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Theosophical Tenets: Divisions of Man and Nature

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    Sevenfold Nature of Man & Triune Nature

    “The Christian teaching, supported by St. Paul, since upon him, in fact, dogmatic Christianity rests, is that man is composed of body, soul, and spirit. This is the threefold constitution of man, believed by the theologians but kept in the background because its examination might result in the readoption of views once orthodox but now heretical. For when we thus place soul between spirit and body, we come very close to the necessity for looking into the question of the soul’s responsibility — since mere body can have no responsibility. And in order to make the soul responsible for the acts performed, we must assume that it has powers and functions. From this it is easy to take the position that the soul may be rational or irrational, as the Greeks sometimes thought, and then there is but a step to further Theosophical propositions. This threefold scheme of the nature of man contains, in fact, the Theosophical teaching of his sevenfold constitution, because the four other divisions missing from the category can be found in the powers and functions of body and soul, as I shall attempt to show later on. This conviction that man is a septenary and not merely a duad, was held long ago and very plainly taught to every one with accompanying demonstrations, but like other philosophical tenets it disappeared from sight, because gradually withdrawn at the time when in the east of Europe morals were degenerating and before materialism had gained full sway in company with scepticism, its twin. Upon its withdrawal the present dogma of body, soul, spirit, was left to Christendom. The reason for that concealment and its rejuvenescence in this century is well put by Mme. H. P. Blavatsky in the Secret Doctrine. In answer to the statement, “we cannot understand how any danger could arise from the revelation of such a purely philosophical doctrine as the evolution of the planetary chain,” she says:

    The danger was this: Doctrines such as the Planetary chain or the seven races at once give a clue to the sevenfold nature of man, for each principle is correlated to a plane, a planet, and a race; and the human principles are, on every plane, correlated to the sevenfold occult forces — those of the higher planes being of tremendous occult power, the abuse of which would cause incalculable evil to humanity. A clue which is, perhaps, no clue to the present generation — especially the Westerns — protected as they are by their very blindness and ignorant materialistic disbelief in the occult; but a clue which would, nevertheless, be very real in the early centuries of the Christian era, to people fully convinced of the reality of occultism and entering a cycle of degradation which made them ripe for abuse of occult powers and sorcery of the worst description.

    — William Quan Judge, The Ocean of Theosophy

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Theosophical Tenets: Divisions of Man and Nature

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    SEPTENARY DIVISION IN DIFFERENT INDIAN SYSTEMS.

    “We give below in a tabular form the classifications adopted by the Buddhist and Vedantic teachers of the principles of man: —

    sd1-157

    Footnotes:

    * Kosa (kosha) is “Sheath” literally, the sheath of every principle.

    † “Life.”

    ‡ The astral body or Linga Sarira.

    § Sthula-Upadhi, or basis of the principle.

    || Buddhi.

    From the foregoing table it will be seen that the third principle in the Buddhist classification is not separately mentioned in the Vedantic division, as it is merely the vehicle of Prana. It will also be seen that the Fourth principle is included in the third Kosa (Sheath), as the same principle is but the vehicle of will-power, which is but an energy of the mind. It must also be noticed that the Vignanamaya Kosa is considered to be distinct from the Manomaya Kosa, as a division is made after death between the lower part of the mind, as it were, which has a closer affinity with the fourth principle than with the sixth; and its higher part, which attaches itself to the latter, and which is, in fact, the basis for the higher spiritual individuality of man.

    We may also here point out to our readers that the classification mentioned in the last column is, for all practical purposes, connected with Raja Yoga, the best and simplest. Though there are seven principles in man, there are but three distinct Upadhis (bases), in each of which his Atma may work independently of the rest. These three Upadhis can be separated by an Adept without killing himself. He cannot separate the seven principles from each other without destroying his constitution.”

    The student will now be better prepared to see that between the three Upadhis of the Raja Yoga and its Atma, and our three Upadhis, Atma, and the additional three divisions, there is in reality but very little difference. Moreover, as every adept in cis-Himalayan or trans-Himalayan India, of the Patanjali, the Aryasanga or the Mahayana schools, has to become a Raja Yogi, he must, therefore, accept the Taraka Raja classification in principle and theory whatever classification he resorts to for practical and occult purposes. Thus, it matters very little whether one speaks of the three Upadhis with their three aspects and Atma, the eternal and immortal synthesis, or calls them the “seven principles.”

    —The Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, p. 157-8

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    ON THE SEPTENARY CONSTITUTION OF OUR PLANET From the Key to Theosophy

    ENQUIRER. I understand that you describe our earth as forming part of a chain of earths?

    THEOSOPHIST. 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.

    ENQUIRER. Is that on account of the great distance?

    THEOSOPHIST. 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.

    ENQUIRER. 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?

    THEOSOPHIST. 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 dream-life, 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 poor untutored savage, has a good proof that such states differ.

    ENQUIRER. You do not accept, then, the well-known explanations of biology and physiology to account for the dream state?

    THEOSOPHIST. 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.

    ENQUIRER. How do you explain these?

    THEOSOPHIST. 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.

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    What is the fundamental value of looking at human nature and cosmic nature in sevens?

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    The Sevenfold Division

    Excerpt from Theosophy Generally Stated

    Theosophy postulates an eternal principle called the unknown, which can never be cognized except through its manifestations. This eternal principle is in and is every thing and being; it periodically and eternally manifests itself and recedes again from manifestation. In this ebb and flow evolution proceeds and itself is the progress of the manifestation. The perceived universe is the manifestation of this unknown, including spirit and matter, for Theosophy holds that those are but the two opposite poles of the one unknown principle. They coexist, are not separate nor separable from each other, or, as the Hindu scriptures say, there is no particle of matter without spirit, and no particle of spirit without matter. In manifesting itself the spirit-matter differentiates on seven planes, each more dense on the way down to the plane of our senses than its predecessor, the substance in all being the same only differing in degree. Therefore from this view the whole universe is alive, not one atom of it being in any sense dead. It is also conscious and intelligent, its consciousness and intelligence being present on all planes though obscured on this one. On this plane of ours the spirit focalizes itself in all human beings who choose to permit it to do so, and the refusal to permit it is the cause of ignorance, of sin, of all sorrow and suffering.

    In all ages some have come to this high state, have grown to be as gods, are partakers actively in the work of nature, and go on from century to century widening their consciousness and increasing the scope of their government in nature. This is the destiny of all beings, and hence at the outset Theosophy postulates this perfectibility of the race, removes the idea of innate unregenerable wickedness, and offers a purpose and an aim for life which is consonant with the longings of the soul and with its real nature, tending at the same time to destroy pessimism with its companion, despair.

    In Theosophy the world is held to be the product of the evolution of the principle spoken of from the very lowest first forms of life guided as it proceeded by intelligent perfected beings from other and older evolutions, and compounded also of the egos or individual spirits for and by whom it emanates. Hence man as we know him is held to be a conscious spirit, the flower of evolution, with other and lower classes of egos below him in the lower kingdoms, all however coming up and destined one day to be on the same human stage as we now are, we then being higher still. Man’s consciousness being thus more perfect is able to pass from one to another of the planes of differentiation mentioned. If he mistakes any one of them for the reality that he is in his essence, he is deluded; the object of evolution then is to give him complete self-consciousness so that he may go on to higher stages in the progress of the universe. His evolution after coming on the human stage is for the getting of experience, and in order to so raise up and purify the various planes of matter with which he has to do, that the voice of the spirit may be fully heard and comprehended.

    He is a religious being because he is a spirit encased in matter, which is in turn itself spiritual in essence. Being a spirit he requires vehicles with which to come in touch with all the planes of nature included in evolution, and it is these vehicles that make of him an intricate, composite being, liable to error, but at the same time able to rise above all delusions and conquer the highest place. He is in miniature the universe, for he is as spirit, manifesting himself to himself by means of seven differentiations. Therefore is he known in Theosophy as a sevenfold being. The Christian division of body, soul, and spirit is accurate so far as it goes, but will not answer to the problems of life and nature, unless, as is not the case, those three divisions are each held to be composed of others, which would raise the possible total to seven. The spirit stands alone at the top, next comes the spiritual soul or Buddhi as it is called in Sanskrit. This partakes more of the spirit than any below it, and is connected with Manas or mind, these three being the real trinity of man, the imperishable part, the real thinking entity living on the earth in the other and denser vehicles by its evolution. Below in order of quality is the plane of the desires and passions shared with the animal kingdom, unintelligent, and the producer of ignorance flowing from delusion. It is distinct from the will and judgment, and must therefore be given its own place. On this plane is gross life, manifesting, not as spirit from which it derives its essence, but as energy and motion on this plane. It being common to the whole objective plane and being everywhere, is also to be classed by itself, the portion used by man being given up at the death of the body. Then last, before the objective body, is the model or double of the outer physical case. This double is the astral body belonging to the astral plane of matter, not so dense as physical molecules, but more tenuous and much stronger, as well as lasting. It is the original of the body permitting the physical molecules to arrange and show themselves thereon, allowing them to go and come from day to day as they are known to do, yet ever retaining the fixed shape and contour given by the astral double within. These lower four principles or sheaths are the transitory perishable part of man, not himself, but in every sense the instrument he uses, given up at the hour of death like an old garment, and rebuilt out of the general reservoir at every new birth. The trinity is the real man, the thinker, the individuality that passes from house to house, gaining experience at each rebirth, while it suffers and enjoys according to its deeds – it is the one central man, the living spirit-soul.

    Now this spiritual man, having always existed, being intimately concerned in evolution, dominated by the law of cause and effect, because in himself he is that very law, showing moreover on this plane varieties of force of character, capacity, and opportunity, his very presence must be explained, while the differences noted have to be accounted for. The doctrine of reincarnation does all this. It means that man as a thinker, composed of soul, mind and spirit, occupies body after body in life after life on the earth which is the scene of his evolution, and where he must, under the very laws of his being, complete that evolution, once it has been begun. In any one life he is known to others as a personality, but in the whole stretch of eternity he is one individual, feeling in himself an identity not dependent on name, form, or recollection.

    — from Theosophy Generally Stated, Lucifer, December 1893

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