' by it) providing (as HPB writes) that in the life time a "union between the lower, or personal Manas, and the individual reincarnating Ego" is effected (p103).  This process goes on more or less unconsciously for the majority of humanity, and perhaps more purposefully when we set out upon a spiritual path, until such time as we reach the stages of initiation the Mahatma KH refers to (see post to Jon, above) when this union is carried out in full consciousness.

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 23, 2013 at 12:26pm
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ps:  I meant to add to the last note in my reply above that the personal consciousness of the devachanee does not last beyond Devachan.  It is absorbed into the Individuality.  The next incarnation will see a new personality and set of circumstances fashioned by the karma created by the last personality.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on September 23, 2013 at 10:19pm
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Hi Peter,

I think I understand the overall idea of devachan but unclear about what parts of  the human being have this experience, partly because we keep changing terms we use, like idealized ego, spiritual soul,  incarnating ego, devachanic ego, personality, etc. Reading your explanation above, It appears the lower manas (which is still personal) is that which goes into devachan to have a buddhi-like experience.   To be exact,  it is the "good" yet personal parts of the lower manas that go through this state.  At the end of devachan,  the "good" personal portion of manas disappears as it gets assimilated by buddhi.   Is this right?

Thanks.

 

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 24, 2013 at 6:14am
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Hi Barbara - Yes, the variety of terminology makes it complex and my explanations may not be helpful. Also it depends on whether it is discussed in general terms or discussed in detail where more stages concerning the after death states need to be taken into account.  We will look at those stages as we progress so I'm hoping we won't go into too much detail right now.  

That said - in one sense ‘Man’ is a quaternary in devachan, i.e. the Higher Triad plus the experience from the life just gone.  After physical death and the disintegration of the linga sarira (astral double) there is a struggle between the higher and lower principles in kama loka.  We are told the result is that the upper triad carries off the spiritual portions of the personal-consciousness-that-was into the gestation state  (see ML no.16) where it remains for a time in an unconscious state until it is ‘reborn’ as the purified ego which goes into devachan. 

It is not the personal consciousness, as such, but the essence of that personal consciousness that goes into devachan along with the higher triad.  Devachan is a “transcendental continuation of the personal life just terminated.” (‘The Key..’ 156)  Hence it is sometimes called the idealised personal consciousness or the devachanic ego. For while the personal consciousness in life is mixed with both good and bad, the pure and the impure, the devachanic ego contains only that which is pure and which has been extracted, so to speak, from the personal-consciousness-that-was. It is like the nectar obtained from the flower, the perfume from the rose etc. Or we might think of it as the Ego clothed in the finest and purest memories only of the life just ended.  When the karmic effects of devachan are exhausted it appears that the identification with those memories ceases and the spiritual Ego is near to its next incarnation.  When the time for the new incarnation arrives it shoots forth a new ray which becomes the new personality & so on.  The experience of all its previous lives is absorbed by and stays with the spiritual Ego like the pages from a book.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 28, 2013 at 9:46am
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Wonderful description here, Peter. Thanks. :)

To address Barbara's question above, I wanted to just add one thought:

In one way it may be very beneficial that varying terms are used when we discuss such metaphysical ideas: it helps keep our lower mind from crystalizing the ideas into simplistic dogmas (which I can definitely see as a tendency in my own mind). If we can combat that tendency to crystalize by keeping our mind fluid in our approach to such subtle ideas, I think we'll be better off than if we ended up with a single solid view of them. The varying terminology helps us learn to approach any concept from multiple perspectives and strengthens the mind's capacity to make subtle, and ever more subtle, distinctions.

This is one reason I like the quote from Damodar above: he uses such different terms, or applies different 'coloring' to certain terms, and that really challenges us to think outside of our own box, and reexamine our ideas. He's discussing essentially the same ideas as HPB is in the Key, but is doing so with relation to Nirvana, which encourages us to try to see devachan in a slightly different context, and gives our mind a good workout. :)

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 24, 2013 at 7:36am
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Barbara - with regards to your earlier query about Buddhi and ahamkara, I came across the following passage from HPB’s Collected Writings which may be of help.

‘It is only when Ego becomes Ego-ism  deluded into a notion of independent existence as the producer in its turn of the five Tanmâtras  that Manas is considered Maha-bhutic  and finite in the sense of being connected with Ahancara , the personal  “I-creating” faculty. Hence Manas  is both eternal and non-eternal: eternal in its atomic nature (paramanu rupa); finite (or kârya-rupa) when linked as a duad—with kama (Volition), a lower production.'  (CW V  80)

Also - I wonder if this throws any light on our previous quote from HPB relating to Buddhi and self-consciousness and hence to devachan?

‘“Buddhi” per se can have neither self-consciousness nor mind; viz., the sixth principle in man can preserve an essence of personal self-consciousness or “personal individuality” only by absorbing within itself its own waters, which have run through that finite faculty..’  (“The Septenary Principle in Esotericism”, in Collected Writings, vol 4. p581)

To my mind, the phrase ‘only by absorbing with itself its own waters’ is an important one. Buddhi is able to absorb back into itself the spiritual portions (the waters) of the personal consciousness from the life just gone.  Once done, it preserves the ‘essence of [that] personal self-consciousness’.  It does so life after life.

Just some thoughts.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on September 27, 2013 at 8:58pm
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"Buddhi is able to absorb back into itself the spiritual portions (the waters) of the personal consciousness from the life just gone.  Once done, it preserves the ‘essence of [that] personal self-consciousness’.  It does so life after life."

If buddhi absorbs back the essence of our highest layer of personal consciousness at the end of devachan, one would assume that buddhi would retain some sort of self-consciousness after many cycles of incarnations?  Going even deeper,  I wonder what makes up the finest and most pure portion of out personal consciousness?  Could it be some sort of devic essence?  

Initially,  the concept of anything "personal" in devachan threw me off because "personal" implies limitation and illusion.  But as I read more, I see devachan is as much an illusion as physical living, thus it makes sense and is not a contradiction.

Thanks, Peter, your explanation is very helpful. 

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 23, 2013 at 9:35pm
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Perhaps we could say that the personal nature, like the role and costume of the actor simply disappears  once the play ends  and the actor awaits a new role and a new costume.  No more Gerry, not more Barbara, no more personal history etc.  This is one reason why the personal consciousness cannot remember past lives, it was not around for them.  The Ego or Higher Individuality ( a ray of universal consciousness, a reflection of the One) reaps the fruits and snares of the personal lives previously lived.  That is how I understand it.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on September 20, 2013 at 8:48pm
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HPB also portrayed devachan as a fool's paradise;  it is for those who want consolation for the good work they have done.  Those who have no wants may not go to devachan.  I thought people who have done good, even without any spiritual aspirations, will still go through devachan?

Thanks,

barbara

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 27, 2013 at 10:36am
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Do you think the goal of the spiritual aspirant is to shorten devachan and get back to work sooner?

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 27, 2013 at 12:11pm
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Interesting question, Gerry.  I'm not sure what the answer is to that because what constitutes a 'spiritual aspirant' must be quite varied along with the knowledge each aspirant might have.   HPB writes that it is the chief aim of the occultist at a certain stage of development (see, for example, CW VI 245) so I imagine that is stage far off for most spiritual aspirants.   We are probably still dealing with our lower nature and finding out just what getting on with the work actually means.  Did you have anything specific in mind that HPB has written when you put the question?

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 27, 2013 at 1:05pm
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Yes, what might be some practical steps in this direction that anybody at whatever stage they are at can take?

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 27, 2013 at 1:55pm
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Yes, good question.

 I see I didn't ask my question clearly.  I was wondering if you had already come across something from HPB on this that you might share or perhaps other members have?  It doesn't matter if not.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 28, 2013 at 10:06am
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That's a very interesting question. Like Peter, I think one key question to ask in relation to this is what we define as a "spiritual aspirant".

I would suggest that there would perhaps be a line drawn between the "two paths" given in the Voice of the Silence that may determine the answer to your question.

If an individual is aspiring spiritually in the sense of placing humanity above themselves, then it seems that, at least in some cases, devachan is indeed shortened (or perhaps almost skipped altogether) in order that the student may return to continue the work. I suspect this may be the case solely for one who has been initiated to some degree though (but this is just an unfinished thought of my own). There are several statements, both by mahatmas and chelas of the early TS that support the idea that some "spiritual aspirants" will indeed shorten devachan and return to the work on earth quicker. Some, however, might continue the work, but on a higher plane, and thus not need to be back on earth so quickly. So, perhaps there are many possibilities for the spiritual aspirant of this kind.

If the individual is aspiring spiritually for themselves, i.e. to attain nirvana for themselves, without much concern for humanity, then I'd suggest that in some cases perhaps devachan would be actually lengthened (the draw to earth-life being quite low, and the 'spiritual quality' of the individual being (perhaps) quite high, this would seem to suggest that they may dwell in a devachanic state for much longer).

Just some thoughts for consideration.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on September 29, 2013 at 7:41pm
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Just happened to read in the Ocean of Theosophy pg 111 -

 

What then is the time, measured by mortal years, that one will stay in devachan?  ......... But the Ego remains as said in devachan for a time exactly proportioned to the psychic impulses generated during life. Now this being a matter which deals with the mathematics of the soul, no one but a Master can tell what the time would be for the average man of this century in every land. Hence we have to depend on the Masters of wisdom for that average, as it must be based upon a calculation. They have said, as is well put by Mr. A. P. Sinnett in his Esoteric Buddhism, that the period is fifteen hundred years in general. From a reading of his book, which was made up from letters from the Masters, it is to be inferred he desires it to be understood that the devachanic period is in each and every case fifteen centuries; but to do away with that misapprehension his informants wrote at a later date that that is the average period and not a fixed one. Such must be the truth, for as we see that men differ in respect to the periods of time they remain in any state of mind in life due to the varying intensities of their thoughts, so it must be in devachan where thought has a greater force though always due to the being who had the thoughts.

What the Master did say on this is as follows: The "dream ofdevachan" lasts until karma is satisfied in that direction. Indevachan there is a "gradual exhaustion of force." "The stay in Devachan is proportioned to the unfinished psychic impulses originating in earth-life: those whose attractions were preponderatingly material will be sooner drawn back into rebirth by the force of Tanha." Tanha is the thirst for life. He therefore who has not in life originated many psychic impulses will have but little basis or force in his essential nature to keep his higher principles indevachan. About all he will have are those originated in childhood before he began to fix his thoughts on materialistic thinking. The thirst for life expressed by the word Tanha is the pulling or magnetic force lodged in the skandhas inherent in all beings. In such a case as this the average rule does not apply, since the whole effect either way is due to a balancing of forces and is the outcome of action and reaction. And this sort of materialistic thinker may emerge out of devachan into another body here in a month, allowing for the unexpended psychic forces originated in early life. But as every one of such persons varies as to class, intensity and quantity of thought and psychic impulse, each may vary in respect to the time of stay in devachan. Desperately materialistic thinkers will remain in the devachanic condition stupefied or asleep, as it were, as they have no forces in them appropriate to that state save in a very vague fashion, and for them it can be very truly said that there is no state after death so far as mind is concerned; they are torpid for a while, and then they live again on earth. This general average of the stay in devachan gives us the length of a very important human cycle, the Cycle of Reincarnation. For under that law national development will be found to repeat itself, and the times that are past will be found to come again.

 

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 30, 2013 at 7:35am
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Very helpful passages, Barbara - thanks.  Devachan is sometimes referred to as the realm of effects. 

Thanks too to Daniel, for the extra material and the web links.

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 27, 2013 at 12:27pm
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Dear All,

I shall be posting the next part of our study on Sunday, so if you have any more questions or thoughts on this current section, please share them.    Thanks.

Permalink Reply by Casady on September 28, 2013 at 1:19pm
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Fairly intricate, subtle questions - the last one has a lot of interesting references. It looks like HPB is arguing from a 'golden chain', esoteric perspective or a neoplatonic perspective maybe against, the less metaphysical, popularizing tendencies of modern theological perspectives, i.e conflating soul and spirit. If you wanted to argue it from more mainstream references, you could maybe say something like ''The psychology of the Plato's Timaeus, itself influenced by Pythagorean and Empedoclean concepts, which posits a macrocosmic Mind (Nous) and a macrocosmic Soul (he Psyche tou kosmou), which is reflected in a tripartite human constitution of body, soul and spirit, was generally followed, adapted and developed by most pagan, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim philosophers including Aristotle, Origen, and Synesius, up to around 1850, hence a notion of salvation based on the need to purify the animal tendencies of the soul in order to achieve an intellectual enlightenment which unites us with god (a philosophical, impersonal concept of god).''

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 29, 2013 at 6:18am
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Thanks everyone for your input on this discussion.  It's very tempting to add some more thoughts but I'm going to move on and post the next stage of the discussion.  Please keep in mind that we have yet to get to the Section on Devachan in 'The Key to Theosophy' so there will be plenty of opportunities to explore this in more detail as we continue.

There are some very good theosophy books on the after death states by Geofrey Farthing.

"When We Die"

"After Death Consciousness and Processes.

Permalink Reply by Casady on October 31, 2013 at 9:08am
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I'd like to see if I can give some more specific references to the names she's given -

There is only a limited amount of information pertaining directly to Pythagoras. Most of the material comes from Neoplatonic sources such as Iamblichus, Theon of Smyrna, Nichomachus, and Boethius. That’s were most of the Masonic Pythagoreans get there information. Francis M. Cornford gives a good brief account of what the earliest Pythagorean teachings were in his translation/commentary of Plato’s Parmenides which is close to the Pythagroean metaphysics that HPB usually discusses, fairly basic, she rarely gets into the more esoteric neoplatonic material.

There is a text attributed to Timaeus of Locri, said to be the Pythagorean source of Plato’s Timaeus, but it is later than Plato’s Timaeus and based on it, rather than the other way around. See Fideler’s Pythagorean Sourcebook, Phanes Press, p. 287

It would be hard to find a reference in the fragments of Empedocles’ text or early accounts. He uses the term Daimon, probably the equivalent to Soul. She might be referring to a text of the Pseudo-Empedocles in Kabbalistic and Arabic writings:

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5740-empedocles-of-agrig...

Although Empedocles is probably the most mystical, theosophical of the pre-socratics and his cosmology is similar to the theosophical cosmology. Peter Kingsley has pointed out the esoteric aspects of his teachings.

http://www.peterkingsley.org/parmenidesandempedocles.cfm

Plato, in the Timaeus, describes a tripartite soul of reason, emotion and appetite, that has an immortal part and a mortal part, see 70-73.

In the De Anima, Aristotle divides the soul into the nutritive, perceptive, and intellective parts, recognizing an immortal part and a mortal part, see 413b.

 

Permalink Reply by Casady on May 24, 2014 at 1:46pm
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Just a quick post on Chapter One. She basically seems to be linking Theosophy with Neoplatonism, something along a perennialist line:

Such as the notion of the Great Chain of Being:

http://www.kheper.net/topics/greatchainofbeing/index.html

There's also the notion of the Golden Chain, prevalent in various esoteric traditions:

http://www.worldwisdom.com/public/products/0-941532-61-5_Golden_Cha...

The idea of secret fraternity of adepts is probable more prevalent in oriental traditions, but I think there's a reference by Sinesius in his Egyptian Tale on Providence that refers to this notion.

Thomas Taylor's History of the Restoration of Platonic Theology deals with these themes as well as the notion of the need to preserve esoteric knowledge in certain periods of strife:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=eJgfAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA213&lpg=P...

There's also the concept of a philosophia perennis :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perennial_philosophy

I think you can find most of those concepts present in most religious traditions - the SD principles pretty much correspond to what is called the Great Chain of Being:

http://www.kheper.net/topics/greatchainofbeing/index.html

There's also the notion of the Golden Chain, prevalent in various esoteric traditions:

http://www.worldwisdom.com/public/products/0-941532-61-5_Golden_Cha...

The idea of secret fraternity of adepts is probable more prevalent in oriental traditions, but I think there's a reference by Sinesius in his Egyptian Tale on Providence that refers to this notion.

Thomas Taylor's History of the Restoration of Platonic Theology deals with these themes as well as the notion of the need to preserve esoteric knowledge in certain periods of strife:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=eJgfAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA213&lpg=P...

There's also the concept of a philosophia perennis :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perennial_philosophy

She refers a lot to Mosheim, this seems to be the article (pp. 58-62)

http://books.google.ca/books?id=EIEPAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA59&lpg=PA...

and also an article by Alexander Wilder, who's pretty knowledgeable, he translated Iamblichus' On the Mysteries of Egypt, which is not an easy text :

http://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/books/wil-plat/npa-hp.htm

There's a selection of his writings available:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/18020658/Later-Platonists-Alexander-Wilder

She mentions Ammonius Saccas, of which there is contemporary scholarly interest, because Plotinus has become such a major figure in ancient philosophy, and there's been research interest in the history of ancient philosophy schools. However, he remains a figure which little can be confidently said about. This article gives a pretty good summary of what is actually known of him, scanty as it is:

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/wace/biodict.html?term=Ammonius%20Saccas

Her use of Mosheim then is kind of unusual in that Mosheim disagrees with the universalist eclecticism he is describing, whereas HPB is endorsing it. I think Mosheim gives a good overview of the history of the Neoplatonic schools, with a lot of quirky speculation, that coincidently fit well with the TS program, and so would understandably appeal to HPB.

 

Permalink Reply by Peter on May 25, 2014 at 12:34pm
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Great links, Cassidy.  Many thanks.   You're quite right, of course.  From the outset in The KEY, HPB links Theosophy with the Neo Platonists - Ammonius Saccas, Iamblichus, Plotinus and Porphyry.  What a grand time that must have been!

Permalink Reply by Daniel Caldwell on September 28, 2013 at 2:07pm
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This is a very good discussion under way.

Some of you might find one of the webpages I created
on the after death states of some interest:

http://blavatskyarchives.com/mon/monwwdie.htm

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on October 4, 2013 at 12:56pm
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