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 #6: My Atman, Your Atman?
The sixth point of contention is:
His teaching that the Atman is something individual for each person and can be spoken of in terms of “my Atman” and “your Atman,” something which HPB expressly criticises and denies in “The Key to Theosophy” and “The Secret Doctrine Commentaries” and which is also a misinterpretation of a Hindu philosophical term.
This assertion couldn’t be further from the truth. We will share selections from Purucker on Atman and the supposed crime of using the term “my atman,” which clearly illustrate that he taught the exact opposite of this criticism: i.e. he taught that “there is no eternally abiding and unchanging principle of individuality in man,” not that each person has an individual or personal atman!
Let us also point out that if one does a word search throughout the entire website of the Theosophical University Press, which contains the whole of the writings of G. de Purucker, one will find mention of “my atman” but twice and “your atman” but once, always as a mere “turn of phrase.” But let us go straight to Purucker’s explanations.
There is no such abiding and eternally unchanging ego or soul or even spirit in man, an ego or soul or spirit which is different in essence in each man from what it is in any other man, nor is there any such abiding and unchanging individuality which is different in some god from what it is in some other god. (Studies in Occult Philosophy)
This ought to settle the point on its own, but let’s see more fully what G. de Purucker has to say. Some of what he says hereafter may also shed further light on his approach to the question of Brahman (neuter) versus Parabrahman.
This principle (atman) is a universal one; but during incarnations its lowest parts, if we can so express it, take on attributes, because it is linked with the buddhi as the buddhi is linked with the manas, as the manas is linked to the kama, and so on down the scale. Atman is also sometimes used of the universal self or spirit which is called in the Sanskrit writings Brahman (neuter), and the Brahman or universal spirit is also called the Paramatman, a compound Sanskrit term meaning the “highest” or most universal atman. (Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy)
Student—Is the atman also an aggregate of entities, of living entities?
G. de p.—It is—if you are keen enough to understand this affirmative reply.
Student—In that case there must be something higher than atman. Is that so?
G. de p.—It is so. And it is just this matter that I have tried so often to explain when I have spoken of the hierarchies succeeding each other on the endless ladder of life. I have tried to point out that the highest or supreme hierarch of any hierarchy is the atman of that hierarchy; but that hierarch, although the highest of his own hierarchy, is nevertheless lower than the hierarch of the succeeding hierarchy. The hierarch is the atman of his hierarchy. Just as we human beings are composite entities composed of hosts of beings, just so is the hierarch. Although possessing its own individuality, it is an aggregate of all the entities composing its hierarchy, its family, of which the hierarch is the supreme head, and also the source and fountain and root and cause of all subordinates flowing from it. The hierarch or atman is an individual. It is an entity, it is the supreme self for all that hierarchy. Its vitality permeates all; its selfhood permeates all subordinate entities of its own hierarchical group, and thus composes for that hierarchical group the essential I am of all the entities it encloses. Although it is thus an individual, it is mystically divisible into all the beings of which it is the supreme self, the atman.
You have asked one of the most difficult questions of occultism, one of the most sublime and great; one, for that very reason, very difficult to understand. For instance, I am an ego. At the heart of this ego is my I AM, my atman, a stream of consciousness permeating me from the hierarch of this hierarchy; and yet, what am I as an entity? A composite, an aggregate of life-atoms of many degrees, existent on many stages of consciousness, and all following the evolutionary path. My body, again, is but an aggregate of physical-astral life-atoms, and yet my body is an individual. Every one of these life-atoms composing my body is per se a learning entity, destined in future aeons to be a human being, and in still more distant aeons of time to be a god. We human beings were such life-atoms, each one of us, and even of the physical body in some other entity in some far bygone cosmic manvantara. What wonderful and yet what mysterious doctrines these of occultism are, so inspiring, so comforting; and how they save us from the worst sin of all—the sense of personalism!
The atman is indivisible in the sense that it is the being or entity of the hierarch of our hierarchy, therefore permeating and manifesting in all things and entities as their essential Self: the essential sense of I AM, deathless at least for as long as that hierarchy endures in its cosmic manvantara. Hence the atman is the aggregate of the monadic essences of all the entities composing that hierarchy. Similarly on the physical plane, and following the law of analogy, my physical body is an individual and yet is composed of the life-atoms which build it, make it, form it. (The Dialogues of G. de Purucker, Meeting of November 11, 1930)
My Atman—to illustrate because we are now speaking of the worlds of differentiation—my Atman will some day grow to be the divinity of a solar system; and all the various monads now forming my constitution manifesting here as a human being will then be the archangels and the angels, to use the Christian terms, of that future solar system: the Dhyani-Chohans in their various grades, to use our own Theosophical phrasing. These various unevolved monads which help to compose even my physical constitution live in their various cells, and these various cells are builded up of life-atoms on different planes; and in that far distant future of which I have just spoken, if I make the race successfully and become the divinity of a solar system in the spaces of Space, all these cells and life-atoms which now compose my physical ‘me’ will be the component elements of that solar system, each one having evolved to take its own particular and definite place and work therein; and I, the divinity in me, will be the then presiding godhead of that solar system, just as we here are component elements of former life-atoms of Father Sun in a vastly distant epoch of the Cosmic Past.
Thus, as I have hereinbefore explained, there is no eternally abiding and unchanging principle of individuality or ‘soul’ in ‘man.’ Yes, an absolute truth: no abiding separate and unchanging principle in man, separate from the similar principle in you, my brother, or in any other being. This is the heresy that the Lord Buddha fought against and that our own Masters so powerfully teach against. There is no such immortal, unchanging, and therefore perduring and abiding ‘soul’; yet the very essence of man is immortality itself. Every last atom in his constitution, in its heart of hearts is an immortal divinity because of its essence, the Essence of the Kosmic Divinity. I know no doctrine in all our School of Teaching which so cleanses our human hearts of pride, which so quickly purges the human mind of illusion, as just these beautiful thoughts that I have been attempting to speak of. You will never fully realize the glory that is within you until you become infilled with the most beautiful thought of them all. What is it? I am one with Divinity, and there is no abiding, unchanging, and hence separating personal soul in me; for I am THAT. This doctrine is the teaching of the utter solidarity, the utter oneness, of everything that is, from god to atom, with the Heart of Things. (Studies in Occult Philosophy)
The student is free to move from these quotes to the writings of HPB, and the teachings of Buddha, to determine for themselves if Purucker is “entirely opposing” her and her teachers. One may also bear in mind what he says here about Atman and the hierarch of a hierarchy, and reflect back on what was said about Brahman.
Lastly, let us note that while throughout her writings HPB incessantly hammers in the notion that there is no such thing as a personal anthropomorphic deity—for example:
“It is the same, only still more metaphysical idea, as that of the Christian Trinity—”Three in One”—i.e., the Universal “over-Spirit,” manifesting on the two higher planes, those of Buddhi and Mahat; and these are the three hypostases, metaphysical, but never personal.” (SD 1:574fn)
—yet she does not hesitate to occasionally throw in a curve-ball by applying the word “personal,” or using the personal possessive pronoun, when it suits her:
“The Monad becomes a personal ego when it incarnates; and something remains of that personality through Manas, when the latter is perfect enough to assimilate Buddhi.” (SD 1:245)
“The closer the approach to one’s Prototype, “in Heaven,” the better for the mortal whose personality was chosen, by his own personal deity (the seventh principle), as its terrestrial abode. For, with every effort of will toward purification and unity with that “Self-god,” one of the lower rays breaks and the spiritual entity of man is drawn higher and ever higher to the ray that supersedes the first, until, from ray to ray, the inner man is drawn into the one and highest beam of the Parent-SUN.” (SD 1:638-639)
What is that “personal deity” if not his seventh principle or Atma?
“. . . the Atman or seventh principle merged in the Universal, perceived by, or the object of perception to, Buddhi, the sixth principle or divine Soul in man.” (SD 1:471)