The following is part of an essay that was composed in response to an article titled “The Question of G. de Purucker,” published at blavatskytheosophy.com. The full essay can be found here.
Let it be clear from the outset that we are not here to defend a particular person. Nor are we here to debate or discuss “successorship,” “leadership” or the “occult status” of any individual. It is to be understood that this reply is not the result of parroting G. de Purucker, but simply the result of long independent study, besides the fact that the conceptual understanding of theosophical teachings is always open to interpretation and thus open to misunderstanding by any student.
In the above mentioned article, following a dissertation on the person of G. de Purucker, the article moves on to select a handful of ideas drawn from his writings. In doing so, it is suggested that these ideas are “entirely at odds with the teaching in ‘The Secret Doctrine’.” We find this to be an incorrect conclusion, and believe it could mislead students of Theosophy into believing a priori, without sufficient evidence or argument, that Purucker’s ideas entirely oppose those of H.P. Blavatsky (HPB) and her teachers. We will, therefore, address each of these ideas in turn, providing references to Purucker’s writings and those of The Secret Doctrine (SD) and other writings of HPB. This, we believe, will illustrate that the ten points of criticism in the article are generally mistaken and not actually in opposition to what the authors refer to as “genuine theosophy.”
Point #2: Are the Seven Principles Monads?
The second point of contention is:
His teaching that man’s Seven Principles are in fact Seven Monads, which although true from the perspective that everything can be considered a “monad” of sorts, is nevertheless unnecessary and confusing when it comes to gaining a clear and accurate understanding of the Theosophical teaching about the human constitution, since in our constitution the Monad by its very definition is the primary, ultimate unit, and refers solely [?] to the conjunction of Atma-Buddhi in the human constitution, the seventh and sixth Principles.
First, let us briefly address the idea that “monad” refers solely to the conjunction of Atma-Buddhi, with three quotes showing the flexibility of this term in Occultism:
Atmâ (or Atman) (Sk.). The Universal Spirit, the divine Monad, the 7th Principle, so-called, in the septenary constitution of man. The Supreme Soul.
Jiva (Sk.). Life, as the Absolute; the Monad also or “Atma-Buddhi.”
Monad (Gr.). The Unity, the one; but in Occultism it often means the unified triad, Atma-Buddhi-Manas, or the duad, Atma-Buddhi, that immortal part of man which reincarnates in the lower kingdoms, and gradually progresses through them to Man and then to the final goal—Nirvâna. (Theosophical Glossary)
This is a fairly flexible use of the term in reference to Man. And let us not forget that: “the term Monad [is] one which may apply equally to the vastest Solar System or the tiniest atom” (SD 1:21)
Now, in order to understand Purucker’s approach to the principles as monads, one must study carefully two sections in the SD (Vol 1, p. 170 etc. and p. 610 etc.). The exploration there shows the connection between the monads circling round the planetary chain with the elements and kingdoms, and from there with the principles in man. A salient quote, shedding much light, is the following:
It now becomes plain that there exists in Nature a triple evolutionary scheme, for the formation of the three periodical Upadhis; or rather three separate schemes of evolution, which in our system are inextricably interwoven and interblended at every point. These are the Monadic (or spiritual), the intellectual, and the physical evolutions. These three are the finite aspects or the reflections on the field of Cosmic Illusion of ATMA, the seventh, the ONE REALITY.
1. The Monadic is, as the name implies, concerned with the growth and development into still higher phases of activity of the Monad in conjunction with:—
2. The Intellectual, represented by the Manasa-Dhyanis (the Solar Devas, or the Agnishwatta Pitris) the “givers of intelligence and consciousness” to man and:—
3. The Physical, represented by the Chhayas of the lunar Pitris, round which Nature has concreted the present physical body. This body serves as the vehicle for the “growth” (to use a misleading word) and the transformations through Manas and—owing to the accumulation of experiences—of the finite into the INFINITE, of the transient into the Eternal and Absolute.
Each of these three systems has its own laws, and is ruled and guided by different sets of the highest Dhyanis or “Logoi.” Each is represented in the constitution of man, the Microcosm of the great Macrocosm; and it is the union of these three streams in him which makes him the complex being he now is. (SD 1:181)
Now, if you flip to the diagram on p. 157 of volume 1 in the Secret Doctrine, you will see that each of these three upadhis is correlated with principles in the sevenfold division of our human constitution. The Seven Primordial Hierarchies (the rulers of the sacred planets) are each responsible for a kingdom and a principle in man by emanating into them. What else are those Hierarchies but monads?
“The Natures of the seven hierarchies or classes of Pitris and Dhyan Chohans which compose our nature and Bodies are here meant” (SD 1:189fn*)
“To the highest, we are taught, belong the seven orders of the purely divine Spirits; [. . .] each principle in man having its direct source in the nature of those great Beings, who furnish us with the respective invisible elements in us” (SD 1:133)
“Now, it must be remembered that the Monads cycling round any septenary chain are divided into seven classes or hierarchies according to their respective stages of evolution, consciousness, and merit.” (SD 1:171)
“Besides which, every kingdom (and we have seven—while you have but three) is subdivided into seven degrees or classes. Man (physically) is a compound of all the kingdoms” (Mahatma Letter 13)
This perception of the teaching adds enormous value to our understanding of the mechanism of emanation that applies throughout the whole system of cosmogenesis, while confusion tends to arise if and when we take the philosophy in a too literal sense such as do the literalists in bible studies, instead of looking at the spirit or subjective element within a teaching.
Theosophy teaches that every kingdom moves up one stage at the commencement of a new planetary chain. We are here not talking of the human monad coming from the moon chain moving through all the kingdoms on a single planetary globe or round, but the monadic flux in every kingdom. So the monads (sometimes just referred to as elementals—see SD 1:610) that now occupy the vegetable kingdom will move into the animal kingdom in the next planetary chain and so on for every kingdom. This is in exact correspondence with the evolution of the human monads on every globe and in every round. If each one of the kingdoms corresponds with one of our principles, then by analogy the monad of every principle in man moves up one stage after every planetary round as well.
There are many further references that shed light on the relation between monads and principles; the important thing here seems to be to keep our mind open and flexible and not to dismiss too quickly the ideas of Purucker or others about this relation.
As to the statement that “although true from the perspective that everything can be considered a ‘monad’ of sorts, is nevertheless unnecessary and confusing when it comes to gaining a clear and accurate understanding,” we may say then that the following reference from HPB would also fall under the definition of “unnecessary and confusing,” where the monad is corresponded with mind or Manas!
The Scintillas are the “Souls,” and these Souls appear in the three-fold form of Monads (units), atoms and gods—according to our teaching. “Every atom becomes a visible complex unit (a molecule), and once attracted into the sphere of terrestrial activity, the Monadic Essence, passing through the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms, becomes man.” (Esot. Catechism.) Again, “God, Monad, and Atom are the correspondences of Spirit, Mind, and Body (Atma, Manas and Sthula Sarira) in man.” In their septenary aggregation they are the “Heavenly Man” (see Kabala for the latter term); thus, terrestrial man is the provisional reflection of the Heavenly. . . . . “The Monads (Jivas) are the Souls of the Atoms, both are the fabric in which the Chohans (Dhyanis, gods) cloth themselves when a form is needed.” (Esot. Cat.). (SD 1:619)
Further, note the use of “astral monad” and, in many other places, the use of terms like “divine monad,” “spiritual monad,” “human monad,” “animal monad,” “mineral monad,” etc. and we will see that the teaching is far from one dimensional.
The “astral monad” is the “personal Ego,” and therefore, it never reincarnates, as the French Spirites, will have it, but under “exceptional circumstances;” in which case, reincarnating, it does not become a shell but, if successful in its second reincarnation will become one, and then gradually lose its personality, after being so to say emptied of its best and highest spiritual attributes by the immortal monad or the “Spiritual Ego,” during the last and supreme struggle. (Mahatma Letter 24b)
See also Isis 1:351 for more on the “astral monad.”
Whether or not some students find these ideas “unnecessary and confusing” does not imply that all students of theosophy will find them to be such. Some may find it extremely helpful to attempt to discover what exactly is a principle: is it a “something”? and if so, what kind of “something” is it? Is it a “being”? Is it a “monad”? The teaching seems to be that our entire constitution is a conglomeration of individualities, or monads, of a vast range of development, all working and living together, all undergoing processes of evolution, and yet giving rise to the (ultimately illusory) notion that “I” have principles that belong to me.
The AH-HI (Dhyan-Chohans) are the collective hosts of spiritual beings . . . This hierarchy of spiritual Beings, through which the Universal Mind comes into action, is like an army—a “Host,” truly—by means of which the fighting power of a nation manifests itself, and which is composed of army corps, divisions, brigades, regiments, and so forth, each with its separate individuality or life, and its limited freedom of action and limited responsibilities; each contained in a larger individuality, to which its own interests are subservient, and each containing lesser individualities in itself. (SD 1:38)
This quote also goes towards the distinction between the absolute as apex versus the absolute per se. Here we have an infinite “series” of “individualities,” which are actually “collectives,” “each contained in a larger individuality,” and so on and so on “until the mind reels,” as HPB says (for how can there ever be a final or largest or highest of these “individualities”?, for that would be a personal God!). What are those “individualities,” then, if not monads? and what are their “principles” if not monads of varying degrees of development? If, as theosophy teaches, each principle is in turn sevenfold (as are rounds, globes, races—analogy always holding true), then what can the highest sub-principle of each principle be but a monad developing on its own plane?
For those who study the above references, the following two statement may remove all doubt as to the presence of the monad in every principle:
Seventh principle always there as a latent force in every one of the principles—even body. As the macrocosmic Whole it is present even in the lower sphere, but there is nothing there to assimilate it to itself. . . .
All is one Law. Man has his seven principles, the germs of which he brings with him at his birth. So has a planet or a world. From first to last every sphere has its world of effects, the passing through which will afford a place of final rest to each of the human principles—the seventh principle excepted. (Mahatma Letter 13)