The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:16 pm

The Growth of the Soul
by Alfred Percy Sinnett
Vice-President of the Theosophical Society
© 1896, by The Theosophical Publishing Society




Table of Contents:

• Preface to the First Edition
• Preface to the Second Edition
• Chapter 1: Introductory
• Chapter 2: Occult Science and Religion
• Chapter 3: Reincarnation
• Chapter 4: The Higher Self
• Chapter 5: Free Will and Karma
• Chapter 6: The Seven Principles
• Chapter 7: The Astral Plane
• Chapter 8: The Elementals
• Chapter 9: The Spiritual Plane
• Chapter 10: The System to Which We Belong
• Chapter 11: The Elder Brethren of Humanity
• Chapter 12: The Ancient Mysteries
• Chapter 13: The Theosophy of the Middle Ages
• Chapter 14: Initiation in the Present Day
• Chapter 15: The Probationary Path
• Chapter 16: Irregular Psychic Progress
• Chapter 17: Individuality
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

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The gulf which lies between the thinking of the ordinary world in reference to matters having to do with the destinies of the human soul, and the position occupied by those students of the school with which I am specially concerned, is widening, year by year. "Current teaching,"as Mr. Balfour has called it, stands still; knowledge concerning the conditions of existence in ultraphysical realms of Nature has expanded enormously for those who have sought it the right way during the last fifteen years, and is expanding with ever-increasing rapidity. With the first gush of Theosophic teaching we were told that knowledge concerning matters generally thought to be unknowable had not only been reached by a few philosophers holding themselves, for reasons of their own, aloof from contact with the world at large, but was acquirable also in the long run by all who took certain prescribed methods for its acquisition — much more rapidly if appropriate qualifications were possessed at the outset. This idea has not lain unfruitful in the minds of those who were the first to appreciate the significance of the Theosophical opening. Many are those who have entered, as the phrase goes, on the path of Theosophical progress; several have already advanced sufficiently to be themselves in a position to investigate mysteries hitherto regarded as lying beyond incarnate human ken. Much, therefore, that in earlier Theosophical books could only be treated as ex cathedra statement — forcibly appealing, perhaps, to reason, but not otherwise susceptible of verification — has come within range of personal observation for several students amongst ourselves. The sources of the earlier teaching have not by any means run dry, but we are now in a position to get corroborative testimony concerning the outlines of this teaching, together with an immense amplitude of detailed information from persons who have thus advanced a part of the way on the journey towards genuine spiritual development. Views of Nature which he wholly beyond the range of ordinary perception have come within the domain of positive and experimental knowledge for those who have best profited by current opportunities.

There is something pathetic, for us who know better, in the altitude of mind of people who treat as matters of ribald incredulity the existence of faculties in daily use amongst some of us in connexion with the study, not merely of literary philosophy, but of special conditions of existence. That other world from which, in the old phrase, no traveller returns, has been found accessible to travellers who are going backwards and forwards constantly, and in saying this, I am leaving entirely out of account communications from the "next world "purporting to come from those who have passed over to it finally.

The explanations given in the present volume concerning the principles on which the growth of the soul proceeds, have been rendered possible by the continual expansion in this way of the fundamental teaching put forward in "Esoteric Buddhism." But nothing in this later presentation of the subject has been the fruit of mere intellectual speculation. Readers chiefly familiar with metaphysics in their non-theosophical aspect are used to regarding them as altogether speculative; but, however slowly those outside the central nucleus of Theosophical activities may recognise the fact, the fact nevertheless is that metaphysical experiment and observation have now become possible for a good many people still in direct relations with ordinary humanity. The human body is not really the prison of consciousness it was once supposed to be; other senses may be developed besides the five faculties of physical perception, and the result is that a great deal may be known concerning aspects of Nature which the familiar five faculties are quite unable to deal with.

The information so attained is essentially necessary to a comprehension of the natural possibilities lying before man in connexion with that growth of his soul to which this volume relates. To introduce the subject and show it susceptible even of definite treatment, it will be necessary to build a bridge across the widening gulf of which I have spoken, so that, at all events, whoever endeavours to apprehend what I have to say may have before his mind, even if only in the form of a hypothesis, the knowledge concerning ultra-physical nature which has been accumulated by Theosophical students within the last few years. That which we have to recognise as actually going on in connexion with the progress of the human race is a process of growth as regards individual souls not less protracted and elaborate than that evolutionary work going on pari passu on the physical plane of life and developing the simplest organic cells into the complicated bodies of the higher animals. The fundamental blunder concerning the inner nature of man which has saddled itself upon many religious systems (as true as they are beautiful in their spiritual essence) is the notion which represents the human soul as going through two simple phases — the physical existence of which we are cognisant on this earth, and the uniform unchangeable destiny of sorrow or joy that ensues hereafter as the consequence either of the brief physical life, according to one view, or of a pre-appointed destiny according to another. That which we get at, since we have begun to understand the actual working of Nature, is a scheme in which we see vast amplitudes of time laid out before consciousness as the field of its individualisation, and stupendous possibilities of growth and development, extending as far beyond the heights which human civilisation has yet reached as this has reared itself above the earliest humanity of which geology bears trace.

Occult teaching casts a light to almost immeasurable distances along this path of progress, recognising the continued individuality of every human being as extending through an infinite multiplicity of changes and varied states, the whole process moving in great cycles in which were turn ever and anon to the physical plane of existence, and gather from each great sweep of the spiral evolution something which is contributed to the truly permanent entity constituting the individual soul. That is the one unchangeable centre of identity throughout the whole process. The expansion of its consciousness, faculties, and moral grandeur is the subject I have before me for elucidation, so far as the resources of our present knowledge extend. And their extent is already so vast — even though the horizon of the unknown lies ever in a widening circle beyond — that it is not possible even to describe the manner in which this growth is accomplished without paving the way for the main idea that has to be developed by a multiplicity of subordinate explanations. In this way it has been necessary to wander sometimes in the progress of this work into many fields of occult inquiry, which at the first glance may have seemed out of touch with the main object in view; but such collateral surveys have not merely been necessary in themselves, but have been calculated to show that an inquiry into the nature of the soul's growth is really one of even more dazzling magnitude than the simple words would at first suggest.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

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Just as I had to explain, in the preface to the first edition of this book, that Theosophic research and teaching had greatly expanded the knowledge embodied in "Esoteric Buddhism" of which it was the sequel, so I have now to account for the enlargement of this edition by reference to the expanded development of our information since "The Growth of the Soul" was originally published in 1896. I find scarcely anything to alter or correct, but in reference to the constitution of the Earth, the life of the Astral Plane, and the relationship of the animal with the human kingdom, later acquisitions of knowledge have rendered it desirable to include in the new volume a good deal of additional detail that was not ripe for exposition nine years ago.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

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The progress of Theosophic knowledge — Super-physical research — Expansion of Theosophic literature — Its bearing on the problems of life — Advanced evolution in some cases to be expected — Nature of effective testimony on occult matters — The volume of evidence now available — Witnesses to the truth amongst us — Earlier evidence now enlarged — The divinity latent in man — Its development as evolution proceeds.

Theosophic teaching has expanded during the last twelve years till it now constitutes a vast coherent statement concerning human evolution, the conditions of existence that await humanity on supra physical planes of nature, and the methods by which it is possible to acquire faculties, knowledge, and opportunities of usefulness far exceeding those in possession of ordinary humanity at the present day. It presents itself as the most widely reaching system of philosophy with which the progress of thought has yet put us in contact.

Treated as a hypothesis it would claim attention by offering a reasonable explanation of many phenomena of life constituting painfully insoluble enigmas on any other theory; including an elucidation of the way in which it is built up on positive knowledge concerning the conditions under which human consciousness may function out of and independently of the body, it surely makes a startling appeal to advanced intelligence. No man of science worthy of the name would exalt the pursuits in which he may be engaged to a level of importance comparable with that of spiritual research, provided he acknowledged that there were any means of really making sure of discoveries along that road. Unhappily most patient questioners of Nature in the Western world are persuaded that definite answers are only to be obtained in reply to questions concerning the laws and properties of matter; but if it were satisfactorily established that questions concerning the laws and properties of consciousness could be answered as explicitly, eager explorers of that untrodden realm — untrodden as they imagine it — would surely endeavour to equip themselves for the new research.

No doubt it is a very delicate research. Matter, and even the subtlest forces that pervade matter, are uniform and reliable in their activities; once their secrets are wrung from them, the same answer will be given to the same question however often it may be put. The truth may be difficult to attain, but once attained its disguise can never again be assumed. Till recently, on the other hand — and some persons will still think the qualification unnecessary — there has been nothing indisputably established about the laws and properties of consciousness, considered as something apart from its physical vehicle. Metaphysics, in so far as vague speculation bearing that title has been cast in a scientific mould, has dealt with thought itself as an object of contemplation rather than with the thinking consciousness as an entity. We have no body of manageable facts or phenomena to deal with as a foundation on which to build any certain conclusions in reference to extra-corporeal consciousness, or rather, those of us who have had such facts at our disposal have been unable to hand them out to the world at large for examination. A new chemical compound, however unstable or difficult to handle, is at all events on equal terms with every experimentalist. An abnormal human being, with spiritual faculties adapted to function independently of the bodily organism, is a human being, with rights as such, and generally with an extreme susceptibility to suffering. He or she may render priceless service to individuals by introducing them to laws of Nature concerning consciousness apart from the body, but cannot be used to break down the rocky barriers of incredulity in the world at large, any more than a violin could be used as a spade to dig up a clay soil. The best that can be done with the help of such persons towards educating the world at large is done when their capacities and testimony are reported upon by careful observers.

Nine people out of ten, or a larger proportion of larger numbers, habitually reject the second-hand evidence thus provided, but at the same time a small minority shows a better sagacity, and minorities gradually accumulate. In this way, by degrees, a body of enlightened opinion is formed, and so it comes to pass that people who are quite untouched by the growing belief that there is an unseen world around us, with which human consciousness is in some sort of relationship independently of the senses, are already left in the rear of anything that deserves to be called advanced thought. Of course, there is a long interval between the recognition of the broad idea just described and the appreciation of theosophic teaching as the scientific outcome of knowledge concerning the laws which regulate the expansion, growth, and the progress of consciousness out of the body. But at all events, if there is an unseen world, in addition to that visible to eyesight, it is a part of Nature, and will be credited as such by every scientific mind, with being under the reign of law. There must be a science of unseen, unfelt phenomena lurking in the possibilities of the future, if there are such phenomena in existence. If for no better reason, theosophical writers might expect, therefore, to be commended for their attempt to arrange, with order and scientific method, the chaotic evidences relating to the unseen world which pour in upon us from so many quarters. Supposing their interpretation of Nature in her higher aspects were merely hypothetical, by what other process has any science been perfected ? Incoherent facts, accumulated in the beginning at random, are pored over and studied, till hypotheses are framed in the attempt to reconcile and correlate them. The hypotheses are open to revision later on, if new experience challenges their applicability. The situation as regards theosophical teaching is not as though this represented a hypothesis in rivalry with others. It is the only comprehensive theory of superphysical Nature that has yet been presented to the world in a shape which can be regarded as scientific in its range and character. Supported as it is at every turn by superphysical facts available for examination, it embraces an interpretation of the laws and conditions which regulate the growth of the Human Soul, the neglect of which by any thoughtful persons who rise above the contemplation of purely material objects, is so unreasonable as to be almost absurd.

What other knowledge can compare with that which enables us to form a right appreciation of the spiritual potentialities bearing on the permanent and imperishable elements of our own being ? The future, looking beyond the limits of physical life, is moulded, according to theosophical teaching, in accordance with the causes brought into activity during the physical life; and though occult science is the last spiritual system in the world to suggest that finite blunders or neglect have infinite consequences, it is, nevertheless, profoundly earnest in assuring us that no great results in the future, either for evil or good, are possible without being provided for by adequate causation. Our will, our intelligently directed effort, need not be called into play to assist Nature in the regular development of her general design; but as regards the destinies of each individual, he himself must make choice with his eyes open in reference to the part he elects to play in the loftier regions, so to speak, of that general design, and the very first step he must take in that direction, if he is ever to move on at all, is the step involved in the effort to comprehend. He cannot afford to drift on for ever, or for very much longer, paying attention only to material things. His eyes can only be opened to the character of the loftier regions referred to by virtue, in the first instance, of knowledge gained concerning the superphysical realms, spheres, or planes of Nature.

Esoteric teaching exhibits the fundamental truth of things in regard to these mighty departments of consciousness, as those know full well who, first taking the trouble to understand the esoteric statement, proceed then, with whatever means may be within their reach, to check and verify it. But this is just what the intellectual world of our time, at large, has not yet attempted. Only a few, relatively, of its leading thinkers are even proclaiming the importance of psychic investigation. Still fewer have had the quick discernment to perceive that the esoteric teaching offered by theosophical literature reaches far ahead of such immature discoveries as unaided psychic investigation has yet brought out. Though embracing and interpreting these, it also embraces and interprets the most perplexing riddles of human existence, and the most embarrassing traditions of religious faith.

The "few," indeed, are pretty numerous, if we look at them apart from the rest. After all, the theosophical movement has struck its roots into almost every country all over the civilised world. Its literature has been translated into nearly every civilised language, and all over Europe and America we find considerable groups of people, including men of the highest culture, devotedly attached to theosophic study, ardently convinced that it opens out a pathway of research leading to positive knowledge concerning the spiritual future of mankind. But this fact only renders it the more unreasonable and deplorable that such groups should even collectively remain a mere handful, compared with the hosts of the educated world at large.

However, whether fully or only partially comprehended, the teaching that has been offered to the world through theosophic agency does nothing less than offer a revelation from the spiritual plane of consciousness and knowledge, and one which must, in accordance with the infallible pressure of necessity in the future, be recognised as such, however many or however few may be those who in the present invest themselves with the great advantage of recognising it among the earliest.

The guidance under which I began to write on these subjects in the year 1880 has never been inactive in my life from that time till now, and the information on the basis of which "Esoteric Buddhism" was written has been expanded and deepened in a great variety of ways, one consequence of which is that I am now enabled to put forward the great and manifold additions to #ie earlier teaching which the present volume contains. And in the interval a flood of theosophical writing has emanated from other exponents of the spiritual science under elucidation. Some of these writings appear to be exactly parallel with the guidance I have received; in some cases subtle ideas are differently expressed; in others, again, there may be apparent discrepancies between the interpretations I have given and those which others have constructed. Such variations of conception, however, in regard to the meaning of occult teaching as bearing on remote problems of cosmology and on departments of natural science beyond the range of physical exactitude, are of no consequence in reference to the general value of the theosophic revelation at large. Minor conflicts of opinion in respect to the manner in which ideas of a very obscure order can best be translated into the language of incarnate thinking ought rather to be welcomed than otherwise as stimulating the activity of minds addressed to such undertakings. In its bearings on the possibilities of individual spiritual evolution there is no ambiguity in the teaching of Theosophy, no room for differences of interpretation among honest exponents of the one great doctrine.

And it is mainly with the purpose of setting forth these essential principles clearly by themselves, with all such amplifications of the previously existing explanations as the later information supplied to me enables me to furnish, that the present work has been undertaken. From a complete account of the laws governing human evolution as a whole, from the first manifestations of spirit on the material plane, to the culmination of the all but deified human individuality, any students sufficiently in earnest will be able to discern the methods and principles that regulate individual progress.

But theosophic literature is not merely designed for the service of those whose already awakened intuitions render them quickly appreciative of the lines on which spiritual progress may be achieved. It should aim quite as much at leavening religious and scientific thought at large with the great ideas on which the ultimate progress of the race depends. At some stage or other of his immortal career every human being who would not drop hopelessly into the rear of the advancing wave of evolution must make a beginning in the work of voluntarily uniting his own individuality with the forward movement. That beginning is only to be made by attaining a broad comprehension of the enterprise before him. But a great deal of preparatory culture is possible for the human mind, even before spiritual enthusiasm becomes a clearly defined motive for intelligent action. The views of life and Nature which Theosophy unfolds are precisely adapted to subserve that culture, and thus the explanations with which this book is concerned are subject to no narrow limitations as regards those to whom they are addressed. There is no logical coherence in a scheme of things which regards the mankind round us as a worthy culmination of all the efforts Nature has made so far. Justice will never be fulfilled if the variegated panorama of existence, as passing now before our sight, is a point of departure from which each of us passes out, once for all, to be stereotyped for good or evil hereafter in some other spheres of unchanging beatitude or suffering. Vaguely it may be apprehended, there must be some unknown futurity in which moral cause and effect will still be operative with much finer exactitude than would be involved in a broad separation of all post mortem humanity into sheep and goats. With resolute striving after the realisation in life of whatever ideals of goodness may present themselves as best calculated to bring the soul into sympathetic relations with the Divine consciousness, many people may be, without knowing what they are about, entering on the path of the higher evolution; and some students of the laws governing the higher life — knowing that it is easier to become intelligent than morally exalted — would prefer to see their fellow creatures animated by moral enthusiasm rather than by the thirst for spiritual knowledge as such. But none the less is it inevitably true that a beginning must be made sooner or later in the acquisition of the knowledge, and the response which Nature would make to the life of unsefish devotion to high ideals, unaccompanied by an intellectual appreciation of the reason why unselfishness and moral exaltation are conducive to great results hereafter, would be the gift at a future step of progress, of peculiarly favourable opportunities for acquiring the knowledge.

And while in this way moral exaltation to begin with, will bring such opportunities in its train in the long run, it is also true that for persons of a type of mind that I believe to be very widely diffused, nothing can be more conducive to the cultivation of the highest moral attributes than an intellectual appreciation of the truly symmetrical and reasonable laws really governing human evolution, which the esoteric doctrine brings to light. For it may surely be argued with some force that the spectacle of the world with its hideous entanglements of apparently unmerited suffering, with its rampant injustice, and wild carnival of cruelty and wrong always roaring in full activity around us, and interpreted by no other philosophy than an appeal to the inscrutability of the Divine will, is hardly calculated to convince the thoughtful spectator that he belongs to a universe in which the principles of goodness and justice are triumphant, nor to encourage him in attempting to combat the apparent victories of the evil principle. We know that the spectacle leads some thoughtful spectators, at all events, to the sorrowful conclusion that all is for the worst in this worst of all possible worlds, and that non-existence would be distinctly preferable to existence on the terms offered us.

A new, a more enlarged and more enlightened view of human existence is the foremost necessity of the age, and that view is afforded by the Theosophic revelation. My task will be to trace out the bearing of that revelation on the problems of individual life as we stand now confronted by the phenomena of our own generation, and enabled for the first time in the history of metaphysical speculation to deal with the higher planes of Nature's activity, and the possibilities of spiritual consciousness, as with an open book.

And here at once I may as well grapple with questions that will arise in the reader's mind as to the grounds on which I speak of mysteries hitherto generally deemed insoluble, as coming within the range of positive knowledge. From the first, Theosophical teaching introduced those who studied it to the idea, that in some exceptional cases human evolution had far outstripped the stage exemplified by the ordinary humanity around us. Those who had advanced to a high degree along this path of development were spoken of as Adepts, and by other names. That one will serve for the moment.

ome of us came into more or less intimate relations with certain Adepts, and out of such relationships all Theosophical teaching arose. Now that it has been developed to the extent with which advanced Theosophists are familiar, it constitutes, as I say, a coherent interpretation of life and Nature claiming attention and respect on its own merits. This volume, for instance, is offered to the non-Theosophical reader as a view of the spiritual constitution and destinies of man, which it will be worth his while to examine, independently of all authority on which it rests. It embodies its own authority, in one way, by affording the only available solution of many human problems to , which no other system of philosophy or religion affords an answer. But it does really come to us under guarantees of immense importance for those who can understand them. So it is only fair to readers who may be able to appreciate these, to say something more about them at the outset.

Part of the teaching modern Theosophists have received shows us that, granting certain conditions of preparedness on the part of persons still on the ordinary level of evolution, well directed efforts to that end will lead to the awakenment of interior faculties, by means of which such persons are able to cognise and communicate with adept teachers, clairvoyantly. All such processes of development will be considered much more fully later on in this volume, but it is enough for the moment to refer to the position in general terms. As time elapsed a considerable number of Theosophic students became enabled to take advantage of the opportunities thus pointed out to them. No one decently well informed concerning the progress of superphysical research during the century just coming to an end ought to find such a state of things surprising or difficult of intellectual acceptance. Nor, apart from modern experiences, should the existence of adepts — beings on a higher level of spiritual development than the common run of mankind — be regarded as otherwise than probable by rational thinkers. Once let us realise the fundamental fact of spiritual evolution, ill understood as yet by the world at large — the fact that the spiritual entity which is the permanent ego of each human being, itself evolves through successive physical lives, and the more rapid evolution of some as compared with the majority becomes a matter of practical certainty. Some great figures in the past, on spiritual heights far above those generally attained, show us examples of such pre-eminence, and reflection may enable us to feel sure that besides the pre-eminent spiritual leaders who have played a part before the world, others must have been evolved in connexion with less conspicuous destinies. For when we understand something of the manner in which spiritual influences operate on the higher planes of Nature, we are not surprised to find that the real work of those who attain great spiritual advancement, is mainly carried on in ways which do not bring them into direct physical relationship with the less developed masses of mankind. The seclusion of the Adepts is a physical seclusion alone, favourable to greater activity on other planes than would be possible for them if they mixed in the turmoil of ordinary life. It is no seclusion at all, from the point of view of those among their pupils and disciples, wherever these may be living, who also develop their consciousness on those other and higher planes of Nature.

The direct testimony of such pupils, available for many earnest students of Theosophic teaching, is now multiplied to such an extent that doubt about the existence of the adept fraternity has long been absurd, from the point of view many of us occupy. Testimony which rests on the use of abnormal faculties is just as easily susceptible of collateral checks and corroboration as any other sort. Certainly it stands more in need of check and corroboration, because a new factor, — liability to mistaken observation, — is introduced. But this can be neutralised. For example, suppose a friend whose personal honour you trust, tells you that at a certain time and place he met some common acquaintance. Thereupon you believe that at the time and place mentioned the acquaintance was actually present. But, if your friend tells you at such and such a time and place, being then himself "out of the body" and functioning on the " astral " plane of Nature, he saw such and such a person — you do not necessarily feel sure the person named was there. It is possible your friend was subject to a delusion. However completely the statement may have been made in good faith, it wants corroboration. But suppose another friend whom you also have reason to credit with abnormal faculties says, "Yes, I was there at the same time; what A says is true; I also saw so and so" — the united testimony of the two observers is worth very much more than twice what each would have been worth singly. Now, suppose the two observers become three or four and that their testimony does not relate to one observation but to a continual familiarity with the person or persons and places described, then the actual existence of such persons becomes as assured to you as though the testimony related to the physical plane of facts altogether.

That is the state of the case for many modern Theosophists in Europe, not to speak of those in India, where pupils of the Adepts in a position to visit them out of the body, are more often encountered. The whole subject, for them, has been lifted right out of the position in which it stood when it rested on the testimony of the first promoters of the Theosophical movement. The honesty of that testimony has been abundantly vindicated, but we can afford now to rest our assurances on evidence with which it has had nothing to do. It may be convenient for me to incorporate with this explanation the substance of a statement I put forward in a Transaction of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society in April, 1894. Referring back to the beginning of my own Theosophical studies in India, about the year 1880, I explained how, growing interested in the whole matter I became acquainted with other persons also interested. Two of these especially, natives of India, earnest spiritual-minded men, told me in course of time that they knew the "Masters" on the astral plane — i.e., in that extraphysical state of consciousness of which millions of crass materialists know nothing, but of which a large number of mystic students know a great deal.

A third Indian acquaintance, after acquiring astral plane knowledge of the Masters, determined to reach them personally — in the physical body — or perish in the attempt. He pushed across the Tibet frontier and, guided by astral perceptions, succeeded in his quest. He saw in the flesh those whom he and others had previously seen in vision, recognising them as such, and returning to tell of his success. Meanwhile I had been receiving a long series of letters, reaching me, apparently from certain Mahatmas, under peculiar circumstances described in my books, and conveying a mass of teaching which in due time I was enabled to publish, and in which great numbers of people have found a better clue to the comprehension of their own nature and of the world around them than any previously known religion or philosophy afforded.

One all-important fact thus revealed was that the avenues of initiation were still open for people who were qualified to advance along them; that the "Masters," though in seculsion, were not inaccessible for persons in whom certain interior faculties were ripe for development. Many person, including some Europeans whom I know, were inspired by this revelation to make the necessary exertions, and have learned to transfer their consciousness to the astral plane, to get about freely on that level of Nature, to obtain access to the Mahatmas, and to recognise, as also astral pupils, friends whom they know in the flesh. One such person, a European, whose development has taken place since the formation of the Theosophical Society, first came into conscious relation with the Mahatmas while working for Theosophy in India in connection with the headquarters of the Society at Adyar. Another gained the same privileges here in Europe, scarcely knowing the persons chiefly concerned with the Theosophical Society organisation in India. Within the last year or two, other Europeans and one person of Eastern parentage, among my own circle of intimate friends, have in varying degrees acquired the faculty of consciousness on the astral plane, and of clairvoyance in the ordinary state, to the extent of being able to hold converse, when permitted, with some of the Mahatmas, or to see them when they or some of their disciples have come astrally among us.

Thus I am dealing with a large group of witnesses to the truth, not with any one or two. Let me call them by letters of the alphabet, to show more definitely how their testimony hangs together. [1]

A. went in the flesh many years ago to Tibet. C, D., and E. have seen him with the Masters when themselves there in the astral.

B. is " dead " as regards the body in which I knew him. Being a regular disciple, his post mortem h adventures do not follow the normal course. C. knew , him while living in India; and sees him still from time to time in an astral body with the Masters.

C. is an advanced disciple, as much at home on the astral plane, and as fully reminiscent of all that happens to him there, as though the matters dealt with were yesterday's doings in the flesh. On the astral plane he constantly sees D., E., F., and H., all of whom know him and know one another on this plane of life, discuss what takes place when with the Masters, after returning to their normal condition, and are in all respects themselves completely in their mutual relation on the higher plane.

D. has more recently attained to similar privileges, and is in the full exercise, not merely of the faculties just noticed, but also, as is indeed the case with C. likewise, of the astral and devachanic vision in the as waking state in the body. A better appreciation pi of what this means will be acquired by the reader, to whom the terms used may be unfamiliar, when n he has gone over some of the later chapters of this book.

E. — Everything just said of C. and D. applies also to E. in the fullest measure. C. and E. knew one another on the astral plane before they were acquainted in physical life. E. has been in free and unrestricted relations with the Masters for several years, though only coming into the inheritance of this privilege — earned in former lives — since the activities of the Theosophical Society began. Unlike C. and D., however, E., though also a European, reached the development described without having any touch with the Theosophical Society in the first instance. This is important with reference to preposterous hypotheses sometimes put forward with regard to "hypnotic influences." E. knows others of the Masters besides those of whom theosophic literature has treated, sees on the astral plane (as D. does also) both in and out of the body; has friendly relations also with F., G., and H. on the other plane.

F. is not yet so far on, but knows the Masters on the astral plane; also sees D., E., and H. there constantly.

G. is but just beginning to exercise the faculty of astral consciousness, and need not be more minutely explained.

H. is in a position to be present frequently when astral meetings of pupils are held in the Masters' presence; recollects as yet imperfectly, but is sometimes able to corroborate C, D., E., and F. with respect to conversations at which all were present.

Concerning the reasons why the great "Masters of Wisdom" have remained in the deep seclusion that has shrouded their very existence, even during recent centuries of Western progress, it would be premature to say much at this stage of my explanation. But for the sake of its direct bearing on the question I may quote a few lines from an old alchemical treatise of the seventeenth century, by a writer who was truly an occult philosopher, though availing himself of the then favourite alchemical disguise. In his Lumen de Lutnine Eugenius Philalethes, referring obviously to those whom we now speak of as the Adepts or Mahatmas, says: "Every sophister contemns them because they appear not to the world, and concludes there is no such society because he is not a member of it. There is scarce a reader so just as to consider upon what grounds they conceal themselves and come not to the stage when every fool cries — enter ! No man looks after them but for worldly ends. How many are there in the world that study Nature to know God ? Certainly they study a receipt for their purses, not for their souls, nor in any good sense for their bodies. It is fit that they should be left to their ignorance as to their cure. It may be the nullity of their expectations will reform them, but as long as they continue in this humour neither God nor good men will assist them."

The fact of the matter is, indeed, not so much that the Adepts have withdrawn into seclusion as that mankind at large in the modern world has turned a deaf ear to their teaching, until in the end it has all but forgotten their existence. As Thomas Taylor — the indefatigable translator of the Neo-Platonists — writes in his preface to the Orphic Hymns, "Wisdom, the object of all true philosophy, considered as exploring the causes and principles of things, flourished in high perfection among the Egyptians first and afterwards in Greece. Polite literature was the pursuit of the Romans; and experimental enquiries increased without end and accumulated without order, are the employment of modern philosophy.

Modern enquiries never rise above sense, and everything is despised which does not in some respect or other contribute to the accumulation of wealth, the gratification of childish admiration, or the refinement of corporeal delight."

It is the prevalence of this characteristic in the modern world that has shut the higher spiritual teaching out of our lives to so great' an extent. But happily the exclusion is not complete. For all who can appreciate the height to which it may lead, the Adepts in this closing decade of the nineteenth century are just as accessible as in those bygone ages to which Thomas Taylor refers, when all men knew that the " Mysteries " were a portal through which it was possible for those prepared to make immediate temporal sacrifices, to pass on towards a loftier spiritual evolution. Though rarely approached in the Western world of late, such portals are open still; and Theosophists who have gained access to them have learned before going far to be guided by the great law which governs all real occult progress, — that such progress is never to be attempted even by the neophyte with the single purpose of acquiring spiritual exaltation for himself alone. In its higher stages that progress must find its pre-eminent motives in the desire to help on the spiritual development of humanity at large; and so, in a humbler way, those who make their first steps on "the Path" with a clear sight of the destination to which it leads, cannot but be inspired to proclaim with all the earnestness at their command the importance of the discoveries they have attained to concerning the place occupied by the Adepts in the spiritual evolution of mankind. Only by learning to appreciate in some measure the attributes and powers of these, our Elder Brethren, will humanity at large get some glimpse of the future that lies before them, of the possibilities connected with spiritual evolution that are associated with the rank in Nature to which they have now attained. The investigation of these possibilities is the foremost task of those who may fairly be described as occult students. The effort to realise in daily work and thought and habits, the lofty ideals which theosophic teaching defines for our aspiration, is the next step in their upward progress. Such efforts can only be made with the best effect when we comprehend the system to which we belong, and, in some measure, the design that it subserves. We cannot aim intelligently at the noblest objects, for the sake of which such efforts should be made, till we know something of the extent to which consciousness may be developed on those higher planes of Nature, as yet veiled from ordinary vision. And this cannot be appreciated even in imagination till those higher planes are described for us by persons who are already in a position to function there. Bewildering at first, as it .may be, the vast cosmology of occult teaching must be apprehended in general outline, at all events, before the true character of the spiritual evolution available for us can be adequately grasped. But it is not necessary to plunge into this at the beginning of the whole study. We begin to appreciate -the nature of the prospect before us when we get firm hold of the idea that Man is not merely a product of Nature adrift on the stream of evolution, but is eventually carried, so to speak, by that stream out into a vast ocean that he can only cross by virtue of conscious efforts put forward on his own account. And then, with some comprehension of its winds and currents — with some understanding, that is to say, of the higher planes of Nature that may be described for us by those familiar with them — we may know enough to appreciate the way in which it is competent to man to help forward his own evolution towards the loftier levels.

Just as chemistry or astronomy may be largely comprehended now by people who would not have been equal, in the first instance, to the task of wresting their secrets from Nature, so with occult science. The comprehension of great realms of superphysical law and phenomena is relatively easy for any of us who will take advantage of the adequate guidance offered, now that the knowledge has been acquired by those who have been spiritually strong enough to lead the way. In the present day people quite unprovided with psychic gifts may invest themselves with a true and sufficient acquaintance with realms of nature which seemed almost hopelessly removed beyond the comprehension of all but the initiated few only a handful of years ago. Only by students of mediaeval occult literature, almost maddening in its obscurity, can the bright light now thrown in our own time upon the subjects that literature dealt with be estimated at its true value.

In chaotic disarray, indeed, but in great abundance, facts have been lying before us for the last half century which have all along established for observers, whose common-sense has been unclouded by illogical prejudice, the broad truth that animated matter does not sum up or embrace the whole intelligent consciousness of the world. Mainly, it would seem, because these facts were not amenable to systematic experiment or correlation, the classes chiefly concerned with the interrogation of Nature have shunned them with something like irritation. They had dropped from the clouds, as it were, in an unintelligible fashion, instead of growing in a reasonable and coherent manner out of previously existing knowledge. It was very doubtful, when first reported, whether they had really occurred. No one could make sense of them, and with the unacceptable hypotheses concerning their origin — generally put forward by those who testified to their occurrence — they were doubly offensive to a materialistic generation. Whether they had to do with the records of psychic mesmerism or were frankly associated with spiritualistic mediumship, they were equally out of gear with ordinary knowledge and were too hastily assumed to involve a denial of principles to which ordinary knowledge was devoted. But, inhospitably received as they were, evidences of incident and experience transcending those of familiar physical science continued to pour in very freely. The literature of spiritualism, mainly consisting of records of abnormal observation and experience, has expanded to enormous proportions. The accumulations of mesmeric record were very considerable before the new departure, which within the last few years has reconciled public opinion with mesmerism generally by restating some of its conclusions under a new name. Psychic research of an independent character, keeping both spiritualism and mesmerism, with all their hypotheses, at arm's length, has also accumulated its records, and the situation is now such that nothing but ignorance or stupidity of the densest sort can in the present day provoke a denial of the broad conclusions which point to the existence of superphysical conditions of matter, force, and consciousness. These conclusions may not be sufficiently precise in themselves to constitute material from which to deduce any theory of extra corporeal life, but they ought to satisfy even the least thoughtful observer that there is a realm of some sort of extra corporeal life around us. And when we find — as we do find at the outset of any examination of the facts concerned — that different people are very differently endowed in respect to their capacity for cognising the phenomena of the superphysical planes, that ought to suggest the possibility that some persons may be able to cognise these completely enough to make sense of them, and fit their phenomena into a coherent scheme of Nature. At this stage of the argument we get back to the theory that with adequate guidance it is possible for persons who are themselves quite without the gifts required for the personal observation of occulta, phenomena, to bring the whole subject within the area of intelligent study. We can listen first of all to a statement which may profess to formulate the various and bewildering phenomena of psychic, mesmeric, and spiritualistic investigations (together with many others besides). We may check the methods by which information of that kind is alleged to be attained, by the consideration of all accumulated experience of abnormal vision, and may then check the statement itself by a general consideration first of all of its inherent reasonableness; secondly, of its adaptation to the enigmas and requirements of life, and thirdly, of its symmetry as compared with the working of Nature in departments within the range of easy observation. Finally, we may consider its power of explaining the sporadic and, in themselves, unintelligible occurrences that lie around us in profusion.

Just such a statement as I have here imagined is embodied in the theosophical literature of recent years. Available for our acceptance if we find it satisfying the tests that we are entitled to apply, we now have before us a scheme of nature, of the world, of human life and future existence, which has as it were drawn aside the veil from the symbolism of religion, and brought the region of faith within the area of exact apprehension.

And theosophic teaching in reference to spiritual progress should surely claim favourable consideration from modern thinkers, if for no other reason, for this: that it brings that transcendental process within the uniform operation of cause and effect. Perhaps, indeed, religious teaching has only seemed to disregard cause and effect in assigning the conditions of afterlife to arbitrary favour or condemnation. Clear-sighted students may as readily discern true theosophy disguised in the symbolism of religion, as the most intelligent exponents of religious doctrine will discern the spirit of religion in the sublime teaching of occult science; but at all events popular corrupt religion is apt to regard the destinies of man after death as subject to treatment which, whether gracious or retributive, is influenced by considerations quite external to himself; and exact thinking must recognise such treatment as capricious — as outside the law of cause and effect which operates so invariably in all realms of Nature, fairly open to observation. Theosophy, on the other hand, in regard to the progress of humanity, embodies an infinite exaltation of the doctrine of the conservation of energy. All future experiences of each of us in turn are the inevitable and logical outcome of our previous acts with their concurrent states of mind. The apparent irregularity and injustice of life is an appearance merely due to the fact that we take too short a view of life when we think that we perceive such irregularity and injustice. Spiritual science reveals the fact that each human life stretches both in front of and behind any given period of physical manifestation to an enormous extent. On the whole account the events and conditions of each life in turn are the effects of antecedent causes.

With this magnificent revelation, which is at the root of all truly scientific views of human existence, we shall be largely concerned later on; but there are some general principles concerning the potentialities of human progress which may be dealt with at once.

If we start from the safe point of departure to be found in the established fact that some persons have a much more highly perceptive organism than others, and if we keep touch with the idea that faculty itself is the product of causes, we are at all events within reach of a plausible hypothesis pointing to the theory that people may perhaps be able by appropriate effort to develop the aptitudes of their own organism for cognising a wider range of natural phenomena than those which are reflected in the five senses. And if so, do we not come within range of the idea that human evolution may be the product of two lines of force, the one proceeding, so to speak, from Nature at large, and representing the normal impulse of evolution, the other generated by the spontaneous volition of the individual, and representing the previously dormant principle of Divinity within him?

This idea is really the keynote of the scientific view of human spiritual evolution. The will force of each human being who would rise in Nature must be united with the evolutionary tendencies of the race as a whole in order that his greatest possible development may be brought about. The plain common-sense of this should be obvious to any one who will dwell in thought on the deep significance of any among many conventional religious phrases that are constantly echoed and rarely appreciated. Take, for instance, the familiar idea that in God we live and move and have our being. The converse — spoken with all due reverence — is a corollary of that statement. God — the spirit or influence of God — lives in us, and in so far as we have consciousness of being very ungodlike in many respects, it should be obvious that the extent to which that condition of things may be destined to become a vital truth, depends on the degree to which we render ourselves, so to speak, habitable for God. But surely, if one human being has rendered himself very much more habitable for God than another, that human being is the one whose will has become a more potent force than the will of the other, for it is more largely infused with the Will which, in its perfection, is recognised as the first cause of all things, and the guiding principle of Nature and evolution.

Who can fail to see what nonsense it must be to predicate the same immediate destiny in evolution for the God-inhabited man and the mere self-centred human animal. True, conventional religion, taking refuge in a meek faith that the worst sinner may be purified somehow in another world, is content to remain' in ignorance of the way in which its paradox works, — of the device by which it is arranged that opposite causes should produce the same effect; but occult science, comprehending the patience of Nature, as well as its invariability, is well aware that the human animal will have other chances, besides any one in particular that we may see him wasting, for making the efforts that will render himself — in some future personality — the temple of spiritual consciousness. Opportunities may be wasted, and if so they may recur. The considerations governing that reflection will be examined later on. The all-important point is that at some stage or other of his career a human being must undertake his own evolution — unite an adequately powerful ray of the Universal Spirit with his own consciousness — or he will not evolve up into those superior realms of evolution which the humanity of our own epoch merely exists to subserve. Nor is that the whole of the thought which this simple view of the subject suggests. It is a commonplace of all scientific thinking that there cannot be immobility in Nature; there must be progress or retrogression — change of some sort. Nothing really stands still, either in the cycles of astronomy, or chemical change, or metaphysical condition. A man may live one life, perhaps, and appear to be neither higher nor lower in the scale of Nature at the close of it than he was at the beginning; but one life is after all but a brief interval in eternity, or even in those very protracted cycles of time which occult science prefers to handle rather than to prattle, with the modern creeds, of conceptions so embarrassing to the finite mind as eternity and infinitude.

The man, as a continuous being, having a life history of which the one physical personality is but a single link, cannot stand still in evolution. It is an intellectual absurdity to imagine man doing that. He must either advance or recede; progress or retrogress like everything else— every being else — in Nature. Up to the rank in creation where most of us are standing now, such retrogression as has been possible need not for the moment be considered. The great automatic forces of evolution have driven each individual forward. There has been suffering perhaps, if during the process of such driving his will has been set against the Great Power behind him, but broadly speaking there has been no retrogression. From the humbler spheres of consciousness in the lower kingdoms of Nature the soul, in dim ages of the past, has risen upward. Through processes of ethereal existence antedating the humanity of the type now attained, the individuality has moved onward towards its higher destinies as a human being qualified to say with a full comprehension of what it is about — "Now I will blend this consciousness and volition which is myself with the superior divine consciousness of which I am the material mirror, and thus illuminated and inspired I will move forward again ever onward and upward." But just because he is now qualified to say this if he chooses to act upon such a declaration, a man is also qualified to determine that it is all too much trouble; too painful for the time-being, perhaps. And then if the election is so made, the human consciousness which is the product of natural evolution so far, chooses, in effect, to unite itself with matter and its limitations, instead of with spirit and its potentialities. It is not necessary to stop here and at full length attempt to define the characteristics of the descent that must then set in. It should be obvious to any rational understanding that such a descent is the inevitable alternative to the conscious self-directed ascent, at the turning point of evolution, wherever that may be, at which a higher progress to be achieved by the preparation of the interior self for the access of the Divine influx is offered to each man in turn as a potentiality of the consciousness he has attained. But looking upward and considering the prospects of humanity — so very ill comprehended as yet by the world at large — in their broadest aspects the truth just defined is one of pre-eminent significance. We have got half-way through the great evolutionary process on which the human faculty is launched. So far we have been led and supported. For the rest of the way we must push on ourselves — seeing our way; understanding what is expected of us; resolute to fulfil the Divine purpose.

Nor from this moment onward need we be any longer in the dark concerning the road to be travelled, the interior development we have it in our power to reach, nor the attributes of that rank in Nature which it is open to us to attain. The view of the whole evolutionary scheme that has been gradually set forth in Theosophical literature is now sufficiently complete to make the prospects of the future as intelligible as the history of the past. We are, as I have said, half-way through the whole "manvantara," or period within which the present chapter of spiritual evolution is designed to take place. The time spent up to now — on other planets besides this — has been counted in millions of ages. Millions of ages lie before the human family for the full and complete development of its evolution. Paying attention for the moment to that which may be described as normal evolution alone, occult science shows us that the stupendous task of harmonizing our wills completely with the Divine idea of the whole undertaking, and of mastering all the knowledge which it is possible for us to acquire when our natures are adequately exalted by that process, is one which may be protracted over the whole range of those millions of ages. We shall gather more as we go on concerning the circumstances under which it is so protracted, but taken as slowly as Nature allows for, or as rapidly as the process can be hastened, nothing can be achieved from the middle point of the manvantara onwards unless a comprehension of what is to be done animates each effort at every stage. That is the all-essential idea to keep hold of in contemplating the prospects of humanity. The nature of the attainments possible eventually, will be considered more conveniently at a later stage of the inquiry.



1. In preparing the second edition of this work nine years after the publication of the first, it would be impossible for me to bring the statement which follows up to date, because to do so I should exhaust the alphabet in referring to the various persons who have since then crossed the threshold dividing mere confident belief from personal knowledge relating to the occult world. I leave the statement as it was given in the first edition as an indication of the manner in which, though not as showing the extent to which, our touch with the higher planes of consciousness has gradually been established.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:18 pm


Theosophy in harmony with essential religious ideas — The uncertainties of modern thought in spite of religious teaching — The exactitudes of Theosophic interpretation — The methods of research in spiritual science — True meanings of misunderstood dogmas.

At the outset of any serious attempt to comprehend Theosophic teaching concerning the growth of the soul, it is well worth while to dissipate the foolish delusion that such teaching is at war with religion, and based upon a Godless and Atheistic system of thought. Theosophy is so far from deserving that reproach that it even brings into sympathy with all essential religious ideas, those of its followers who, repelled in the first instance by the unsatisfactory creeds in which religion has so often been disguised by ecclesiastical systems, have approached it from the point of view of Agnostic or even Atheistic thinking.

Occult science enables us to define clearly before the mind's eye the goal at which humanity has to aim. Religious faith, it may be urged, does this also, no matter with what varieties of creed it may be associated. It points to a happy spiritual life of a refined order as a reward for piety and blameless conduct. But that is not a "clearly defined" goal, because the conditions of such superior existence are never explained in sacred writings with exactitude. The Theosophic exposition of spiritual science, on the other hand, shows quite definitely the coniditions of spiritual existence which ensue as a consequence of simple piety and blameless life, and also the still higher conditions that may be attainable for those who unite with the utmost attainable blamelessness, adequate knowledge concerning the scope and possibilities of human existence, and who, guiding their conduct by the light of that knowledge, bring themselves so far into harmony with the loftiest principles governing the evolution of the world, as to rise in the scale of creation, and take their places in that sphere of existence which, as compared with the kingdom of humanity, might be termed the kingdom of divinity.

Before going further let me expand this contrast a little. For one very common mistake made about Theosophic teaching by people who begin to appreciate its ethical tendencies, is that, after all, it only repeats familiar Christian exhortations in a new form of words, dropping out the ecclesiastical phraseology.

In spite of the painful pretences of precision which distinguish the anthropomorphic formulas of modern churches, the philosophical literature of modern thought is saturated with the conviction that the conditions of physical life hopelessly deny us exact knowledge in reference to the hereafter. "The bourne from which no traveller returns "is a region which Shakespeare, even though presenting us in the same breath with a traveller who does return from it, recognises as shrouded in impenetrable darkness. Tennyson cannot give, by the Voice of Faith, any more definite information concerning the future than is conveyed in the "notice faintly understood" which embodies the encouragemerit of "a hidden hope." The leading exponents of modern knowledge concerning physical nature are bitter in their repudiation of the theory that it is possible to get touch with positive facts having to do with non-carnate conditions of consciousness. With eighteen centuries to work in, the Christian churches have finally produced, as the result of their teaching, the assured conviction on the part of their most intellectual pupils, that there is nothing to be known, however much to be hoped for, along that road. Reasonable conjectures, pointing to a superphysical intelligence and consciousness of some sort governing the world, there may be, but of real knowledge, such as that we have about the planetary movements or the molecular constitution of matter, there is none attainable.

Samuel Laing, summing up the conclusions of Modern Thought, writes: "As far as our experience and knowledge extend, this life of conscious personal identity is indissolubly connected with a material organ — the brain. . . . What will become of it when the brain is dissolved into its elements? No voice comes from beyond the grave to tell us. It is the mystery of mysteries."

And the authors of "The Unseen Universe," though their whole book presents itself as an attempt to argue that there may be an unseen universe and some avenue that may at last lead from the seen to the unseen, conceive that up to now this avenue "has unfortunately been walled up and ticketed with 'No road this way.'" "In fine," they say elsewhere, "the unseen may have a very wide field of influence, but from its very nature its working is not discernible, and we are therefore led to consult the Christian records for otherwise unattainable information regarding the reality of a present influence exercised by the invisible universe upon ours." As for the fate of evil doers, "We greatly question whether any school of theologians have succeeded in throwing a single ray of real light into this mysterious region."

The whole body of Theosophic teaching on the contrary rests on the confident declaration that an immense volume of real knowledge, quite as precise and certain as that we possess about the movements of the planets, or the behaviour of molecules, is attainable and has been attained in reference to superphysical conditions of human consciousness, the natural laws which govern the transition of human consciousness from one sphere or plane of Nature to another, and the conditions of existence which belong to other Beings, some higher than, some lower than the humanity of which we have cognisance on this earth. But when the practical bearing of this knowledge on human conduct during incarnate life is brought down to an every-day level, undoubtedly it is found that in many respects the ethics of exact spiritual science are identical with the ethics of the inexact, however ardent, aspirations of religion. That is in no way surprising for students of Theosophy who come to realise that all religion worthy of the name has grown out of spiritual science as existing in the world at the period of such growth. Religions prepared by the various great teachers and prophets of mankind for propagation in the world at large, are in all cases excerpts clothed in a more or less elaborate symbolism, from the great body of definite scientific knowledge concerning the spiritual laws and purpose of the world possessed by the initiates for the time being of esoteric wisdom.

The identity, however, of ordinary religious and theosophic ethics up to a certain point in no way lessens the importance of the additional spiritual guidance to be derived from the knowledge of theosophic doctrine. The acquisition of that knowledge at one stage or another of human progress is an absolute condition, sine qud non, for the attainment of the grander possibilities of that progress. The good life per se will lead to happiness hereafter, as the most popular forms of religious teaching very fairly declare. The ideas associated with religious piety, if welded with that good life, will colour the happiness to which it leads and determine its character and kind. But the good life per se leads to nothing more than happiness, and not even to an eternity of that. To rise in the scale of Nature and get above the conditions of transitoriness that beset all phases of consciousness of the merely human Kingdom, whether incarnate or disincarnate, we must make specific efforts of a kind that can only be made by virtue of knowledge concerning the higher spiritual laws of Nature.

These are vague phrases till they are brought to a focus by an exposition of the great and magnificent discoveries concerning the dormant spiritual faculties of humanity and the phases of Nature suitable to their expansion, which some advanced representatives of humanity in all ages of the world since the human epoch began, have been enabled to make.

When churches or sects — with their hundreds of divergent creeds — make definite statements of fact concerning the destinies of humanity which can be shown to have arisen from some unintelligent materialisation of an allegory, or from a grovelling, anthropomorphic conception of the principles on which the world is governed, theosophical teaching will naturally endeavour to break through such incrustations of error; but the religious instinct or sentiment itself is so fundamentally identical with the theosophical instinct or sentiment, that to suppose the one hostile to the other is to misunderstand the position entirely.

It is quite true, more's the pity, that much genuine religious sentiment is often blended with limited sectarian bigotry. Whether a man be a member of the Church of England, or a Roman Catholic, or a Baptist, or a Mussulman, if he conceives that his own creed sums up the actual truth of things and that the other creeds are false, he is in a state of mind which we must recognise, to say the least, as highly unintelligent. If he goes further, as many do, and believes that there is no salvation, outside the pale of his own creed, for the adherents of others, he stands before us as a reductio ad absurdum of sectarian folly. But however feeble may be his mental grasp of spiritual principles, even he — and, all the more, sectarians who are in various degrees less bigoted — may blend with their foolishness a great deal of genuine religious sentiment. They may set before their own interior sight a conception of Deity which they adore, a code of right and wrong which is, at all events, something divorced from the immediate dictates of selfish interest, and they may govern their lives on the principle that the destinies of the soul after death are of more importance than the transitory enjoyments of physical life. With that much spirituality to begin with, advancing intelligence in progress of time may lead them into the path of real enlightenment.

In a very much higher degree may religious sentiment of a more refined and intense order be directly calculated to prepare the mind for the supreme illumination of theosophic teaching, and however little modern popular creeds may seem adapted to develop ardent spiritual enthusiasm of a pure and refined character, we have to recognise the curious fact that in the present age of the world great numbers of religious people are immeasurably better and more spiritually intelligent than their creeds would lead one to expect. In fact, the growth of intelligence has permeated European religions to an extent that has honeycombed them, really, without apparently disturbing their external form : in other words, the refinement of feeling that general culture evokes, and the earnestness of spiritual aspiration among multitudes of people still professing some orthodox faith, have woven so beautiful a drapery of vague sentiment around the original doctrines — which it has never occurred to them to dispense with — that the ugly deformities thus hidden from view are effectually forgotten. If the outsider complains, "Your doctrine says so and so," the answer is, "Not at all; nobody of cultivated mind takes it in that sense; it really means this and that." And then the ignoble statement, whatever it may be, is sublimated into something too ethereal to be controverted.

This method of dealing with exoteric or popular religions may be supported or condemned along different lines of argument. Whether it hastens or retards the evolution of the popular religion into something higher is a question that cannot be easily decided. But at all events, the attitude of mind of people who in this way cling to and refine — for their own use, at least — the conventions of exoteric belief, may go hand in hand with a capacity to assimilate real spiritual knowledge. And the ardour of religious feeling which has in the first instance inspired their own interior development, must be distinctly favourable, in their case, to that practical application of the higher wisdom to the problems of human life and conduct which it is the great purpose of Theosophy to promote.

Indeed, it is impossible, from the theosophical point of view, to be too earnest in repudiating the miserable misrepresentation of Theosophy that leads people sometimes to imagine it an aggressive and iconoclastic philosophy essentially hostile to religion. It would be as wise to assert that mathematical teaching is hostile to astronomy. Mathematics may from time to time have upset some popular idea on the subject of astronomy, but that has simply been so much the better for astronomy; and in the same way any religious idea — any idea, that is to say, which has become encrusted on religion — which Theosophy may be in a position to discredit — will be got rid of by religion* greatly to its own advantage. Theosophy, in fact, stands to religion very much in the position of mathematics to astronomy; that last relationship is the relationship of the abstract to the concrete. The pure colourless truths of mathematical science lead us upwards to an appreciation of the sublime and soul-stirring panorama of the heavens. So does an understanding of theosophic truth, however stern, scientific, and abstract it may seem in the first instance, lead the spiritual consciousness upward towards realms of glowing emotion, and eventually into the actual contemplation of spiritual realities, the glories of which may easily account for the way in which the illuminated theosophic student regards all familiar objects of mundane desire as contemptible trivialities beside the experiences of his interior progress.

To repeat a phrase growing almost too hackneyed for use, but representing a truth that must never be forgotten, Theosophy is the essence of religion, and of all religions worthy of the name. Or in other words, it is the science of Divine things, as the word implies. Reverence for each specific religion felt by its adherents, may often blind them to the idea that there must be such an underlying science. The outer expression given to the views of exoteric religions concerning Deity and Divine relations with humanity must — for all but the most circumscribed intelligence — be recognised as at any rate falling far short of a complete explanation of those stupendous mysteries. There must be a prodigious complexity, so to speak, in the organisation of spiritual Nature, which very bald — however poetical— -declarations concerning omnipotence, omniscience, Heaven, and eternal life, fail to expound. Within the far narrower field of observation with which physical science deals, it will be seen on reflection that a great many broad generalisations are in the nature of an exoteric substitute for the declarations which more advanced knowledge might supply. The sun, for example, is for the popular Western understanding — a vast globe in the centre of the system of planets to which we belong, which shines with a bright light and gives out heat, generating organic growth, and providing for the recurrence of seasons, and so on. Other popular conceptions of the sun have anthropomorphised these ideas, more or less, and have imputed a self-conscious Divinity to the orb on whose influence the life and health of the world so manifestly depended. But underlying both views, there are certainly immense realms of complex intermediation that the popular understanding does not trouble itself about in either case. How does the sun make a plant grow? It sends out light and heat, but that is a loose and ineffectual statement that takes us no forwarder. We can hunt down the physical elements concerned, and discern them, if not absolutely with the sight, with the eye of understanding — in their molecular simplicity. Heat may throw these molecules into motion, but that alone will not account for organic growth. Moreover, when we begin to examine into these things — how does the heat get here from the sun? The sun radiates it!

That does not explain anything. By what intermediation is the influence conveyed? Science begins at this stage to be esoteric.

Popular knowledge — the popular religion of the matter so to speak — is content with the statement — the sun emits heat. Even exoteric science finds it necessary to fortify and expand this crude statement, and brings the luminiferous ether into the field of observation. Ether, that marvellous medium of physical influences that can neither be seen, felt, nor examined by any instrument, is discovered by advancing knowledge nevertheless, and science, in spite of its extremely cautious habits, begins to affirm certain definite propositions concerning it. Then does "emission " in the popular sense take place at all in connexion with the sun's heat and light? According to the very latest views of physical science, such emission is actually suspected, though till the appearance of the electron on the scene, the tendency of modern thought was rather in the direction of assuming that all solar influences were transmitted to us as vibrations or peculiar conditions of the ether. That the sun does something to the ether, and that we feel effects in the ether round us, is undeniable; but esoteric science enables us to realise that the sun at all events is in control of forces infinitely more subtle even than those having to do with etheric vibrations, and already we can foresee developments of scientific knowledge in preparation for no very distant periods when the term "physical science "will have to be discarded as an incomplete description of the knowledge accumulated by the Royal Society.

Assuming eventually that students of solar physics come to something resembling complete knowledge of the chain of cause and effect between the sun's influence and the organic life of the world, then solar physics would be to the broad popular statements on the subject, just what theosophical knowledge — in its perfection — is to popular religion.

The analogy just employed is all the more inviting, because it suits the idea to be illustrated in more ways than one. Just as esoteric solar physics require us to investigate the properties of a medium imperceptible to exoteric senses, so in dealing with spiritual science we must range over fields of observation that lie altogether beyond exoteric understanding. Even without attempting this, a great deal of very instructive and suggestive information on the subject may, it is true, be picked up by those peculiarly qualified, from ancient Oriental literature. Most of this is maddeningly obscure, though when you know what it ought to mean you can often see that this meaning must have been present to the writer's mind. But granting that in this way from one region or another of ancient Oriental literature, it would be possible to compile an account of the great evolutionary processes of Nature, showing the origin of the solar system, the successive development of planets related to each other, the passage of the life influence through the vegetable and animal kingdoms, and the evolution of the human kingdom at last through a series of mighty races, and so on, after all the knowledge so preserved in the Eastern books, must in the first instance have been acquired by persons qualified to direct their observation to realms of Nature beyond those penetrated by the ordinary senses. Whether knowledge concerning the higher planes of Nature was obtained by ancient seers thousands of years ago, or by modern seers quite recently, its acquisition must of necessity depend on the exercise by some persons at one time or another of higher faculties than those concerned with the ordinary objects of sense. We may frankly recognise that the knowledge concerning Nature on which the lofty moral purpose of Theosophic teaching rests, could never have been acquired by the mere intellectual study of evidences lying within the range of mere scientific observation. The gifts of seership, including the highest spiritual clairvoyance, have been brought into play in the prolonged task of educating the human mind to understand the great scheme of Nature to which that mind belongs, and from this reflection it directly follows that the cultivation in ourselves of analogous faculties, is the great task on which it behoves us to enter if we would come fully into communion with the aspects of Nature from contact with which the seer's knowledge has been developed.

But not on that account need we assume that no progress in spiritual science is to be accomplished without first developing faculties that will bring us into conscious relations with higher planes of Nature. As well might we refuse to accept any knowledge concerning the stars unless we were in a position to build an observatory for ourselves, and arm ourselves with a complete comprehension of all sciences subsidiary to such knowledge. Through every department of human enlightenment through which culture ranges, most of us are daily in the habit of relying to a very large extent upon the original research of others. And for the great majority of mankind, for a long time to come, it will be inevitably necessary that they should rely, in dealing with the science of spiritual things, on the original research of others along those lines. But with reasonable precautions they may do this confidently in the one case as in the other. Of course, the situation is embarrassing at the outset in the case of psychic inquiry. In the other case the multitude know that each expert is checked and watched by a number of other experts, and it is quickly known whether any new conclusions of independent research are accepted by contemporary science. If so, the multitude accepts that guarantee. Now, at present, as regards spiritual science, we have no Royal Society at hand to put its imprimatur on progressive discoveries. Some of us know, indeed, that there is, so to speak, a Royal Society of spiritual scientists in existence, and that if we reach it we gain access to a source of authority in such matters far better to be relied on than even the elite leaders of contemporary physical science in their department of knowledge. It is from that source of information, as repeatedly explained, that the theosophical revelation of our time has come. But for reasons which patient investigation makes very intelligible, the foci of spiritual initiation are not readily accessible to all inquirers at present, so their authority can never be invoked for the guidance of people who are merely beginning the investigation of occult teaching. Nothing is more helpful to earnest inquirers than a clear conviction as to the existence of such foci and the conditions under which their influence radiates out into the world, but it is possible to get a long way on the path of theosophic culture before the question is taken up for thorough examination.

Leaving it out of sight for the moment we have to decide how we are to investigate spiritual science without special faculties which enable us to cognise other planes of Nature and without access to any body of established knowledge, in reference to which we have as yet entire confidence. My answer is that we all have the capacities of reason that enable us to consider the statements of occult science now lying before the world, to compare them with the familiar facts of life, to test them by reference to ideal conceptions as to justice and purpose in the spiritual government of the world, to make prudent and careful use of the wonderful analogies of Nature that visibly in so many ways, and inferentially in many more, bring her various phases into harmony with one another, and finally — this kind of test bringing me back to the special subject I have in hand for the moment — to apply the declarations of occult science to the great and fundamental conceptions of traditional religion, and see whether or not they offend, confirm, or illuminate the elements of those conceptions to which we may feel the deepest attachment.

In reality occult science not only shows itself in fundamental harmony with great religious ideas, but going far beyond this, reconciles itself, so to speak, with religion; and actually invests in a great many cases with a new and beautiful significance, dogmas of exoteric religion which have gradually forfeited their true spiritual significance for a materialistic generation, which have been for many centuries taken by churches and congregations merely at the foot of the letter, to be a stumbling block for some, unhealthy food for those who have swallowed them in blind faith, taking them literally and yet refusing to bring them out, for consideration, into the light of common reason. Take for example — and merely as an example, for to go fully into the interpretation of religious dogma by the light of occultism would be to write a book on that branch of the subject alone — the Vicarious Atonement that has long taken its place as the leading doctrine of modern Christianity. The notion of a wrathful God, expending anger on an innocent being and ultimately forgiving guilty persons when his desire to take vengeance somehow has been satisfied, is a notion that blasphemes Deity, offends justice, and is generally grotesque — and refined modern theology sublimates it more or less vaguely into something different, while leaving it in that form for humbler understandings that do not rise in overt rebellion against its horrors. Occult science on the other hand, gives us the true reading of the mysterious dogma. The whole story of the crucifixion is enacted afresh in the case of every human soul that attains spiritual exaltation. It is the allegory of the soul's progress. It is the only process by which redemption can be accomplished — and it is vividly appreciated as soon as we understand the occult teaching concerning the lower and the higher self. The higher self — very roughly anticipating occult explanations that will be given more fully further on — is the truly spiritual, immortal, imperishable part of a man — the growth and expansion of which into full consciousness, is the purpose of physical life, and its protracted experiences. That is the Divinity which incarnates, welding its consciousness during each physical life with its lower self, the visible, sinful, fallible man of our every day observation — the reflection of itself on the plane of matter. It can only exalt the personality to the plane of true spiritual evolution and redeem it from sin and suffering by crucifixion on the physical plane, by the painful sacrifice on the plane of its incarnate manifestation of physical desires and tendencies and personal selfishness — that is to say, by the subordination of the lower self — the ordinary waking consciousness — to the Divine teaching involved in the loftiest aspiration of the Christ within us — the higher self. Then the atonement is accomplished without an atom of injustice entering into the transaction.

In a similar way the whole story of Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, of the rib, the temptation, and the fall, can be shown, when illuminated by occult knowledge, to be a profound cryptograph embodying some of the most important facts in the evolution of the human race — in the evolution especially of humanity as we know it now, expressed in the two sexes, from that earlier humanity belonging more to the "astral " than to the physical plane of Nature, which preceded our present type in the great process of the descent of spirit into matter. But I need not go into the minutiae of that interpretation here. The broad principle which I am specially concerned to lay down does not really depend on, however much it is fortified by, the precise correspondence between occult teaching and the dogmas of exoteric religion — as soon as these are raised above the level of nursery tales or Icelandic sagas — by an adequate translation into terms of spiritual thought. The harmony between occultism and the essence of everything that is most exalted in religious aspiration or emotion is unmistakable for everyone who gets on far enough in the study of occultism to realise how much more it signifies than that which it is sometimes supposed to be chiefly concerned with — the unveiling of a new set of natural mysteries, the exploration of a new realm of scientific wonder. It is, indeed, the science behind all sciences, without which none can be complete; but it is also the religion behind all religions, without which none can do more than prepare the soul of man for entrance on its loftiest inheritance.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:18 pm

Part 1 of 2


The root idea of evolution — The nature of the proof offered — The only theory that suits the facts — The true doctrine cleared of misrepresentation — The law of Karma — Heredity and assimilation — Necessary exhaustion of ordinary memory — Logical certainties of pre-existence — Inequalities of life accounted for — No "accidents of birth" — The world-wide acceptance of the doctrine —Buddhist teaching on the subject — Absurd misunderstanding thereof by many Western writers — Some Buddhist symbolism explained — Re-incarnation recognised in Christianity — References to it in the Gospels — The certain knowledge concerning Re-incarnation of the occult disciple.

No purpose worth speaking of can be served by studying the teachings which constitute in their entirety the Esoteric Doctrine until the student is in the first instance completely saturated with the conception that the growth and development of the human soul is accomplished by means of successive returns to physical life (with intervening periods of spiritual rest) which, regarded in the aggregate as a process of Nature, make up what is generally called the theory of Re-incarnation. It is equally true, however, that the subject cannot be studied quite apart from other branches of the great body of knowledge to which it belongs. A general appreciation of the perfect harmony of the Esoteric Doctrine in its various ramifications is often required for the proper comprehension of its fundamental conceptions. Esoteric teaching is not in that respect quite like Euclid's geometry, of which one may learn a little and no more and yet have that little firmly established in the understanding. It is like Euclid's geometry in the sense that the later propositions cannot be accepted unless the earlier propositions have been realised and appreciated first; but to get at that realisation it may often be necessary to sweep on far ahead and realise how necessary the earlier propositions are to an appreciation of the grander spiritual ideas with which its later exposition may be concerned. Then the student, recommencing the examination of the whole teaching, will begin, perhaps, to see the fundamental principles in a new light, and may finally get them embedded in his permanent conviction. Then he finds himself at last in possession of a foundation whereon he can build a structure of knowledge which it is possible to ascend with confidence.

In dealing at the outset with the question whether the doctrine of human evolution summed up in the term " Re-incarnation " can be " proved " or not, in the sense that you can prove a new discovery in physics, we have to recognise that, of course, such proof is impossible. All we can do is to show that it would be profoundly unphilosophical to believe anything else — anything, that is to say, at variance with that doctrine; that Re-incarnation will satisfactorily account for all the phenomena of human life (which the idea can have any relations with), and that these would be chaotic and unintelligible otherwise; that without bringing in this all-important interpretation of its conditions the world around us would be a creation of malevolence and injustice, rather than one of wisdom and goodness; that only by recognising Re-incarnation can we account for one man being a Newton and another an ignorant blockhead; finally, that although the majority of human beings at the present stage of evolution — for reasons that esoteric teaching renders abundantly clear — do not remember their past lives, some people whose spiritual development has passed certain limits, actually do remember theirs not merely in a vague and shadowy fashion, but with complete precision and even a fuller grasp of detail than untrained memory will afford in dealing with the earlier periods of a current life. I shall amplify these and other considerations directly, but what I want to emphasise for the moment is that in admitting the doctrine of Reincarnation to be insusceptible of proof — in the absolute, physical sense of the word — I claim for it all the while that it can be so nearly proved by reasoning, that no intelligent man who correctly apprehends the idea, and who applies it with adequate patience to the experience of existence whether in or out of the body, can possibly fail to believe it as fully, for example, as the modern scientific world believes in the undulatory theory of light. That theory is not argued about any more in these days. It is the only theory that will explain all the facts. And so with Re-incarnation in the domain of spiritual science; it is the only theory which will explain all the facts, and it is luminous with a truly scientific aspect; that is to say, it is in harmony with the uniformities of Nature, affording indeed the only way out of supposing that the uniformities of Nature are rudely violated in the laws which govern the evolution of humanity. Thus, in progress of time, cultivated thinkers will certainly cease to argue about Re-incarnation, even before the development in ordinary mankind of those higher faculties to which the concatenation of successive lives will ultimately become as plainly perceptible, no doubt, as the identity of the sun is obvious to us, on his rising every day.

The first step towards realising the truth of the doctrine of Re-incarnation is to obtain a clear comprehension of the views really held by people who recognise that doctrine as explaining the actual process of the soul's evolution. We possess a considerable mass of writing on the subject now, which students of Oriental philosophy generally would recognise as setting forth the teaching of the most cultivated exponents of that philosophy, and we find, to begin with, that a good many popular notions on the subject which have floated about the world at various periods may be pared away from the central idea. The esoteric doctrine of Re-incarnation, for example, does not contemplate the descent of human souls, under any circumstances, into animal bodies. In the crudest presentation of the idea, that has been treated as part of the scheme, but I do not believe it has ever been suggested except as a symbol of moral deterioration following on bad lives, or as a disguise of the true teaching. The only theory that I am anxious to support is that according to which the drift of successive Re-incarnations must always be progressive. Never mind for the moment from what phases of existence in the remote past human beings may have ascended: once on the human level they remain on that level, or, at all events continue to advance on that level.

We may start, in order to explain the real teaching of occultists on the subject of Re-incarnation, at a point in human evolution when the human condition has already been fully attained and when life is going on under the circumstances with which we are familiar. The doctrine is that when a man of our kind dies — as regards the physical manifestation of his consciousness — that consciousness passes first of all into spiritual or relatively spiritual conditions of existence, which are calculated to endure for a long time, and are immensely important. From some of these conditions it is undoubtedly possible that touch may be maintained with the consciousness of people still in the earth life. And though there are some spiritual conditions into which the soul may pass which are too exalted to permit anything resembling what is ordinarily meant by intercourse with friends still in earth life, I imagine that the experience of many Spiritualists would go far to confirm rather than to conflict with that view. Broadly, therefore, it will be seen that the theory of Re-incarnation does not enter into competition with any estimate of the probabilities of spirit life — except in so far as some of those estimates will be satisfied with nothing less than eternity as the duration of the conditions they predict. The theory of Re-incarnation contemplates, with the progress of ages, so great an advance and improvement in the type of humanity, both as regards earthly body and soul consciousness, that it would certainly shrink from supposing that any human being of an imperfect type should be doomed to preserve to all eternity any single personality which would perpetuate its imperfections. But that theory, let it always be remembered, is in no hurry to obliterate personalities. The spiritual existence following the release of the soul from any particular body may be prolonged, if the experiences of life in that body have been of a peculiarly vivid and inspiring character, for prodigious periods. But the contention of esoteric philosophy is that finite causes must have finite effects. The earthly experience of any human being between birth and death is an accumulation of finite causes, summed up within the experience, the emotions, the thoughts of the life in question. Grant those subjective energies any range of amplification we please, a time will come, according to the doctrine I am now describing, when they are all distilled as it were into the essence of life. The soul has then absorbed into its permanent or truly spiritual nature all the capacities of emotion and knowledge, which its last life invested it with. It is once more a colourless, pure centre of abstract consciousness, and in that capacity, under the affinities of its nature, it once again seeks a vehicle for the activity of its latent capacities. It finds that vehicle — not consciously, but under the operation of a comprehensive natural law, just as the appropriate molecules of matter from the atmosphere are drawn into the composition of a plant — in a newly developing human form.

So far we have just a bare outline of the theory of Re-incarnation. We start with a soul in physical life — we follow it through the experiences of life which develop all those innumerable memories and affections and associations of thought which make up the person or personality in question (a something quite distinct, of course, from the body which is its vehicle). We perceive that personality proceeding next to enjoy a spiritual existence (for periods enormously outrunning the span of physical life), and then we find it returning to a new earth life to gather in fresh experience, and develop fresh capacity for knowledge, and perhaps to make that all-important moral progress which can only be accomplished in the midst of the temptations, the struggles, and the internal victories of the physical plane.

But to understand the doctrine aright, it is above all things necessary to keep in view the law under which the soul, at the expiration of its spiritual rest, is drawn back into earth life. That law is known to Oriental philosophy as the law of Karma, and it is the essential complement of the doctrine of Re-incarnation. In its broad outlines this law is very easy of comprehension. The literal meaning of the word is simply "doing" or " action." But the law without which the whole scheme of human life would be chaotic, enacts that action of whatever kind must give rise to consequences; that on the moral plane the effect follows the cause as inevitably as in the laboratory. The word seems sometimes to puzzle readers unfamiliar with occult literature, but need never do so although used sometimes in different senses, because the context of any sentence must always show in what sense it is used. The law of Karma is, as just described, the great principle that effect follows cause, that as we sow so shall we reap, that good deeds give rise to happiness in some form or another, and evil deeds to the reverse. Then, as a substantive, Karma is often spoken of as the action itself which gives rise to a result, and thus we come to speak of bad karma or good karma as phrases indicating the kind of action productive of good or evil. Again Karma may be spoken of as the force which explains any actual condition of things, and is thus associated especially with the teaching concerning Re-incarnation, with which we are now concerned. It shows us that the bodily form to which the soul is drawn back is not selected at random — as in a certain sense the raindrops may be said to fall at random on the shore or the sea, on the desert or the fruitful plain. Governed by the all-sufficient discernment of Nature, the soul ripe for Re-incarnation finds its expression in a body which affords it the exact conditions of life which* Karma — in this sense its desert — requires. The circumstances of life to which that body introduces its tenant, the destiny of happiness or suffering which its leading characteristics provide for, its intellectual capacities as an instrument on which the soul can play, are all determined (with an infinite variety of other conditions) by the Karma of the re-incarnating soul, or, to use what is, perhaps, a more scientific expression, of the re-incarnating Ego. No one need here for an instant be embarrassed by the familiar phenomena in human life of what is called heredity. Physical forms are transmitted on the plane of physical evolution from father to son with sometimes remarkable resemblances; in such cases heredity is not the cause, but the concomitant of the attributes manifested by the son. His independent soul Karma has required such a vehicle as the man who becomes his father was physically qualified to engender. Many illustrations might be taken from Nature to show her various forces and powers playing in this way into one another's hands. Assimilation is the law by which Re-incarnation and Karma reconcile themselves with heredity.

Now this statement of the view really held by adherents of Oriental philosophy in respect to Re-incarnation should go far to answer by anticipation many objections to the idea often urged by people who acquire an inaccurate or incomplete notion of the teaching. The suggestion, for instance, that we cannot have passed former lives on earth because we do not remember them, might be an objection to some totally different theory, but it is no objection to the theory I have reviewed. For manifestly, by the hypothesis, it is impossible for any one returning to the incarnate life to remember that which he must wear out. completely distil, and forget, as regards its specific details, before he is qualified to re-incarnate. If it is alleged, as has, indeed, sometimes been alleged with great force in reference to particular cases, that some rarely organised persons have maintained recollections of a former life of no very remote period, all we need point out is that few of the standing rules of natural growth in any of the kingdoms of Nature are beyond the reach of occasional abnormal exceptions. It is the rule, for instance, that men of our race live to about threescore years and ten, but there are many examples in which that rule is violated, and we may conceive in the same way that people sometimes die prematurely from the spiritual planes of Nature and return before their time to the earth life. Nor in venturing that guess need we assume that accidents like those which terminate life abruptly sometimes amongst us, are liable to befall the released souls of the higher levels. Premature returns to earth life in the rare cases where they occur, may be due to Karmic complications too elaborate to inquire into now. The important point is that the regular course of events must necessarily clear the Ego of all specific recollections of one life before it is ready for another. It might be desirable that this should be done in the interest of the soul's progress, if for no other reason, Life would perhaps hardly be bearable for human beings still in a humble phase of evolution, if the long and weary procession of uninteresting existences through which they had passed lay within sight behind them, before an enlightened spirituality of consciousness had shown them the ultimate possibilities of progress in future. And each life in turn would not, perhaps, be fraught with its own lessons unless these were learned separately, as it were, and one by one. But above all the forgetfulness of each life is plainly due to that provision of Nature already referred to which ensures for each of us after death the maximum fruition of all our spiritual aspirations in the corresponding and appropriate realms of consciousness. It would be unjust to the soul that it should remember, before it is exalted enough to exercise faculties far transcending those of the present average mankind. Memories are apt to be tinged either with sad longing or regret. For a man to remember some long vanished happiness of a former incarnation would mean one of two things: either he would have been unfairly deprived of the spiritual complement of that happiness, turned out too soon from the Heaven in which it would naturally be protracted, or supposing his new conditions of physical life owing to bad Karma — i.e., to evil-doing on his part in the former life — to be the painful penalty of such misdoing, he would be doubly punished if allowed the tantalising memory of what he had lost. Finally, as regards this point, though I have here been endeavouring to justify the law of Nature in question, it is not always to be expected that we can do this completely, and even if some critics remain inclined to dispute the wisdom of Nature in providing a draught of Lethe, "on slipping through from state to state," I would answer that the first thing we have to do in studying these mysteries is to find out what is, leaving to a more advanced period of our knowledge the task of ascertaining why it is.

At all events, the fact that we do not remember former incarnations, taken in conjunction with the merciful arrangement that provides us after each physical life a long and, in most cases, highly enjoyable and refreshing expansion of our existence on the spiritual planes, is no impediment whatever to the acceptance of the Re-incarnation theory, if we find it recommended to acceptance on independent grounds.

Coming now to some of those independent grounds, I would call attention to a somewhat recondite but extremely important argument, which is this: Ex nihilo nihil fit. That is a rule which commands our respect as much on the spiritual as on the physical plane of Nature. Now, independently of the broad teachings of religion, there is plenty of evidence around us for inquirers who are not too much prejudiced to avail themselves of it, to show that the human soul is a real entity -even when apart from and independent of the body with which it is associated during physical life. The experiences of spiritualism afford us this evidence. In spite of all the fraud and trickery with which the practice of spiritualism is surrounded, and in spite of the insufficiency of its most genuine experiences to establish the theories which many spiritualists have hastily built up, nothing but wilful ignorance of these experiences can blind the world at large to the proof it affords of one all-important fact, viz., that intelligences, formerly those of living persons on earth, do in some cases show themselves still actively functioning on another plane of Nature. To take that much as established by the investigations of spiritualists at large, is like taking from astronomy nothing more than an assurance that the earth is round. It is a simple and elementary assurance — to which, of course, I am aware that many people do not help themselves — as indeed there are other persons, or some among these who do not help themselves to the demonstrations of the earth's rotundity. There will come a time when disbelievers in the occasional reality of spiritualistic phenomena — persons who refer all such alleged occurrences to fraud and delusion — will be to a future generation what the few surviving " flat earth men " are to our own. But this is not an opportunity which I need take for the full discussion of that matter with detailed reference to trustworthy observations and records. The argument I am concerned with is merely one among many converging on the doctrine of Re-incarnation, and is specially addressed to persons who recognise — either on religious grounds, or from the experience of spiritualism — that the human soul is an entity apart from the body.

Now where has that soul come from when we first begin to see it flutter in a young child? It is a something independent of the body, therefore it has had an origin independently of the body. It has not come out of nothingness — it is essentially of the nature of the spiritual plane to which we find abundant reason for feeling sure it will flit off whenever the body is destroyed. Is it not obvious, therefore, that it has emerged from the spiritual plane — coming into manifestation on the physical? " But," someone may urge, " what we see in the young child in the nature of a soul is something very different from that which we can follow to a certain extent on its departure from the worn-out body of a person dying in mature life.

It may be that we have to recognise it as coming into the child's body, an entity already, but it looks very much like a freshly created entity. It is merely a centre of potentialities, a consciousness that may be taught, may acquire experience, may become a man, clearly not the trained soul of a man from the first moment of birth." Let me show how that objection is met. Firstly, for the purpose of the argument I am setting forth, all that matters is to establish that [the soul is a continuous entity which was in existence before and remains in existence after the physical life. That which we see before us, in the physical life of a man, is a bead, so to speak, upon the thread of life. When we fully appreciate the fact that the thread stretches into darkness in both directions, we realise that the process of birth is, at all events, the coming of a soul into incarnation, an emergence into physical manifestation from a spiritual state; and when we once realise that, we are, at all events, a very long way on the road towards recognising the doctrine of Re-incarnation in its scientific completeness. But secondly, the vacuity of the child's mind, the emptiness of the soul on coming into incarnation, is exactly the condition of things which, on the doctrine of Re-incarnation, as I have explained it, we are bound to expect. All its specific states of consciousness, its definite possessions of knowledge and stores of emotional experience, have vibrated to their utmost capacity for vibration on the spiritual plane of being before Re-incarnation claimed it for earth once more. As a re-incarnating entity it can only be a centre of potentialities, a focus of consciousness replete with the power of acquiring knowledge and the power of developing thought, as soon as the new instrument, the new body, with which it is thrown into relations by its Karmic affinities, shall have grown into perfection sufficiently to give it free play.

To the mind's eye of the occult student the cycles of human progress which are worked out in this way are as intelligible, as coherent, and as obviously fulfilling the natural idea in view, as the cycles of destiny governing the drops of water that fall on the earth from clouds — that flow over the land in streams and are lost for a time in the ocean, to be redrawn back into the atmosphere at last and so fall again on the earth — reincarnated in the new raindrops of to-day after centuries or millenniums of existence, perhaps, in other conditions of Nature.

But passing on now from subtle considerations which guide us to the discovery of the principle of Re-incarnation, let us consider for a moment the immensely powerful argument for its acceptance embodied in the condition of the world around us. On the hypothesis that each physical life is the only earth life of each soul in actual incarnation, could any cruelty and injustice be worse than that which the inequalities of life would exhibit in operation? We have not merely to consider the stupendous inequalities in the lot of the rich and the poor; we see these inequalities emphasised by all imaginable differences of health and physique, and by the terrible differences of moral surrounding. We see some members of the human family strong and robust, and gifted with brilliant faculties of intelligence; prosperous, carefully guarded in youth from evil, brought up in innocence and purity, drifted, as naturally as a river flows, into lives of benevolence and usefulness, and passing on into whatever spiritual existence may await them beyond the grave, with every advantage which the utmost development of their loftier aspirations may bestow. Others we see crippled, deformed, miserable; steeped in poverty and, perhaps, painful disease; nurtured in crime, and fed on evil of every sort; living a curse to their companions, and destroyed at last perhaps by the human justice they have offended. With unfeeling foolishness some unintelligent defenders of the one life hypothesis will sometimes attempt to argue that beneath all the apparent inequalities of life, the relief the miserable and suffering may sometimes experience, during transitory moments, when their hard lot may be a little ameliorated, is so great that it may be set against their habitual misery, with the result that all may roughly be said to have the same share of happiness on the whole. Words would fail me if I sought to characterise the grovelling and ignoble nonsense of this theory. Earthly happiness varies with different people in the proportion in which lakes vary in size; in which streams vary in length. There are boundless differences in the wellbeing of different men and women on earth, and these differences are of a nature that could not be equalised on the spiritual plane of life, in the way sometimes suggested. For if the poor and suffering on earth were translated to a Heaven superior to that provided for those who had been happy in earth life, that would simply be translating the injustice of Providence to the realms in which its justice ought to be especially operative. The persons wronged would then be those who had been, without reference to themselves, cheated of a blissful eternity at the poor price of transitory delusions here.

It is only by realising the long succession of earth lives which make up the individuality of each soul that we can discern order, harmony, and justice reigning in the destinies of man. By this interpretation of the phenomena of life we not alone restore justice to the government of the world, but discover the working of natural law in human evolution to be precise and unerring in its exactitude. The good and bad deeds of men are of a mixed and complex character. Some are spiritual in their colouring; others appertain to the earth life. These last find their fruition in the earth life when the soul returns to it. They in their boundless variety account for the boundless diversities of human lot. Such diversities are not the sport of brainless chance — the outcome of what by an absurd phrase — the expression of the world's ignorance in these matters — is sometimes called the accident of birth. There is no " accident " in the supreme act of Divine justice guiding human evolution. With the same inevitable certainty that force on the physical plane governs the combination of the molecules of matter — though the bewildering complexity of even that aspect of force dazzles the mind as we attempt to follow out its workings — so does the far more exalted force which gives effect to the primary laws of Nature in the moral world operate with an exactitude that no chemical reactions can eclipse. The outward circumstances of each life into which we may be born are the mathematical result of the causes we have ourselves set in motion in former lives. The causes we are setting in motion now — the effort of our own free* will within the narrowest hedge of circumstances we can possibly imagine as confining it — will be the all-powerful, determining influence in the creation of the conditions under which we shall live on earth next time.

And these conditions, let it be remembered, are not merely a response to the moral requirements of the situation; meting out happiness or suffering in accordance with the karma of the individual Ego at the time of each Re-incarnation, they are the expression, as well, of his intellectual and psychic progress. No human effort is wasted and resultless in the regions of such progress any more than in those of the great moral law. If a man labours, for example, during a whole life at some branch of science, at some art, or at some special department of study, the specific acquirements he may possess at the end of his life are not passed over, it is true, to the next life exactly as he lays them down. They would probably be of very little use to him in the altered circumstances of the world when he comes back, if they were. But they are thrown into manifestation again at his Re-incarnation in the appropriate form of highly developed aptitudes for the line of acquisition he has formerly been concerned with. Do we not observe, for instance, in such a very earthly matter as the power of learning languages, great gulfs of difference between the aptitudes of different people? Some will learn a dozen languages with less difficulty than others will learn one. "They have an inborn faculty," says the careless commonplace critic, content as usual to libel Nature by setting down to the accident of birth the symmetrical outcome of exquisitely adjusted law. So with the glaring examples of re-incarnating acquirements presented to us by the case of people who show extraordinary genius for music at an age when less "gifted" contemporaries can barely distinguish a tune. There is no gift in the matter — there is acquirement faithfully preserved in the karmic affinities of the Ego and in its true individuality.

Surely no one who appreciates, even imperfectly, the fulness with which the doctrines of Re-incarnation satisfy the problem of life and human evolution, will be surprised to remember that it has always, as far as philosophical history can look back, been accepted as the keynote of spiritual science by the vast majority of mankind. Buddhism finds it established as the corner-stone of Brahminical teaching and takes it over as a matter of course. This is a consideration which should not be too lightly put aside by European thinkers over prone to assume that their own age, — which has been glorified by an extraordinary advance in knowledge and intelligence relating to the physical plane of Nature, — is entitled to a monopoly of our intellectual respect. Modern scholarship which is only now beginning to unlock the mysteries of Sanscrit literature may well stand aghast at its discoveries. Not for the moment to raise any question about the real age of this literature; it is established at all events, that far back behind the beginning of European philosophy, there lies a complete literature exhibiting profound sagacity and subtlety on the part of its authors in regard to the problems of the mind and the speculations of metaphysics. Take the Bhagavat Gita for example — at all events an existent literary work — or, as occultists and native Indian scholars maintain, already a work of profound antiquity when Britain was a savage island, and the race destined to commence its civilisation, only beginning its own struggle for existence among the warring tribes of Italy. Now that the boundlessly elaborate meaning of the allegory embodied in that poem is shining forth for us by degrees, it is plain at least that its authors were deep students already of the mysteries of human life and death, that they were filled with spiritual aspiration of the purest kind, that their conception of the relations between the finite embodied and the infinite consciousness have left nothing for later theologians to refine upon. And the stupendous epic in which the Bhagavat Gita is embedded, is no less remarkable for the finished delicacy of its poetic feeling, for the loftiness of its ethical code, for the intricate abundance of its symbology, for all the characteristics which mark the literary work of a highly cultured race. Europeans are children in metaphysical speculation beside the Hindus of old, and if we could imagine an impartial inquirer from another sphere, acquainted with the intellectual history of these two races, and informed that the Hindus of old believed in Re-incarnation while the modern Europeans rejected it, he would certainly smile at the anti-climax involved in such a statement. Modern theology should show some credentials more effective than its ignorance of ancient records and its obliquity of vision in regard to the bearings of its own sacred writings — to which I will come directly — before it can justly claim to impose its own negations on the minds of people who are now beginning to look around them in an inquiring spirit.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:19 pm

Part 2 of 2

I have just said that Buddhism took over the Brahminical doctrines of Re-incarnation as a matter of' course — and this is the case. But Buddha's teaching on all vital points connected with spiritual growth Has been so wildly caricatured and distorted by commentators who have approached it without any interior illumination as to its meaning, that I may fairly ask the reader's attention for a little while to the true significance on this subject of the Buddhist scriptures.

The sacred books of Eastern religions are written, for the most part, in a style which is rather a disguise than an expression of the meaning they are intended to convey. Figurative phraseology and intricate symbols are, at all events, so little in harmony with Western habits of thought, that such vehicles of philosophic teaching may easily be mistaken by readers accustomed to a more lucid treatment of religious doctrine, for the wild conceptions of a crude superstition. And even when simpler topics than the avatars of Vishnu are under treatment, the same habits of speech which veil cosmological theories with narratives of Divine incarnations in animal forms, lead Oriental writers to describe even such events as Buddha's death and cremation in the circuitous language of symbols, rather than in plain and matter-of-fact prose. Thus, in one of the Pali "Sutta's," or Buddhist Gospels — the Maha-parinibbana "Sutta" — for the English version of which we are indebted to the admirable scholarship of Dr. Rhys David, we are told how "the Blessed One" died from an illness which supervened upon a meal of dried boar's flesh," served to him by a certain Kunda, a worker in metals at Pava. A prosaic interpretation of this narrative has passed into all epitomes of Buddhism current in European literature. Mr. Alabaster, for instance, in his "Wheel of the Law," calmly quotes a missionary authority for the statement that Buddha died "of dysentery caused by eating roast pork"; and even Dr. Rhys David himself gives further currency of this ludicrous misconception in his well-known treatise on Buddhism, published by the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge. One might have supposed that students of the subject, even without a clue to the meaning of the "dried boar's flesh" in the legend, would have been startled at the notion of finding the simple diet of so confirmed a vegetarian as we must suppose any Indian religious teacher to have been, invaded by so gross an article of food as roast pork. But one after another, European writers on Buddhism are content to echo this absurdly materialistic version of the figurative Eastern story. If they had sought to check their interpretation of it by reference to living exponents of the Buddhist faith, they would have fallen easily on the track of the right explanation. The boar is an Oriental symbol for esoteric knowledge, derived from the boar avatar, of Vishnu — that in which the incarnate god lifted up the earth out of the waters in which it was immersed. In other words, according to Wilson's translation of the Vishnu Purana, the avatar in question "allegorically represents the extrication of the world from a deluge of iniquity by the rites of religion." In the Ramayana we may find another version of the same allegory, Brahma in this case assuming the form of a boar to hoist up the earth out of primal chaos. Boar's flesh thus comes to symbolise the secret doctrine of the esoteric initiates, those who possessed the inner science of Brahma, and dried boar's flesh would be such esoteric wisdom prepared for food; reduced, that is to say, to a form in which it could be taught to the multitude. It was through the too daring use of such dried boar's flesh — through his attempt to bring the multitude, to a greater degree than they were prepared for it, within the area of esoteric teaching — that Buddha died; that is to say, that his great enterprise came to an end. That is the meaning of the story so painfully debased by European writers; and that meaning once assigned to its central idea, will be followed through many variations in the details of the Pali narrative, even as translated by Dr. Rhys David, apparently without any suspicion on his part of its true intention. Buddha, for instance, before the feast, directs that he only should be served with the dried boar's flesh, while " the Brethren," his disciples, are to be served with cakes and rice; also, that whatever dried boar's flesh may be left over after he has done, shall be buried, for none but himself, he says, can digest such food — a strange remark for him to have made, according to the materialistic interpretation of the story, which represents him as not able to digest such food. The meaning of the injunction plainly is that after him none of the Brethren shall attempt the task of giving out esoteric secrets to the world.

Buddhist doctrine has fared but little better than Buddhist gospel narrative in the hands of the distinguished scholars who have rendered the Western world the service of translating a good many of the writings in which it is enshrined, without conferring on us the additional benefit of elucidating the spiritual science which that doctrine cautiously sets forth. Indeed, the plain fact of the matter is that two leading ideas concerning Buddhist doctrine have been presented to the world by the principal writers on the subject, and that both these ideas are on a level with the roast pork theory. These ideas are that Buddhism does not recognise any future conscious life of the individual man beyond the grave, and that in exhorting us to tread the path which leads to Nirvana, it proceeds on the ultra-pessimistic view that all conscious life must be misery; so that the only wise course for us to pursue is to court its extinction in profound and dreamless slumber, in utter oblivion of all things, in that Nirvana which we are told to regard as identical with absolute annihilation. Spence Hardy, Max Muller, Rhys David, Alabaster, Bigandet, Bournouf, and others, might be shown by reference to unequivocal passages to entertain this idea, perhaps most grotesquely emphasised by an American caricaturist of Buddhist doctrine, Dr. S. H. Kellogg. The German commentator on Buddhism, Dr. Oldenberg, is honourably distinguished by combating the theory that the Buddhist Nirvana is equivalent to annihilation; but though he argues the question in an elaborate and painstaking way, he does not put his finger on available passages in Buddhist scriptures that would settle the matter decisively. Barth, also, in his "Religions of India," "takes leave to doubt" whether the intention of Buddhism was to preach that there is no survival of the individual consciousness from one incarnate existence to another, but even he thinks that "this vaguely apprehended and feebly postulated ego" cannot be compared with the "simple and imperishable soul of the Sankhya philosophy." And as a whole, European Buddhistic exegesis may be held to rest chiefly on the two ideas above referred to — no future life, and annihilation in Nirvana.

Now, the reconciliation of these two commanding misapprehensions has given critics of Buddhism no little trouble. For, on the face of things, if man's consciousness is merely a matter of this life, he need not go through the self denial and privations of the candidate for Nirvana to accomplish the annihilation that must await him anyhow. And again, Buddhist teaching is saturated with references to Karma, which, as the sum total of merit and demerit that determines the conditions of a man's next rebirth, seems to presuppose the persistence of the soul-consciousness which those conditions are apparently designed either to reward or punish. But the embarrassment is got over by help of the theory — for the ingenuity of which Dr. Rhys David appears to deserve the credit — that Karma does not follow an individual soul from one incarnation to the other, but causes the birth of an entirely new individuality, which becomes the independent heir, for good or evil, of its predecessor. The motive which each person thus has for making a sacrifice of himself to achieve Nirvana, is altogether altruistic. His Karma being extinguished in the total annihilation of Nirvana, no other being is born along that line of influence to suffer the pain and sorrow of existence. The inventor of this idea admits that the motive does not seem a strong one, as a fundamental rule of human conduct; but its insufficiency does not present itself to his mind as a ground for distrusting the former conclusions out of which it grows.

All this misdirection of thought appears to have been started by forgetfulness on the part of the first interpreters of Buddhism to the modern West — Bournouf and Spence Hardy especially — of the broad fact that Buddha was a religious reformer rather than a person who made any profession of re-codifying the whole body of religious truth from A to Z. Roughly speaking he takes the entire block of Hindu faith, or Brahminical philosophy, for granted, and builds upon that, the higher teaching he has to offer from his store of "dried boar's flesh — of esoteric wisdom, adapted to the understanding of the multitude. "The simple and imperishable soul of Sankhya philosophy" is the property of the Buddhist, just as fully as of the earlier Brahmin or later Hindu. Current religious instruction before Buddha took up his task had familiarised the people with the idea that good men went to Heaven and bad men to hell. But Buddha did not put that fundamental idea in the forefront of his teaching. It was unnecessary to do so. Indian theology was already stocked to over-flowing with ideas concerning the life after death in the numerous heavens and hells which its doctrines recognised. And it was also fully possessed with the conviction that in each case, after the appropriate period of spiritual enjoyment or suffering, the soul would return to earthly incarnation. Buddha's reform started from these assumptions. The fact is acknowledged by modern writers, but not its force. Professor Sir Monier Williams, in his treatise on Hinduism for the S. P. C. K., says: "About five centuries before our era, the reformer Buddha appeared, and about contemporaneously with him various Brahmin sages, stimulated by his example and perhaps by that of others who preceded him, thought out what are called the orthodox systems of Hindu philosophy." What did such thought amount to? Sir Monier Williams sums it up a$ including these articles of faith, amongst others: The eternity of the soul, prospectively and retrospectively; the periodical removal of the soul to places of reward or punishment; the subsequent return of the soul to corporeal existence. Buddha, from the standpoint of these conceptions, addressed himself especially to the task of showing men that, beyond spiritual conditions and rebirth, there lay possibilities of human evolution which, in their transcendent excellence, rendered the familiar alternations of corporeal and ethereal existence relatively unworthy of acceptance. A state of blessedness which would come to a definite end was, for his exalted perception, no state of blessedness at all. Human life on earth, though such as men might esteem as happy, was subject to manifold perils and to decay. It was a state for the wise man to avoid by making the stupendous effort that would emancipate his desires from all the objects of sense, and thus cut off the attractions that would otherwise inevitably bring him back again, after a period of heavenly existence, to physical incarnation.

Buddha's sermons and lessons became thus almost altogether concerned with the contemplation of that transcendent spiritual condition described by the term Nirvana, but never defined with any degree of precision, simply because its attributes were by the hypothesis insusceptible of exact definition in terms of the physical intellect. That which men in the flesh can imagine as attractive must necessarily be tainted with the limitations and sense of separateness inherent in the incarnate imagination. Nirvana could only be described by negatives which ruled it off from any state of being which individual aspirations for happiness would be capable of picturing in the mind. And while the attempt would have been fruitless, it was, at the same time, unnecessary for Buddha to define Nirvana, because the idea to be dealt with was no novelty for Hindu audiences. Referring again to Sir Monier Williams' epitome of Hindu faith, we find that system of thought, quite independently of Buddha's teaching, to recognise that the supreme state of bliss involved an escape from all sense of individual personality — complete absorption into the Supreme and only existing Being who is wholly unfettered by action, without qualities of any kind — pure life, pure thought, pure joy. No one, from the physical plane of existence, can understand such a condition; but this impossibility does not justify us in the absurdity of pretending on that account to understand it as equivalent to annihilation. We are not even called upon, for the purposes of the present argument, to consider whether or not, Buddha himself understood it. It is enough to realise that undeniably Buddha treated it as a state of being which was supremely desirable by reason of its exaltation in the scale of Nature above all other states of being, and that in doing this he had no antagonistic opinion on that point to combat. Brahminism already recognised Nirvana, under various names — the ultimate absorption into the Supreme -- as the most glorious goal to which humanity could turn. The failure of modern Western thinkers to recognise the splendour of such an ideal is plainly due to our deeper immersion in material habits of thought, in which the sense of separateness that Oriental philosophy, at all events, already perceived to be a defect of the incarnate imagination, has been elevated into the sine qua non of all conditions to be desired. We may be able to conceive a high degree of spiritualisation in consciousness. We may contemplate an existence as free from. all lower passions, and yet attractive; but we find it hard to realise that ultimate exemption from the fetters of Self, which finds its most glorious fulfilment in complete identification with the universal consciousness. However, without professing to realise this, we may, at any rate, intellectually comprehend that men of abnormal spirituality, who have declared such a desire, are not on that account declaring a desire for extinction of consciousness. For them, at all events, the higher kind of consciousness embraces the lower, supersedes it and triumphs over it.

If Buddha thus said nothing to break down existing beliefs in the normal progress of man through successive rebirths, intercalated with successive periods of heavenly enjoyment, and if Hindu philosophy had already acknowledged that the highest state of human evolution would carry men into Nirvana, what was it that he did teach? The answer will be readily substantiated by the sermons and teachings of Buddhist literature, as already translated for Western reference, and will in half-a-dozen words afford the clue to the comprehension of his whole position. He taught the way to Nirvana. This teaching had previously been esoteric. He sought to show all men the way to Nirvana, and the rules of life with which almost all his recorded utterances are thus concerned, did not constitute an everyday code of morality for ordinary people. They were the prescriptions laid down for those whose spiritual aspirations were already so highly awakened that they desired Nirvana; or, at all events, were so near the threshold of that desire that a little stimulus to their spirituality might suffice to lead them across it. The proof of this view will be supplied most readily, not by quoting at length from the language which Buddha addressed to his monks, to "the brethren," who were avowedly candidates for Nirvana, but by showing that all the while he recognised a totally different sort of morality for men who were still in the fetters of separateness, and whose highest aspirations were for individual spiritual happiness in Heaven. Let us take, for example, the following passage from the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, as translated by Dr. Rhys David (Sacred Books of the East, vol. xi., page 16), by no means the only one of the kind that could be produced, but sufficient in itself for our present purpose. The sentences quoted constitute a short address to certain "householders," followers of his teaching, but persons who were not engaged in the arduous struggles of arhatship, — that candidature for Nirvana of which we have already spoken. Here there are no ambiguous metaphysics to lead astray the minds of later readers out of sympathy with the subtle selflessness of Nirvanic aspirations. The passage runs: —

Then the Blessed one addressed the Pataligama disciples, and said: — Fivefold, oh householders, is the loss of the wrongdoer through this want of rectitude. In the first place, the wrong-doer, devoid of rectitude, falls into great poverty through sloth; in the next place, his evil repute gets noised abroad; thirdly, whatever society he enters, whether of Brahmans, nobles, heads of houses, or Samanas, he enters shyly and confused; fourthly, he is full of anxiety when he dies; and lastly, on the dissolution of the body after death, he is reborn into some unhappy state of suffering or woe.

Fivefold, oh householders, is the gain of the well-doer through the practice of rectitude. In the first place, the well-doer, strong in rectitude, acquires great wealth through his industry; in the next place, good reports of him are spread abroad; thirdly, whatever society he enters, whether of nobles, Brahmans, heads of houses, or members of the order, he enters confident and self-possessed; fourthly, he dies without anxiety; and lastly, on the dissolution of the body after death, he is reborn into some happy state in Heaven.

Certainly it might be argued that this address does not contain a complete code of even worldly morality, but if the question were to judge the ethics of Buddha's teaching we may find plenty of other material to work with. The very simplicity of the appeal here made to selfishness as a motive for well doing gives the present quotation its value, as showing how fully Buddha recognised the persistent existence of the soul as an individual entity after the death of the body in regard to the great bulk of mankind at large, in regard to whom there might be no question of treading the path to Nirvana.

Coming now "to the teaching of Christianity — in reference to which the Western world has so long denied itself the advantage of comparative theosophy — we find the later faith really taking Re-incarnation for granted, just as this was done by the earlier Buddhist reform.

One of the most striking of the passages in the New Testament that recognises Re-incarnation is that in which Jesus refers to the prophecy in Malachi that Elijah or Elias would return to earth. The prophecy itself occurs in the last verse but one of the Old Testament, " Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." Jesus refers to this, according to the eleventh chapter of Matthew, as follows: " But what went ye out for to see? a man clothed in soft raiment? . . . But wherefore went ye out? To see a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist . . . And if ye are willing to receive it this is Elijah which is to come. He that hath ears to hear let him hear/'

The same idea is expressed in the ninth chapter of Mark, as follows: —

"And they asked him, saying, The scribes say that Elijah must first come. And he said unto them, Elijah indeed cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how is it written of the Son of man, that he should suffer many things and be set at nought? But I say unto you, that Elijah is come, and they have also done unto him whatsoever they listed, even as it is written of him."

Again, in the seventeenth chapter of Matthew, we read: —

"And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elijah must come first? And he answered and said, Elijah indeed cometh, and shall restore all things; but I say unto you that Elijah is come already and they knew him not, but did unto him whatsoever they listed. Even so shall the Son of man also suffer of them. Then understood the disciples that he spake to them of John the Baptist."

In what sense these words can be taken except as meaning that John the Baptist was a Re-incarnation of Elijah it would be difficult to say. The remarkable words above quoted, " He that hath ears let him hear," show that the information was given out rather for the use of the enlightened than of the common multitude, who might be expected not to understand its full significance; but it is evident, from another passage, that Jesus assumed a widespread knowledge around Him of the principle of Re-incarnation, for in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew we read: —

"Now, when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, saying: Who do men say that the Son of man is? And they said, Some say John the Baptist; some Elijah; and others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets."

Jesus then goes on to repudiate any such specific individuality for Himself, but none the less does the conversation show that the idea of Re-incarnation was a familiar and accepted principle with those whom he addressed; while far from rebuking that belief as a principle, He explicitly affirms it in the case of John the Baptist.

That the principle in question was a generally accepted belief among the disciples is plainly shown by the passage in John ix., relating to the man who was blind from his birth:

"And as he passed by he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying. Rabbi, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

It would be a digression if I went into an analysis of the answer which Jesus here gives — " Neither did this man sin nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." The value of the passage for my present purpose lies in the significance of the question. The man had been blind from his birth, and yet the disciples asked did he earn that affliction by sin? The question was either nonsense, or it meant did he sin in his last incarnation?

The truth appears to be that it is only among the modern generations of the Western world, when the inner science of spiritual nature has been so deeply obscured by the acquirements of material civilisation, that people have lost touch with the all-important tenet that true Theosophists, students of Divine Wisdom, are at last struggling to restore. It has been forgotten so long that people who have constructed a fanciful scheme of human destinies for themselves, are sometimes in the present day inconquerably loth to welcome back the truth. They find it uncomfortable, and regard that as a sufficient ground for its rejection, unaware of the fact that the other alternative — the perpetuation ad infinitum of the miserable personalities that so many men are doomed to bear, or, as I should rather say, have built up for themselves by the sad misuse they have hitherto made of their opportunities — would be for the majority of the present race the most profoundly uncomfortable fate that could well be imagined. And it is but a short-sighted aspiration, indeed, which would lead even the most lofty-minded and cultivated members of that race to prefer the infinite perpetuation of their own personalities — to the infinite improvement of these which the principles of Re-incarnation hold out to them. I am not unaware of the hypothesis which some thinkers may vaguely cling to, according to which they hope for improvement along some unknown channels of progress in spiritual realms external to the life of this planet. Such unphilosophical expectations ought not to be maintained by a generation for whom it has been clearly shown — if they have eyes to see — that the spiritual planes of Nature are closely linked with that on which humanity is manifest in the flesh.

Such hopes ought not to be the refuge of those whose experience, far transcending that of the common-place world at large, renders them familiar with the idea just expressed. The simple creed that we shall go to Heaven if we are good, and there be taken care of and helped along somehow, may be a good working creed for men in an early stage of spiritual development who are drifting along from one unintelligent life to another, remitting to later opportunities the commencement of their higher evolution. But it is not a creed that can long suffice for people who begin to realise the intimate manner in which various states of existence in this highly complicated world around us are blended together. It converts the visible world — for one thing, as I have said — into a seething cauldron of injustice, and further than this, it degrades it into playing an almost useless part in the evolution of humanity — for by the hypothesis I speak of all that would be really important in that evolution would have to be performed elsewhere. We need not, however, disinherit the earth and deny it the fruition of its own suffering. As far as the human family, as manifested on earth, has already advanced beyond the condition of the lowliest savages — and further — will that family advance in the future. To question or doubt this would be an insult to the majesty of the Divine principle in Nature, with which most surely the human family must be in close relations. As we grow in moral stature and wisdom and in all the higher capacities, as we work our way on through the sometimes painful schooling of physical life, our souls grow gradually fitted to inhabit the physical organisms of the future which the progressive forces of the material plane will evolve for us as we successively return to them. We shall all of us see the world again, under those greatly ameliorated conditions, and looking back then to this period will smile to think that it was ever possible for men to regard the present conditions of this now current race as a fitting platform from which to part company for ever from the sphere of incarnate experience.

So far I have dealt with a mass of reflections bearing on the doctrine of Re-incarnation. The subject, however, may be handled in a different way as soon as we get touch with the thought that at certain stages of advancement in occult study people whose faculties have undergone adequate development are enabled to recover a full and complete recollection of their former lives — a recollection far more complete indeed than that which enables ordinary people in mature life to remember the events of their youth. Clairvoyant faculties, indeed, that are susceptible of exercise on the spiritual plane as well as on the astral — of which more anon — will enable their possessor to do more than remember his own past lives. It will enable him to get into magnetic relations with the imperishable records of other lives as well, and to track back the previous existences on the physical plane of almost anyone with whom he may be acquainted. And in the same way the adepts of occult science know by their own personal observation, not merely that Re-incarnation is the law of human evolution, but the exact way in which it works, I should be arranging my explanations, however, in the wrong order if I tried to elucidate the science of the matter before treating fully of the "higher self" of man, which is the true Re-incarnating Ego. So this department of the subject must be picked up again a little later on.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:19 pm


Crudity of conventional ideas concerning the soul — The spiritual part of the superphysical man — Gradual involvement of the spiritual soul in a child — The growth of the Higher Self the purpose of life—The working of the Higher Self in waking consciousness — Its identity through successive incarnations — Its disregard of minor experiences — The scope of its evolution — Perverted version of the teaching — Higher consciousness embraces lower — The rewards of Lower Self merit — Relations of Higher and Lower Self.

A fundamental error concerning the constitution of the human soul, which crude conceptions of spiritual science have imposed on modern thinking, has been that which leads many people to regard it as a simple entity, complete in itself, self-contained on the plane of Nature to which it belongs, as the incarnate man is, or appears to be, self-contained in reference to the other similar beings around him. People think of the soul — when so far acquiescent in conventional religious teaching as to put trust in the theory that there is such a thing — much as they think of the Djin, of the old fairy tale, imprisoned for a time in the bottle found by the fisherman of the Arabian Nights. Death is a process of letting it out of the bottle, and then it proceeds to live according to its nature — a complete entity set free, which was formerly imprisoned. But the more we study Nature, even on the physical plane, the more complex do we find her phenomena to be, and the same rule holds good on the higher planes of natural activity. Conceptions we form of super-physical processes, expand ad infinitum the longer the mind dwells on their wider significance. The first notion we may put together of any such process can rarely, indeed, in the beginning bear any closer resemblance to the truth than the notion we form of a solid by examining one of its sides. The mind may ultimately be enabled to hold all the attributes of the solid in its grasp, but that achievement is only possible as the consequence of a large development of its first impressions. It may be unnecessary to discard those impressions. From the later standpoint they will seem to have afforded a very crude idea of the truth, but they will be valued still as having led up to more complex conceptions, which for that matter may in their turn be developed still further as our capacity for knowledge is expanded.

In this way the picture of the soul's growth through Re-incarnation under the guidance of the Karmic law, which is presented to the mind by the first broad analysis of esoteric teaching, is, to begin with, a stupendous advance on the happy-go-lucky theory of soul creation. Even the view of life which accepts the soul as a primary fact without seeking or offering any explanation of its genesis, which* treats it as a new creation originating with the birth of each child, is no doubt an advance upon the blank unconsciousness of anything connected with life beyond sensation, which we may reasonably impute to the animal kingdom, but which even the savage feebly endeavours to rebel against when he constructs a vision of the happy hunting grounds, though modern materialism endeavours to cultivate the gloomy doctrine with much intellectual ingenuity. In doing this, by the bye, he is pleasantly unaware of the fact that he is illustrating in his own person one of the principles brought to light by esoteric science — that the culmination of the physical intellect is the nadir point of spiritual enlightenment. He will eventually appreciate the further principle that in the progress of the cycle evolution will go on, even after that point is reached, illuminating the physical intellect with an influx of spiritual perception without requiring it to forfeit any portion of its own independent conquest. But, to go back to our comparison, just as blank ignorance of soul is well superseded by the illuminating conjecture which recognises it as at all events a something, even if created ex nihilo; and just as that idea in turn is enormously elevated in the philosophical scale when harmonised with the principles of Re-incarnation and Karma, so may the first conception of spiritual evolution, as proceeding along that path, be developed by a fuller examination of the highly complicated constitution of the soul, and of the methods by which the experiences, opportunities, and sufferings of each incarnate existence are made to react on the permanent immortal consciousness, and translated into so much cosmic growth.

In approaching such problems we may be coming into the neighbourhood of the boundaries beyond which precise language is inapplicable to spiritual research. In handling such topics it is well to remember that any attempt to pass beyond those boundaries will necessarily be futile. The attributes and modes of consciousness of Universal Spirit, for example, are beyond the reach of language because they are beyond the reach of thought functioning in a physical brain; and metaphysicians, who sometimes attempt, by the construction of quaint phrases, to suggest the belief that their thoughts have outrun in subtlety the resources of expression, are probably, in most cases, as little qualified to apprehend, as their phrases to convey, ideas that are really entitled to be so described. But, on the other hand, as long as we find it possible to be precise, it is a fatal mistake for the student of spiritual science to be content with vague suggestions. Cloudiness of language is not depth of thought. Obscure, allegorical forms of expression are not superior, in occult dignity, to definite and exact phraseology — though in the past such forms have often been pardonable, either because the writers who used them were pledged to partial secrecy or precluded by the bigotry of their age from being quite explicit. That which we have now to aim at — now that spiritual research has been endowed with advantages it never possessed in the days of the alchemists and mediaeval mystics — is the exact comprehension, as far as that is possible, of mysteries till now cloaked in an almost impenetrable obscurity. Of course, as we extend our conquests there will always at their confines be a region of thought and conjecture which baffles exposition. But it is of the utmost importance that we should push precision as far as possible, and with care and patience it will be found practicable to analyse some of the processes by which soul evolution is accomplished and realise them, unseen and intangible as they may be, even as it is possible to realise some of the intricate laws governing the no less intangible and unseen molecules of matter in their chemical reactions.

The law which we have to bring under a higher microscopic power than that applied to it hitherto, is the law regulating the alternate physical and spiritual existence of the human entity. The human soul, we have seen, once launched on the stream of evolution as a human individuality, passes through alternate periods of physical and relatively spiritual existence. It passes from the one plane (or stratum, or condition) of Nature to the other, under the guidance of its Karmic affinities, living, in incarnation, the life which its Karma has preordained, modifying its progress within the limitations of circumstance, and developing fresh Karma by the use or abuse of its opportunities. It returns to spiritual existence after each physical life — through the intervening region of astral experience — for rest and refreshment and for the gradual absorption into its essence — as so much cosmic progress — of the life's training passed through "on earth" or during physical existence.

This broad view of the subject, however, though it may suggest to a thoughtful mind, does not necessarily include an all-important conception which is required to invest the whole process with a truly Nature-like aspect.

It is clear that, even during physical existence, people who possess certain unusual faculties — psychic senses that open other avenues to their consciousness besides those of the physical plane — remain in connexion in some way with the planes of superphysical consciousness. All of us, indeed, as the experiences of sleep show, are capable of entering into conditions of consciousness with which the five ordinary senses have nothing to do. And the phenomena of somnambulism, as it is sometimes called (the somnambulism of the soul, not of the body), or of clairvoyance, whether of spontaneous occurrence or induced by mesmerism, point to the same conclusion with very much greater force. We — the souls within us — are not, as it were, altogether contained in the material envelope we actuate during life. We clearly retain some rights and interests in the ocean of spirit, so to speak, from which we have been stranded on the shores of incarnation. The process of incarnation is not fully described when we speak of an alternate existence on the physical and spiritual planes, and thus picture the soul as a complete entity, slipping entirely from the one state of existence to the other. A more correct definition of the process might represent incarnation as taking place on this physical plane of Nature by reason of an efflux emanating from the soul. The spiritual realm would all the while be the proper habitat of the soul, which would never entirely quit it; and that non-materialisable portion of the soul which abides permanently on the spiritual plane may fitly be spoken of as the Higher Self.

In some theosophical writings, the term here employed has been identified with a highly profound metaphysical idea, which we may consider later on, and which contemplates the spiritual unity, if we push the conception back far enough, of all temporarily segregated centres of human consciousness. Between the explanation I am now endeavouring to give and that great conception there is no divergence of principle, but the term " Higher Self " seems to me most fitly assigned to the individual spiritual consciousness of each soul, and I will maintain the harmony of my own writings on this subject by continuing its employment in that sense.

I must not, however, be supposed to mean that absolutely every human being is to be thought of as associated with a more exalted form of consciousness on a higher plane than the physical, the lower orders of mankind, meaning by that term the savage races as a whole "and the least evolved amongst ourselves, may be as yet undeveloped beyond the stage of physical consciousness. Their quasi-spiritual existence between incarnations, would be little more than a pale reflection of that through which they have passed on earth. But as the human being advances as regards his interior complexity, developing in protracted lives of intellectual activity and intense emotion, great possibilities of thought and feeling which it would be difficult fully to express in any one life thereafter, he w gradually drifts into the condition of those referred to, whose real spiritual or higher self is so to speak, too great for expression in any one physical life. Of course it will be seen that between these two extremes lie all possibilities of intermediate development.

One great comfort at once afforded by the appreciation of the nature of the Higher Self is that we escape from the embarrassment of having to think of the whole complete soul of a highly advanced human being, inhabiting the highly unsuitable tenement of a young child's body. However unsatisfactory the notion of such an arrangement would appear, it would be futile to try and escape from it by the hypothesis that the child could be born first and, so to speak, ensouled afterwards. From the earliest beginning, the child and the soul, to which it might be destined to give incarnation, must evidently be regarded as already in union. But the conception with which I am now dealing harmonises with the fitness of things and with the analogies of Nature. The soul on the spiritual plane and ripe for Re-incarnation takes note, as it were, of the newly germinating human being whose physical associations and destiny render it the most appropriate physical habitation that soul can find. Of course, there is no conscious, deliberate selection in the matter. The Karmic affinities constitute a line of least resistance along which the soul throws out a magnetic shoot into the objective world, just as a root germinating in the earth throws out through that portion of the ground which most readily gives way before it, the first slender blade of green growth which makes its appearance at the surface. A more recondite but still more exact illustration might be drawn from the behaviour of an electric current choosing among several available channels of approach those which, though not necessarily the shortest, conduct it under circumstances best suited to its own nature to its 'goal, the earth. Along the magnetic fibre thus established — itself no doubt growing in vigour simultaneously with the growth of the child — the psychic entity flows into the new body by degrees.

The same idea has sometimes been expressed in other terms. The growing child has been said to be destitute of a sixth principle — morally irresponsible and incapable of generating Karma — till attaining the age of seven years. This amounts to the same thing. Before seven years, there is not enough of the soul passed down into the child's bodily consciousness to allow of the development of a moral sense. Conscience has not begun to assert itself. The Higher Self has not begun to brood over the impulses of the flesh. If the child dies, the soul has simply to sprout in another place. This reflection has an exceedingly important bearing on all problems concerning the death of young children and their states after death, but it will be most convenient to deal with them separately. Let us for the moment keep our attention fixed on the child, who advances successfully towards mature life. As the body develops, more and more of the true soul-consciousness passes into the new organism till at last in the grown-up man, all of the soul which is susceptible of expression in physical consciousness is once more re-established, or re-incarnated, on the earth plane.

But there is still an all-important something belonging to the soul remaining behind (if I may still for a while cling to a materialistic figure of speech quite inevitable if we are to have the idea clearly established in our minds) on the spiritual plane. This something is the most essentially spiritual element in the incarnating soul — its Higher Self — almost dormant an^d unconscious during the full activity of the incarnate being, but constantly, during the sleep of the body, recovering a more vivid sense of existence. Certainly the extent to which such consciousness is revived, differs for different people, within very wide limits. The Higher Self is not merely the colourless, imperishable, spiritual monad, but the growing spiritual individuality of the man, in each given case. As we shall realise more fully later on, the growth of the spiritual individuality is, in fact, the purpose of human life, and thus the Higher Self may in one case be backward in its development, in another very greatly progressed; but in any case where it may be advanced to any considerable degree, it must enjoy a certain degree of consciousness on the spiritual plane whenever the incarnate being, in which it is manifest on the earth plane, is plunged in profound slumber.

For most people, however, belonging to the normal development of the present race, the physical brain is not organised finely enough to reflect the spiritual consciousness of the inner Ego during ordinary periods of waking. At the best, sleep will sometimes be found morally refreshing. Worries and temptations that may have been oppressive overnight will seem to have diminished in power or importance in the morning, and where such ameliorations of feeling are very marked, one may fairly assume that the influence of the Higher Self, restored during sleep to a fuller consciousness than usual, has had something to do with the sensation experienced. It is only in the case of persons psychically and spiritually advanced beyond the normal stage of progress that the Higher Self consciousness is remembered. That it is so remembered in some cases, is most assuredly the fact. At a stage of development considerably short of that which would take a human being out of the range of physical attraction altogether, people may lead, as it were, a double life, fully conscious of and remembering in daily life the spiritual life of their deep sleep or trances. This possibility it is which points to the sublimest achievements of mesmerism; for a person so gifted may be able to converse, while in a mesmeric trance, with a waking incarnate friend, conversing from the point of view of the true spiritual consciousness. But some intermediate possibilities may also be considered. It may happen that a person with some psychic faculties — with the bodily consciousness of the spiritual plane partially but imperfectly developed, may perceive the Higher Self, as it were, but have the impression, in their waking remembrance, that they have been conversing with some being external to themselves. They do not realise, so to speak, that they are beholding the other end of the curve through Nature, which constitutes in its entirety their own complete individuality. As the Higher Self would, by the hypothesis, be manifesting thoughts of a kind that had not fully passed into incarnation, there might seem to be a complete interchange of ideas between itself and its incarnate phase, as though two persons were concerned. In a still less distinctly understood relationship with the Higher Self, the incarnate man would regard its promptings as nothing more than what is generally called the voice of conscience.

The theory we are considering harmonises very well with the treatment of this world in which we live as a phenomenal world of illusion, though the meaning of that doctrine of Oriental philosophy is often grotesquely misconceived. The intention of the doctrine is not that the earthly plane of existence, with all its countless attributes, has no existence, but that the idea of its permanence and self-sufficing completeness which sometimes fills the incarnate consciousness, is a delusion. The spiritual world, of which it is the emanation, is more real — if the phrase may pass current — than the world of transitory material conditions, but that material world is not alleged to be a delusion in the sense of being a deception. The highest consciousness of Man embraces its phenomena — the manifestations of Nature which it embodies — as well as the phenomena of superior planes of existence; and in the vast and perfectly balanced design of Nature the physical plane is as much a necessity of the whole scheme as any other. But a comprehension of the doctrine of the Higher Self shows the relations between the physical life and the plane of the spiritual consciousness in a way which may well teach us to forego the terrible mistake of living altogether for the sake of the lower consciousness. The region of Nature, in which the permanent Ego is thus seen to be rooted, is immeasurably more important to it than that in which its transitory blossoms appear for a brief space to wither and fall to pieces, while the plant recovers energy for sending forth a fresh flower. Supposing flowers only were perceptible to ordinary senses, and their roots existed in a state of Nature intangible and invisible to us, philosophers in such a world who divined that there were such things as roots in another plane of existence would be apt to say of the flowers, These are not the real plants; they are of no relative importance, merely illusive, phenomena of the moment.

The Higher Self doctrine is also recommended by its correspondence with that inbreathing and out-breathing of Brahm, which symbolises natural phenomena on the macrocosmic scale, and therefore probably fits in likewise with the microscomic scale. Physical incarnation is the out-breathing of the soul; the death of the body is associated with its inbreathing.

The Karmic progress of the soul, as depicted by the first simple conception of its passage backwards and forwards between the planes of spirit and matter, is in no way interfered with by the permanent existence of the Higher Self on the spiritual plane. No essential idea to which that broad statement of the case gives rise is discountenanced by the more advanced and elaborate theory. For instance, let us consider the case of an incarnate being regarding Nature from the point of view of the physical plane on which his consciousness seems to him to be altogether concentrated in his waking life, and clinging earnestly to the hope of retaining his present personal consciousness after death. This hope, unqualified by spiritual knowledge, has in a pre-eminent degree moulded the creeds of exoteric religions. People say, very reasonably as far as that one idea goes: "If I do not remember my present life in the next that I may lead, there is no 'I' left in the transaction at all — I do not obtain any immortality or survival." Nor does the esoteric doctrine put aside or rebuke this very natural aspiration. In its simplest form it certainly tells us: "You will eventually wear out, get tired of and be done with your present personality, as you have got rid of many others in the past, but you will not be violently torn from it. When you pass after death into the astral and then into the spiritual planes of existence you will still be your present self, remembering all that is essential in your present life, and finding, if all goes well, on the spiritual levels of Nature a much freer scope for the development of all that may be noblest and best in your present life than you can possibly hope for in the body. It is only when these phases of consciousness have vibrated to the last possible echo of the forces you have engendered during life, and when the spiritual soul is once more colourless as regards definite recollections, that it will return through the Lethe of a fresh incarnation to the experiences of an altogether fresh personality." But now let us see how this view of the matter is affected by the doctrine of the Higher Self. Its essential idea is preserved, according to that doctrine, as completely as by means of the most materialistic statement of which the case is susceptible.

The Higher Self may be regarded as dominating the lower or earthly personality with very different degrees of completeness in different people, and this consideration would show that personalities deeply attached to their own earthly consciousness would represent souls in which the lower elements were largely in the ascendant. The reunion of higher and lower selves in such cases, after death, would probably mean the saturation of the higher by the lower in a commanding degree.

ut in truth, after a soul has just been going through a complete span of earthly life, the lower elements can hardly fail, on reunion, to have so much to do with the completely restored consciousness as to determine the colour of the compound for the time being. And this infusion of the last personality through the Higher Self or saturation of the Higher Self therewith fully meets aspirations we may feel in the direction of a personal survival after death.

We need not regard that aspiration as either blameworthy or misleading. For all men below certain exalted levels of spiritual perfection, which we need not at present consider, a survival of the personality is alike required on abstract grounds of justice and common sense; and as a part of our primary conception of the esoteric doctrine we shall be, in the spiritual condition, in no sense less ourselves for feeling our personality expanded by a large super-addition of spiritual consciousness. And it will be to the gradual reassertion of the supremacy of the spiritual consciousness that we must look forward as constituting the fading out of the personality which is either dreaded or longed for by people in the flesh, according to the degree of their psychic advancement, but which will, probably, be no more a source of regret to the Higher Self in its actual occurrence than — on the poor plane of our physical analogies — the digestion of the day's dinner is a source of regret for a healthy man at night. That dinner may have played its part in the nutrition of "the body. At the time of its consumption, perhaps, it may have been a source of some transitory pleasure in itself; but, absorbed into the body it is merely so much renewed strength and health. So with the personality and the Higher Self which digests it. We need not push the analogy too far; but it is quite clear that the conversion of the specific experiences of a life just past, which constitutes its personality, into so much cosmic progress for the Higher Self — which is the ultimate motive, so to speak, with which those experiences have been incurred — is a process which, while it goes on, constitutes a prolonged preservation of identity for the personality itself, and one which only yields to the conscious pre-eminence of the Higher Self's identity, which is inextricably blended with that of the earthly personality during physical life, as soon as the two are united.

From the last phase of our conception, which shows us the Higher Self absorbing the experiences of each lifetime in turn, we can readily infer that all through the long ages of its existence it is going through a process of growth on that higher plane to which it belongs, just as a man's mind grows within the narrow limits of one physical life. And as we reflect upon all that is implied by such growth we shall find our conception of the whole process expanding readily in both directions. To go back on the. past, in the first instance, it is ciear that each Higher Self must have existed at one time in a very imperfectly developed state. As soon as any individuality is defined by the earliest process of human evolution in the beginning of a cosmic period, there must be associated with that individuality, throughout its incarnations, a focus of activity and consciousness on the spiritual plane of Nature, which constitutes from the beginning its Higher Self. But the Higher Self of the primitive savage and the Higher Self of the spiritualised man of later races are two very different entities. It is clearly by means of the experiences gathered by its successive manifestations of activity on the physical plane, that each Higher Self grows and advances to loftier perfection. Certainly, the quality of pure spirit can never vary, but the individualisation of spirit may be accomplished around different foci of activity with very different degrees of success. And as the process can rarely be a rapid one, we may easily comprehend that the growth of Higher Selves on the appropriate plane of existence during a planetary manvantara, is going on all the while pari passu with the improvement of the races in incarnation. The Higher Self must always exercise a consciousness of an elevated quality, though, in the beginning a consciousness deficient in vigour and intensity. But as it throws out one plant after another into incarnation, and successively draws back into itself such experiences of earthly life as may be susceptible of absorption into its own consciousness, its horizon widens,, its knowledge expands, its individuality intensifies. The normal rule of its growth appears to be very slow and to be symbolised in this respect by some of the physical processes of Nature, like the accumulation of sand on ocean beds, or the accretion of particles on a coral reef. But in the course of time seas are filled up and islands of coral built on foundations in deep water. So the Higher Self selects its spiritual particles from the lives of its innumerable offspring, and the greatest Adept, or the greatest being destined to arise out of humanity, is a final consequence of processes that must have been carried on as slowly at one time, as those by which the Higher Self of any African savage is rising in the scale of Nature by virtue of its all but unprofitable manifestations on earth.

The theory of the Higher Self thus conceived seems to me to recommend itself to the mind as a scientific idea, that is to say, as a view in harmony with the pure and subtle dignity of natural operations, which often as they may be symbolised by theatrical or fantastic allegories, never betray the taint of such a character when exhaustively understood.

It is only when the doctrine of the Higher Self fully takes possession of the mind that we can begin to realise the purpose of earthly existence, and be in some measure reconciled to the strain of emotion and feeling with which that existence is often associated. Viewed as a complete thing in itself, the earthly existence but too often seems to justify the gloomy despair of the pessimist — and, indeed, if the earthly existence were either complete in itself, or a singular experience in a human career, to be followed either by good or bad conditions of existence hereafter — pessimism as a philosophy applied to the phenomena of life as we . behold them would be an irresistible conclusion. But the development of the Higher Self as a purpose of existence is an aim which may reconcile us to life, and justify the fact of suffering. For the time being — for most of us — it is impossible to feel the identity of the higher and lower self from the incarnate point of view, but an intellectual perception of the truth may enable us to foresee the inevitably superior capacity of the Higher Self in this respect. And a full appreciation of all that lurks in that forecast will do a great deal to illuminate the pathway we have to travel, if we resolve to live in the lower self on conditions conducive to the interests of the higher. As a general rule — and by that I mean in all cases but those of people exquisitely spiritualised already in their earthly nature, and endowed with clairvoyant vision of a high order — the lower self must be content to regard itself as appointed to undergo the suffering phase of existence for the benefit — not really of another being, but for the benefit of a phase of itself, of which it can never have any direct consciousness in the flesh. But on the other hand it may acquire a confident certainty that the consciousness of the Higher Self will ultimately be so adjusted as to provide for the enjoyment of the fruit of this suffering in a manner that will constitute a complete recompense to the true individuality of the lower self.

Is it necessary here to take note of the occult theory that calculations of recompense do not furnish the highest motives of human action? We may all be aware of that, but at the same time be interested, on all grounds, in studying the methods by which Nature provides a recompense for the suffering incurred through aspirations towards a higher life.

The comprehension of the problem before us turns on a realisation of the fact that while the lower is not conscious of the Higher Self, the higher is conscious of the lower, and will be increasingly conscious thereof in proportion to the extent that the lower applies itself deliberately to the task of living for the sake of the higher. Let us keep in view the theory or principle, or fact of Nature, that consciousness on the superior planes or spiritual realms of Nature is accompanied by a vivid sense of enjoyment. In proportion as the Higher Self is expanded and developed is that sense of enjoyment broadened and deepened. In such expansion, in such development, the reward of the efforts made by the lower self is realised. This appears to me to be an all-important point on which it is desirable for us to dwell with the closest attention.

The crude, guardian angel theory of the Higher Self, as well as that which looks too far ahead and seeks to identify the higher individual with the Universal Self, or God, both err in leading us to think, so to speak, too well of the Higher Self as a rule. There are, no doubt, as I have suggested, advanced human beings still in the flesh for that matter, and far below the Adept level of advancement, with whom the Higher Self is a very exalted and highly conscious kind of guardian angel. But with the vast majority of people it would be an immense mistake to regard the Higher Self as anything but higher in kind. It may not be nearly so much higher in degree — on the general scale of human progress, that is to say — than the lower self, as people are sometimes apt to imagine. Of course its affinities are all spiritual in their order. The Higher Self, such as it is, of the most grovelling sensualist is wholly indifferent to sensual things; and in touch, to some very limited extent, with the ocean of real knowledge, which is the same ocean on which a Planetary Spirit floats. But its consciousness on that plane of existence is, to a corresponding extent, torpid and imperfect. For its growth, for its happiness, for its awakenment to the opportunities within its reach in the higher realms of Nature, it is altogether dependent — altogether, at all events, in the earlier stages of such growth — on its lower self; on its own material phase; oti the earthly fulcrum which it leans upon to accomplish an upward movement. Let us remember, indeed, that though thus dependent, it is not itself lethargic in the matter. The lower self action which conduces to such growth is necessarily, when accomplished, the result of promptings from the Higher Self thought, or suggestion. The growth we are considering may thus be said — by an enlargement of the view already expressed — to be dependent on the responsive action of the lower self; on the efforts and exertions made by the lower in response to the influence of the higher. The action and reaction, in short, by which progress is accomplished should always be thought of as started, in the first instance, by the Higher Self. But, keeping this in view, we may safely shut our eyes for the moment to the capacity said to be latent in every human soul of universal knowledge. "Your own soul," say some occult students, "is omniscient. You only have to get into union with it, to share its knowledge." The doctrine may not be false, but it is misleading. Your own soul, your own Higher Self, may grow into omniscience — or something approaching that — if you give it time and adequate help — through, certainly, more than one life, from the date at which that enterprise is first set on foot by "you" yourself — the earthly phase of the being we are considering. But the Higher Self of an ordinary man of the world is certainly not yet in the perfection of its potential development. On the contrary, the fact that it is not, and cannot be, will be seen, on reflection, to square exactly with the information which has been formulated during the last few years (with the help of high authority as well as of the investigations carried on by advancing students among ourselves), in respect to the Devachanic state. For the majority of those who attain to it, that state is not one of highly advanced insight into truth. It is a state of great happiness, the intensity of which is probably proportioned to the advancement of the soul which experiences it; but it is a state replete with illusion. And yet, undoubtedly, those are the Higher Selves of the human beings concerned who are enjoying the Devachanic happiness; and more than this, if they are capable of consciousness on the Devachanic plane at all, they must be already human beings who in the flesh have been animated with very well defined spiritual aspirations, or deeply moved b}' truly spiritual emotions.

Their gradual elevation into Higher Selves of the true guardian angel type may be looked upon — if for the moment we do not look further — as the purpose and justification for physical existence. This view of the situation, be it observed, is quite compatible with the view which in all cases assumes the best and noblest impulses of each man's life, be he higher or lower as an incarnate being on the scale of spirituality, as emanations, warnings, or guidance from his Higher Self. To the extent that they are active, the aspirations of the Higher Self must be all towards good. But except as regards its kind and affinities, it would be a mistake to consider the mental activity of the Higher Self as very greatly superior to that of the lower. Before the Higher Self can use the faculties latent in its nature, before it can be awakened from its lethargy on the higher plane, which, in fact, has deepened in the course of ages as its periodical presentations on the plane of matter became more and more intense, it must be revived by the conscious effort of its own lower self — of itself on the lower plane — an effort which is analogous to the rebound of a ball dropped on the ground from a height.

This group of conceptions, I think, will prepare the mind for an appreciation of the manner in which the recompense for meritorious but painful action on this plane of life is worked out. The Higher Self, in proportion to the extent that its perceptions are awakened, can survey the whole process, embrace in one retrospective glance the suffering and the beneficial consequence, and thus feel that the efforts made were not thrown away. In the case of an undeveloped Higher Self, indeed, the fruits of the good deeds of the lower self are enjoyed without being analysed in the way just supposed. But by the hypothesis the correspondingly undeveloped lower self would never in such a case have been oppressed by metaphysical speculations concerning its own future. It would have been content to regard that future in the light of some exoteric religious fiction, and though its expectations might not be fulfilled to the letter, their essence would be fulfilled in the unreflective bliss of the Higher Self — the same individuality, really, though not yet inspired with an interest in the observation of the fact of its own identity with its physical phases. But by the time a long succession of physical lives and spiritual interludes have cultivated the consciousness of the Higher Self to such a degree that it begins to approximate to the guardian angel type of Higher Self, its relations with the lower become sensibly modified. The true Ego begins not alone to feel, but to think, on the higher plane. It becomes more and more a conscious, directing power, watching and influencing the acts of its lower self, and alive to the advantages it may derive from the co-operation thereof. For metaphysical purposes one might, of course, throw the idea just expressed into other language, which would, perhaps, avoid some crudities involved in the more dramatic formula, but at the expense of vivid significance. It could be argued that the physical and spiritual aspects of the Ego act and react on each other, and that the soul as manifested in the phenomenal world is an illusory counterpart of the true Ego, whose absorption in the universal self is more or less retarded by the greater or less subjection of its physical consciousness to the plane of maya. But the processes of development we are examining will be rendered more intelligible, I think, for most observers — incarnate, for the time being, on this plane of maya — by language in harmony with the conditions of the physical consciousness.

It will be understood that I am not supposing the Higher Self to be standing sentinel over the lower at all moments of its existence, and in respect of all the acts of its daily life to be nervously watchful lest its protege should take a false step. With persons of advanced development there is, perhaps, a greater approximation towards such a condition of things than a first glance at the situation would lead us to suppose; for the spiritualisation of the lower self or aspect, renders the higher all the more continuously conscious; but I take it that in conditions of ordinary human life the Higher Self is always more or less asleep on the higher plane, when the lower is awake and only conscious of its place in Nature, of its relations with the lower self, and of the consequences to itself of the exertions its lower self, or its allied personality (to suggest an alternative phrase), may have been making — when that allied personality is asleep on the physical plane — plunged, that is to say, in a spontaneous or artificially induced trance as regards its lower consciousness. A proviso should be interpolated here, indeed. Sleeping and waking are the best terms we can use to describe the alternate states of the Higher Self during the life of the body, but we should remember that its sleep has reference only to its own Higher plane consciousness, and its influence is not extinct as regards •the incarnate personality at any time. Thus the so-called voice of conscience, which asserts itself, and is heard from time to time, even in the most unspiritualised personalities, is neither more nor less than the influence of the Higher Self making itself felt. This influence is, of course, feeble and incomplete in cases where the lower self does not, by action responsive to this influence, increase and strengthen its power. But in endeavouring to realise the oscillation, as it were, of the centre of consciousness between the higher and the lower planes, it would be undesirable to lose sight of the fact that the Higher Self is always the source of the best impulses of the lower.

The Ego, as I have said, awake on the physical plane is normally quite unconscious of its periods of supraphysical or spiritual consciousness — of the existence, in other words, of its Higher Self — even though that same Higher Self, on its side, is fully conscious when itself in its wakefulness on the higher plane, of the lower personality, and of its efforts or inaction, as the case may be. How far it may consciously deplore the failures of its lower self to achieve this or that specific rung on the ladder of progress — how far it may be distressed, so to speak, at observing its own lower self give way to temptation, is a point to be considered separately. The conditions of the existence of the Higher Self may not afford it scope for emotions of distress or regret; and a failure or surrender to temptation by the lower self may take the shape, as regards the higher, of so much retardation in its progress in regard to which, with its sublime capacity for patience, it may be quite unconscious of any irritation. But, on the other hand, every success and every victory of the lower self over temptation may none the less be translated at once into so much progress for the Higher Self, and so much definite consciousness of satisfaction and enjoyment arising from that progress.

Now it may seem, at first sight, to an imaginative mind, that these views are comfortless, as regards what may be called the interests of the Personality. All its struggles, and all its sufferings, are undergone for the benefit of a Being that it can hardly help feeling external to itself — an almost pitiless taskmaster and a thankless consumer of the fruits of its physical slave's industry. Calm and impassive in the serene realms of spirit, the Higher Self lives for enjoyment only, luxuriating in the harvest of the toil carried on below — when there is a harvest to reap — but undisturbed by the disaster when the heavily-burdened labourer staggers or falls beneath his load! But though that would not be a satisfactory or equitable arrangement all round, if the two phases of the Ego were really the separate entities they look like from the earthly point of view, the propriety of the whole situation is amply vindicated as soon as we can be quite sure that, from the celestial point of view, the personality and the Higher Self or Individuality are felt and seen to be one and the same centre of consciousness, though functioning first under one and then under the other set of conditions. How, it may be asked, are we to get proof of this vitally important theory? In such a region of thought as this we are exploring, it is almost superfluous to answer that proof must be sought for in the interior consciousness, which is the more or less obscured reflection in each of us of the Higher Self to which such personality may belong. But, meanwhile, I venture to think that, in the "sweet reasonableness" of the position, a provisional guarantee of its security may be found. We stand face to face with the perennial problem of life — the hardship of existence and the necessity of accounting for this in some way that shall be coherent with the general drift of humanity towards perfection, and the prevalence of Justice as a law of Nature, in the long run. Around the leading ideas of the esoteric doctrine, which we in this generation have been stimulated to reflect upon, theosophical study has enabled us to group a considerable mass of inevitably certain detail. The alternate manifestations of the Ego on the physical and spiritual planes of Nature lead by an indisputable train of conjecture to the doctrine here spoken of as that of the Higher Self, and this, in turn, brings us along a causeway of trustworthy reasoning, to the consideration of the still more elevated subject — the evolution of the Higher Self — with which we are at present engaged.

In the comprehension of the laws thus governing the evolution of the Higher Self, we attain the innermost goal of esoteric study, as this study may be regarded from the incarnate point of view. The practical value of such a comprehension in its bearing on life and conduct, and on any capacity to bear whatever trials of one sort or another we may have to bear in our "lower selves" — that is to say, in the incarnate phase of our existence — is something that cannot be exaggerated. The old vague religious hope that we shall somehow be rewarded after we die for any meritorious behaviour we may have contrived to carry on here below, in spite of our manifold embarrassments, is thus replaced by a specific, scientific perception of the way that process is worked out.

The method is altogether in harmony with all truths of spiritual science we have been able to reach, and the consequence is, that once thoroughly assimilated, it is calculated to soothe in a remarkable degree the strain of emotion and the great vacuity of life which are among the well-known concomitants of any deliberate attempt to tread the upward path. It is not in human nature to be content — above all it is not in the highly speculative and introspective nature of an occult student to be content — with the attenuated promise of an ultimate absorption of his consciousness in the Infinite Consciousness, as a compensation for painful self-denial in this life, and as a readjustment, in accordance with infallible justice, of the long account of physical existence. Some exalted natures may be indifferent to compensations as far as they themselves are concerned, or may honestly imagine themselves so indifferent at all events, till some unforeseen turn of the screw, influencing them in an unexpected way, may betray their natural human weakness to their own inner consciousness. But at any rate even these will not be content to suppose that humanity at large is destined all along the line to the cheerless prospect of unremunerated labour. Let us each, leaving ourselves out of the calculation, and thinking only of our brother, admit that we have not made sense of the problem of Nature till we have distinctly provided, by our interpretation thereof, for the reward of merit.

And up to the very threshold of the theory I have endeavoured to set forth, this reward is not adequately provided for in the sense of being specifically apprehended. If the Higher Self were in all cases an already omniscient being, as some occultists have seemed to imagine, and if progress merely represented the efforts of the lower self in any given case to rise into conscious relations with it, the lower self or personality would go altogether unrewarded in the enormous number of cases where that conscious relationship is never established. The struggle to do right on this plane of existence would then indeed be a futile and miserable undertaking, at the very best rewarded only by the good Karma, that would render the next physical life, which the impassive Higher Self or Individuality might overshadow, a less painful experience for the practically new entity which would have no recollection of its former struggle to give zest to its relative enjoyment in the new and altogether detached physical existence. Without the evolution of the Higher Self to express the consequences of that struggle, the situation would go far to justify the familiar objection to the doctrine of Re-incarnation, which rests upon the forgetfulness in each physical life of the circumstances of the last. But let us once realise the position as occultists of even a moderate degree of advancement know that it actually stands, and the incarnate man, however little he may himself, in his own incarnate consciousness, fed the reward of his good deeds or self-denial, is nevertheless assured of being himself, in his spiritual condition after release from the body, the recipient of the harvest that he has sown. He may not, in the flesh, be conscious of the emotions and exhilaration of the Higher Self due to his work, but the consciousness of his Higher Self embraces his consciousness as he looks back on his past career from the point of view of the superior plane. We are not violently straining or materialising the facts; merely adapting them to the character of our present consciousness, if we imagine the Higher Self as reflecting: "If, in the physical environment from which I am now set free, I had not the strength of mind to do this or that," whatever the important achievement may have been, "I should not now be enjoying my present rich sense of spiritual blessedness." Indeed we may, in the attempt to realise the position in all its bearings, accept the service of illustrations drawn from commonplace life. A man, established from very early youth abroad to carve out his fortunes in some distant country, may have set his face during that undertaking against all kinds of wasteful and temporary self-indulgence. He may have been guided by the resolution to postpone the enjoyment of his earnings till circumstances should permit him to return to his own natural home, even though the ways and surroundings of life there should be unknown to him, and the lines along which it should be spent, left to be planned out later on. But assuming the programme to be fulfilled, the fruition of his efforts on his return home might be an ample compensation to him for the toil and self-denial of his earlier years. So, in a far more elevated and glorious degree, and unqualified by risks of disaster which may always dash any worldly cup of enjoyment from expectant lips, may we regard the programme of physical effort and fruition on the spiritual plane, as assuring us the reward which we must be able to discern as awaiting the meritorious actor in this life's drama, if the whole proceeding is to be regarded as something better than a farce and a tragedy in one.

It is not necessary to this speculation to treat, as an essential part of the scheme of Nature, the possibility that, by the conscious direction of our efforts on this plane of life to the fulfilment of the idea thus conceived, we may actually, if all circumstances are propitious, obtain, even during this life, something more than an intellectual conviction of the spiritual reward that will be secured by our efforts here. But we should let slip a very important consideration connected with the whole transaction if we did not take note, in reviewing it, of the possibility to which I refer. There may be here and there, even among people who are not obtrusively elevated to any remarkable degree above their fellows of this race to which we belong, some who in the lower self-consciousness are invested with the beautiful characteristics of a spiritualised clairvoyance. Such persons will be able, from time to time, to ascend into the consciousness of the Higher Self, retaining in the physical brain a recollection of those experiences. They are in a position to be the pioneers of spiritual progress for their less gifted brethren, rendering transparently obvious, as a fact in Nature, the existence of that relationship between the lower and Higher Self which I have endeavoured to depict. And they may afford to any resolute explorer of the higher life good ground for hoping that others in turn, by earnest endeavours in that direction, may anticipate the revelation — even while in this life — of that which has hitherto been regarded as the great and insoluble mystery of death.

In dealing with these problems I have endeavoured to avoid the comfortless dissipation of thought and conjecture apt to ensue if we endeavour to examine the conditions of our present existence by the light of metaphysical thinking which seeks to adapt itself to infinity. But if the subject has thus been kept upon a plane of thought below the level of some to which our speculations may occasionally soar, I would, nevertheless, suggest that, in dealing with the circumstances under which the lower self may be drawn towards the true individuality of the Ego, which is the Higher Self, we are really dealing also with the circumstances under which the true individuality — overshadowed by the spirit as it overshadows the incarnate man — is itself drawn towards the highest influence — the universal self or universal spirit. We may not, from our present standpoint, be able to divine very much concerning that process, but we can infer, with complete confidence, that the development, and evolution of the Higher Self, which it is within the power of the lower self, or incarnate man, to promote, is none the less its response to that mysterious emanation from the supreme, that is the ultimate goal towards which the later efforts of a perfected humanity, in some remotely future epoch, may consciously and appreciatively turn.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:24 pm


The theories of Necessity and Free Will — Cleared up by Re-incarnation and Karma — The pressure of Karma on action — Concurrent freedom of thought — Bearing of this on the Karma of the act — Thought forces in connection with good acts — Dangers of a half comprehension of the law — Progress of emancipation from Necessity — Complications of inter-blended Karma — Readjustments — The Lords of Karma — Distribution of consciousness — The predestination idea.

The general purpose of this work is to interpret the opportunities for spiritual progress lying before humanity. The nature of these opportunities is the first great revelation of occult science, and the prospects before us, if we are resolute enough to explore them, are the subject of the occult student's most eager study. Every phase of emotion and faith embraced in religion, if rightly understood, is in harmony with the theosophical exposition of the evolutionary task provided for us by the design of the world. We have traced in the great law of Re-incarnation the method employed by Nature in working out that design up to a certain point, and have seen how the Higher Self of each human unit is the permanent centre of consciousness which is in fact the Ego, and the final expression of every effort which it puts forth during the successive periods of its long struggle in incarnate life. We shall go on ultimately to endeavour, as far as it is possible, to do this from the point of view of consciousness reflected in a material organism, to realise the kind of existence towards which the Higher Self, strengthened and illuminated by accumulated knowledge and capacity, must strive if it would fulfil the loftiest potentialities of its Nature.

And the explanation will be fortified by a review of the traces in ancient and mediaeval history which show us, now that we have the key to their real meaning, how earlier generations of men were already bent upon the supreme task. But many side lights have to be thrown on the explanations already given before the sufficing character of the theosophic revelation can be entirely appreciated. And at this stage it may be convenient to deal with some metaphysical embarrassments which thinkers, trained in European schools of philosophy, will be apt very likely to regard as stumbling blocks in the way of the all-important doctrine on which the whole argument turns — that which recognises in the spontaneous Will of each individual the force which may direct his evolution into the right channel.

Although few European thinkers adopt in its naked simplicity the doctrine of fatalism, we find the essential idea of that doctrine firmly established in the theories of "necessity," which stand in time honoured antagonism to the doctrine of "free will." The arguments which make for each of these theories considered separately, are often regarded as so irrefragable that the paradox in these days is accepted as such more often than discussed. The conflict of Free Will and Necessity is hardly any longer an academical — rather a schoolboy theme for the exercise of wit, just as perpetual motion and the quadrature of the circle are problems left now to amuse juvenile engineers and mathematicians.

Reason out the matter how we like, each man feels within him that he has a liberty of choice between various courses of action at every step in his progress through life. Moreover, he not only feels this, but, as a reasonable being, if he has any faith in an ulterior destiny — whatever it may be — for the soul, he feels that human beings must have free will, or the notion of any spiritual consequences befalling them as a sequel to this life, is incompatible with the operation of justice as a law of Nature. If rewards and punishments are meted out to saints and sinners in accordance, not with their independent responsible acts in life, but in accordance with the way they were compelled to act by an overruling power which dictated every thought and movement of which they fancied themselves the authors — then, of course, such an overruling power would represent the principles of mockery and malignity, instead of justice and goodness.

On the other hand, the theory of Necessity is supported by an unbroken chain of logical reasoning. In its broadest aspects we all recognise it as a matter of course. We can all see that people born under conditions of extreme degradation, brought up in ignorance of all motives for right action and of all meritorious example, surrounded, as they grow, by every temptation, and educated in vice and crime, must take to such pursuits, like ducks to the water. Their evil deeds in the main are the outcome of moral influences as powerful as the forces of the storm and tide on the floating driftwood of the sea. So with the self-denial, and actively benevolent lives of others. The persons who lead such lives must, of course, trace their general character to the teaching and influences of their bringing up. They may feel — in accordance with the other view of the subject — that when they came to years of discretion, they exercised their own free will in applying to the opportunities of existence, the principle of deliberate choice, but many of the best among them have, as a matter of intellectual conviction, declared on the whole for Necessity as the only logical theory of life. There is no line to be drawn in Nature between important things that it is worth while for her laws to pay attention to, and others which are insignificant and fit to be left to chance. The earth's attraction operates equally on a microbe and a mastodon; and the chemical affinity that holds together the elements of the ocean is not permitted to neglect those of the smallest drop of dew. So argues the metaphysician with regard to human conduct. He is withheld from shooting the man who offends him by the influences that have been poured into his mind by his education, his observation of others, by reading, and reflection. The minor acts and abstinences of his life are in just the same way the product of moral causes working in his interior consciousness. He takes such and such a journey, let us say, because he has read such and such a book. He read the book because he had acquired certain habits of study. These were the product of previous influences, and so on. This kind of reasoning has, at all events, grasped one efficient principle. Cause and effect rule on the moral as well as the physical plane of Nature, and if the recognition of this is plainly at variance with the theory that human beings are responsible agents, the devotee of Necessity may sometimes say, "So much the worse for the general character of the Universe," or sometimes "the contradiction is a mystery which can only be elucidated, if at all, hereafter."

For some of us — yes — "hereafter" — a very distant hereafter — may be the only period at which we shall be qualified to fathom such mysteries. But the "hereafter " of one man may be the " now " of another, more advanced than himself in cosmic evolution. The conventional thinker is too apt to suppose that all human intelligence is waiting to bear him company in that progress which he may, perhaps, admit as a possibility of Nature, after he shall have passed on to other states of being. All phases of consciousness are co-existent if we take all planes of Nature into account together. Time and change are merely conducive to the advance of knowledge qua any given centre of consciousness localised at one point of space at the moment under consideration. If A B — any man of our generation — is destined, in the lapse of ages, to attain a condition of consciousness in which any given mystery of this period shall be made plain, assuredly Y Z in the progress of past ages, has already accomplished that amount of development. We are not necessarily bound to wait so long as is sometimes imagined for revelations that we may rightly conceive to be outside the reach of mere intellectual cogitation of the kind with which we are familiar. That which is known may sometimes be communicated — in a world which has many more avenues to its consciousness than the general multitude of its inhabitants are yet in the habit of using.

One of the most interesting among the many communications of such a nature that have enlarged the theosophical student's comprehension of spiritual science during the last few years, has related to the great metaphysical dead-lock represented by the conflict of Free Will and Necessity, and I now approach the occult solution of that old difficulty, not merely for the sake of its value as such, but because it is preeminently necessary to understand it, in order that no misleading conceptions of the Necessitarian may stand in the way of a full acceptance of the all-important truth that every human being holds the control of his own ultimate future in his own hands, however closely he may seem to the eye of exoteric reasoning bound down and hemmed in by the narrow limitations of circumstance.

To begin with, the dead-lock, as a mere logical dilemma, is loosened as soon as we apply to the apparent contradiction the law of Re-incarnation. As long as a human life is thought of as a complete operation of Nature, beginning at birth and ending at death, there will be no possible reconciliation for the opposing lines of argument which show first, that Free Will must be exerted — to leave room for justice in the conception of human affairs; and, secondly, that Necessity must be recognised, or we do violence to the uniformity of cause and effect. But when we remember that justice has more than one — a long series — of lives to work in, we see how it may operate, even though acts at each moment of existence may be the product of predetermining influences. Each act may be — and necessarily is — surrounded, so to speak, with an interior atmosphere of consciousness, the cloud of thought by which it is accompanied. In other words, an act is not exclusively to be estimated by the dead letter of the thing done — this may be done in one spirit or another. The interior consciousness may follow and emphasise the act, or hang back from it and in a measure resist it. And it will be plain that this interior consciousness — the product of the voice of conscience or the promptings of the Higher Self, blending with the habits of thought engendered by the incarnate will or lower self — may be regarded as entirely within the control of Free Will, even though the law of cause and effect may determine, by overmastering influences, the actual deed performed. Now Karma, the law of cause and effect on the spiritual plane in one of its aspects, assuredly does not leave out of account the spirit in which an act is performed, The act itself is a Karmic consequence of the sum total of influences bearing on that point of the life concerned, from the previous life of which it is the sequel. And it is necessarily also a cause of further consequences to ensue in the future. But at the moment of its projection into objectivity as such a cause, it may be qualified to an enormous extent by the concurrent thought, state of mind, or spirit with which it is associated. And the effect it will have on the next life is thus modified to a corresponding degree. At every step of our progress, therefore, we are thus working out Karma, the causes set in motion by our last life, and determining by the spirit in which we realise them, by the Free Will we apply at every step to the Necessity under which we act — the Karmic effect, of our acts on the conditions, welfare, happiness, and opportunities of our next life.

The law here defined may be illustrated by extreme cases. Let us assume first of all that some person under consideration is going through the current life under the influence of some terribly bad Karma in the last, which is not only productive of sorrow and suffering but of renewed offences against the purpose of Nature. Say in this way, it is within the "necessity" of the situation that he should commit some serious offence, against not merely the exalted dictates of ethics, but the plainest principles of right and wrong, of course he will never feel that he is an automaton as regards that act, nor if the crime is a serious one, can it be truly affirmed from any point of view that he is. A qualification must come into play here which I will explain directly, for in truth though the broad law is that our acts are dictated by Karma, there is room in the design of Nature for some lateral play of the forces concerned as regards action. But reserving the subject of this qualification let us for the moment assume the act to fall within the category of those which are Karmically inevitable.

Now the man has at all events Free Will as regards the cultivation of internal states of consciousness. Will any reader wish to interrupt me here and argue that the interior states of consciousness are as much the product of education, training, heredity and circumstance generally, as the acts performed? The answer would be very simple. That may be true as regards a man who has never come into contact with moral teaching, which is the first step towards theosophic enlightenment. But such a man is, indeed, far in the background of evolution, and even in his case the opportunities will come later — in later lives — which will bring him to the stage already reached by the man who is a moral agent. So we go back to the statement made above. The person in question is hurried by circumstance into the commission of his crime, but is a free agent in thinking about it. That is a part of his inalienable heritage as a human being with a higher self in the background and potentialities of Divine perfection. First, let us suppose he applies that Free Will in the same direction in which his bad Karma is operating. He commits his crime with ardour and fierce intensity of desire. He is glad he has done it, perhaps, and would do it again if the circumstances were placed before him again. He suffers no remorse; his Karmic career is going on with its old momentum. The Karmic effect, therefore, of his crime on the circumstances of his next life is appallingly intensified.

When that life comes on, the suffering attendant on his continued career of crime will probably force on his consciousness a distaste for all the experiences associated with that suffering — the crime included. So in the ultimate working of a penal Karma, the interior repentance is engendered which will have its Karmic effect in turn. And in this way we see how Nature tends back into the straight road, so to speak, in any case, even while her (unenlightened) children are perpetually straying off it. But let us now imagine that the man with whom we started, after having committed his crime, brings to play upon his reflections concerning it the Free Will of his own interior consciousness. Let us suppose that he has taken the first step towards the expansion of his moral nature, that he has seen fit to take a new departure, to cultivate higher aspirations than were present to his former life, to give in that way freer play within the consciousness of his lower self or personality, to the promptings and reflections of his Higher Self, previously almost shut out from his cognition. Still, it may be the evil legacy of his last incarnation is realised in the criminal act which the modern metaphysician would then regard as the inevitable outcome of early training, circumstance, and so forth. He has no sooner committed the evil act, than the rush of interior sensation, due to the fact that his lower consciousness is now partly open to the influence of the spiritual plane, is overwhelming. He is horror-stricken at what he has done, borne down with remorse. Every subsequent event in life may be coloured by this terrible emotion; the suffering through which he passes during this period may be greater even than that through which he would have passed if he had for the moment been making worse Karma, still on his old bad road. But bad as his momentary condition may be, he is all the while closing that formidable account, closing it in the tribulation that is inevitable under the circumstances one way or the other, but no doubt is less that way than if it were propagated as a persistent force through the ages.

According to whether the crime is thus committed in the one spirit or the other, the next life is altogether different. Free Will is realised in the conditions and opportunities it presents to the being concerned, even though he may be bound perforce to the necessity inherited from the past.

In just the same way, mutatis mutandis, we can apply the law under examination to the Karmic necessities of a good life, and the varying effect of a persistent spirit co-operating with their tendency, or on the other hand retarding and weakening them. It is in the Karmic necessity of the case, with some given person let us assume, to accomplish some great work of charity and benevolence. The good Karma of his previous life has drifted him into the pleasant and influential position in which he is enabled to design this and carry it out. Well, it may be that the charm and soft indulgence of circumstances have a good deal obscured the active sympathies which, in the former life, were productive of the good Karma. The man performs his act of charity — little realising that it is simply the behest of his former personality — but performs it perhaps with some interior hesitation and grudging. He is not at all sure in his own mind afterwards that the objects of his beneficence deserved the good things he has secured for them. He feels as if he has been too good-natured, and so forth, and that after what he has done, no one can blame him for thinking of himself and his own enjoyment for a change. Here the stream of Karmic influence is stopped again. The man in question will not be troubled with having to accomplish noble deeds in his next life, nor embarrassed, it may be, with the power and influence required for this accomplishment. Whereas if, on the other hand, the life under notice had been as well filled with lofty emotions as its predecessor, if the seductive circumstances had been held in subordination to the continuous spiritual effort begun in the former life, the man would have been carried far on along the path to ulterior perfection, and the cumulative effort of good Karma in successive lives might have given rise to some very far-reaching results.

Between the two extreme cases put forward, there is room, 6i course, for an infinitely varying operation of the same law on minor conditions of good and evil. Always, however, the same result will be seen emerging from all the complexities that might be imagined. We are — however little we can realise that state of the facts in our physical consciousness — the heirs of our last life's Karma, the obedient progeny of its complicated impulses. But we have never parted company with the Free Will, the use of which in the past has given rise to those impulses. We can apply it to the cultivation of beneficent or maleficent states of mind in the current life, and so accordingly will the Karmic account of that life work out.

I can imagine an objection raised against this view of the subject on the ground that it is a dangerous doctrine. It will be held by some people to lend too powerful a support to the theory of Necessity, by clearing away the apparent absurdities which, in spite of its logical character, stood in the way of its acceptance. People will say, if our acts are dictated by an irresistible force, it is useless to struggle against them. And perhaps a very imperfect grasp of the doctrine here defined might be demoralising rather than beneficial. But this is only one of the many cases in which the exposition of occult laws is more or less ethically dangerous. With enlarged wisdom and knowledge, comes enlarged responsibility, and an occult truth half understood may indeed be a perilous possession. But in the present case it is, at all events, easy to point out one consideration which militates against the notion that the doctrine of Necessity in Act, Free Will in Spirit, must tend to make people drift into evil and give way without an effort to temptation. Even though the accomplished act, whatever it may have been, may have been inevitable, no contemplated act can ever be assigned to that category up to the moment of its accomplishment, it may be that it belongs to the group of acts which we are destined to avoid ! It would require a far greater degree of occult advancement than is embodied in an intellectual appreciation of the law under review, to help us in all cases beforehand to a knowledge as to what acts are decreed by the Karma of the past, and which are empty suggestions of the imagination. When that sublime foresight shall have been attained, we shall probably with it have attained to other characteristics that may enable us to bear the weight of increased responsibility and power. Of course, the only way in which we can deliberately apply the right spirit to the events of a current life in which we "will" to elevate our destinies — to extinguish bad Karma in the past and accomplish spiritual progress — is by working on the hypothesis that we are free as to the acts. Nature has prescribed that hypothesis for our guidance by implanting so fixedly in our consciousness the feeling that we are free as to act. And here we revert to the "qualification" I spoke of a few pages back.

Within limits, we of the present stage of human evolution are not bound by Kartnic necessity to acts with such a rigid destiny as to deprive us altogether of Free Will as regards them. Will any one suppose that there is going to be something loose here in the chain of occult reasoning, a flaw in the great system of cause and effect? On the contrary, there is merely a beautiful adaptation of minor to higher laws. Gradually, very gradually, the whole world, "and all that it inhabits," is moving on to higher conditions of being in which continued evolution must be blended with the exercise of their own spiritual will by all who share it. It is a law of Karma — of the Karma we are now talking about, that of physical life — that the perfected Arhat gets above its operation. This is no legal quibble like the saying that the sovereign can do no wrong, but is simply another way of saying that a man does not become an Arhat till the temptations of the ordinary physical life have quite ceased to be temptations for him. He has got beyond the hopes and fears of physical life. His existence in the body is merely an inconvenient phase of his everyday existence out of the body. He keeps it going for duty's sake alone, and for no other conceivable or possible motive, and he is as likely — or shall we say less likely — to sin on the physical plane than a grown man with us is likely to cry and beat the table if he accidentally hurts his hand against it.

Very well; that being so as regards the extreme case of the Arhat, there is clearly no Karma left binding him to physical acts. But Nature always shades her varieties of condition one into another like the rainbow's tints. The man partially developed in the direction of arhatship is already partially exempt from the tyranny of Karma as regards his acts. His Free Will is becoming a more potent force in his life than it is in the case of the man whom it can merely influence through his interior states of mind. And at the present stage of human evolution that we have reached as a body, we human beings of the "nineteenth century," or as the occultist would prefer to put it, of the fifth race, have all of us, broadly speaking, passed the stage at which we are mere automata in the hands of Karma as regards our acts. It would not be true, for instance, to say at the present day that any man in a civilised country is under Karmic obligations to commit a murder. He may be under Karmic suggestion in that direction, but unless we can find a man whose education and training have been such that it has never been suggested to his mind that committing murder is wrong, then we may fairly deny that anyone is under Karmic pressure so unbending as to make him a mere instrument in respect to such an act as that. Observe, of course, that in speaking here of " murder " I mean the wilful murder which really involves the intention, and I am not noticing any crude distinctions made by legal enactments.

So with any of the very great crimes against duty, whether they come within the catalogue of human codes or not. The least enlightened of us are at least beginning to be responsible beings.

In most branches of science, and in occult science especially, the solution of one problem will often suggest others with which we may not previously have been in relation. So it may be well here at once to deal with a difficulty that will be sure to occur sooner or later to anyone who thinks over the limited Free Will, even as regards acts, which is assigned by occult teaching to people of the present race.

All of us are in very close relations on this plane of life with one another. Perhaps, indeed, on all planes, and on others more even than here; but at all events the manner in which our acts influence one another is obvious. So obvious as to make loose thinkers recoil from the notion of anything resembling predetermination in the course of events. If A robs B he may alter the whole course of B's life. If A has Free Will whether to rob B or not, how can B's Karma be correctly worked out? And so on ad infinitum, with small acts and events as well as great ones. Indeed, the mightiest events in our lives often ensue from acts on the part of others that look quite insignificant at the time. Where are we to draw the line in any scientific spirit? Human affairs are so intensely entangled that it looks as though we must say — all or nothing, either every act, to the smallest, must be automatic and inevitable, or there is no prearranged course of events and no regular working out of Karma at all. But there is a way of drawing the line which becomes intelligible in the light of some further revelations. These are so subtle that I must approach them gradually.

When we talk about the laws of Nature being the will of God we use language with which few European thinkers will quarrel. Even materialism, if not absolutely atheistic, might let the phrase pass. Religious instinct will cling to it as a mode of bringing the incontrovertible facts of physical science into harmony with theological ideas. But those beautiful generalities are never completely satisfactory to the occult student. He wants some closer interpretation of the spiritual facts. When two chemical salts are mingled in solution, and thereupon the acids and bases change hands and group themselves into a new arrangement of molecules, is the will of. God consciously ordaining that change? On the other hand, if a nebula of fire mist come under the conditions that convert it into a system of planets teeming with life, with joy and suffering, with lofty human aspiration, and with evil tendencies, with love and hatred, and so on, can we suppose that the will of God, if producing this result, is unconscious of it? The double problem lies in the region respectfully put aside as inscrutable in most cases. But the inscrutability only ensues from the pestilential touch of modern thinking, which will only concern itself with God in the cosmic sense if it transcends the narrowest observation of the physical facts of this world at all. It is only occult teaching that introduces us to the links between humanity and absolute universal spirit — the cosmic God.

We are coming into relations at this stage of the explanation with one of the sublimest mysteries of the spiritual plane, and I hope my readers will deal with the subject, and think of it, in an appropriate attitude of mind. But the fact is as I have just foreshadowed. Just as there are, undoubtedly, men far more highly endowed or evolved, both as regards goodness and power and faculty, than the generality of those around us, so in Nature and in relation with this world there are spiritual beings of again far more exalted attributes. And the direct influence on the affairs of the world of some among these beings is a profound and wonderful truth. Of such beings we can obviously know but little beyond the fact that they exist, and beyond the obvious logical necessity for their existence in the great hierarchy of consciousness — of individualised spirit. But in the fact of their existence we may begin to discern the real truth at the bottom of the somewhat distorted popular conceptions concerning the providential government of the world.

How far these spiritual Lords of Creation are directly concerned with carrying out the cosmic will in regard to those great uniformities of Nature which constitute the laws of matter, is a question we need not here investigate, but it is at once intelligible that they should direct with conscious intention the marvellous concatenation of events which constitute the laws of Karma. Of course, the ordinary mind is aghast at the complexity of the problems to be dealt with, but physical science teaches us not to shrink from complexity as tantamount to improbability in our interpretations of Nature. The laws of the spiritual plane are not likely to be less complex than those of matter and multiplex telegraphy — not to seek for still more powerful illustrations in the laws of optics — will suffice to warn us not to reject as inconceivable activities in Nature that the human mind cannot imagine itself as following consciously in detail.

At all events, the differences that exist between the laws of physical matter and the mysteries of human consciousness suggest, as an analogy, some different mode in which universal spirit should control the laws of matter and the incidents of life, which contribute to make up the justice of Karma. Somehow we may think of the former as provided for by some stupendous exercise of Creation or Divine Will in advance, so to speak, of the human drama to be enacted on that stage. Then, when the human drama begins, we may think of that Divine Will as focussed in some sort of exalted individual consciousness or consciousnesses, but scarcely less omnipresent than the other or fundamental stratum of the Divine Will. The problem, as a metaphysical problem for the human mind contemplating it, is a problem in the distribution of consciousness. The terrible limitations of the physical organism as an instrument of thought are such that, broadly speaking, an incarnate man is only able to think of one thing at a time. With practice, indeed, I believe that on the very threshold of that great process of evolution, which occultists call initiation, it is found that these limitations are not so rigid as most people think, and that it is possible to keep up more than one continuous train of thought simultaneously — and by that, of course, I mean something more than the power of jumping rapidly backwards and forwards among various trains of thought and recollecting each in turn, after the manner of a chess-player engaged on several games of chess at once. The distribution of consciousness required for a being conscious, so to speak — in Divinity — and concerned with the control of Karma, is, again, something as transcendently greater than this simplest distribution, in degree, as the rapidity, for example of light waves counted by billions per second is greater than the rapidity of a pianoforte player's execution. But from the power of thinking of two things at once to the power of thinking of two million would only be a question of degree. To recognise the conceivability of the higher achievement is logically possible for the understanding. And this is all we have to recognise, in order to bring within the range of imagination the Karmic government of the world, as providing for the lateral play of individual Free Will. Any of us may now and then disturb the pre-existing Karmic plan with which, so far, we had been entangled. Let it be assumed, for example, that it lay within the Karma of A and B that they should be ruined and made to suffer much material discomfort by the (probable) act of C. But C has developed a moral sense, out-running that of his previous incarnation by the exercise of his spiritual Free yfill, and he misses his appointment with Karma, to put it that way. Then other arrangements have to be made, and A and B are provided with the suffering due in some other manner, and a great number of minor adjustments have to be carried out accordingly. But this is only a question of adequate capacity on the part of the governing power, and our hypothesis — or rather, the esoteric teaching concerning the actual state of the facts — recognises that adequate capacity as existing in the " Providences " of the world.

The principle I have been endeavouring to explain in regard to the lateral play of Free Will during each physical life may be further elucidated with the help of a diagram (p. 144).


In this figure the centre line A B represents the general direction of evolution for the race at large, and the small parallelograms represent a few individual lives. Taking the life a first, its place on the centre line shows that the Karmic impulses from the previous incarnation are in accordance with the normal tendency of the age. But the privilege of partial Free Will, which the person whose life is in question enjoys, enables him to modify the tendency of his individual evolution either to the right or the left, to the extent shown by the dotted lines. He cannot modify that tendency more than is shown by the dotted lines, for he is hemmed in by the limitations of Karma and circumstance, in so far as the side lines of his parallelogram restrain the divergence. Let us assume that the direction to the right is towards spiritual good — that to the left, towards spiritual evil. If the individual concerned makes the necessary efforts during the life, represented by a his next incarnation has a general Karmic tendency in the direction of the centre line of the life b. Supposing, again, efforts in the direction of the better spirituality determine a further inclination of the centre line of life towards the right, then the third life of the series will be in the direction of c. And it will be obvious that a few more lives of similar effort will finally establish the centre line of the life at right angles to the original centre line — as in the case of the parallelogram h, which may be taken to represent complete adeptship in harmony with the Divine idea of absolute good.

But at every step of the process the Free Will of the individual is an uncontrolled agency in the matter, and it will be always possible before the complete perfection of the h life is attained that the individual in question may swerve in the wrong direction. Thus the energies of the life c may be misdirected, and give rise to a subsequent incarnation in the direction d, and one more wrong swerve in that case would bring back the Ego into the original main current of commonplace evolution. At any stage of his progress along that centre line an evil swerve will take him in the left-hand direction, and determine a new life with its predominant bent towards evil, as in the case marked f. And persistence in the evil tendency will, in a few lives, establish the Ego on the horizontal centre line in the left hand direction, which may be taken to represent the course of absolute evil, which, like that of absolute good, disentangles an Ego from the main current of evolution altogether, under conditions dealt with in theosophical teaching.

It will be seen that the general probability in regard to a great majority of lives — considering the complex tendencies of human nature — will be such that most Egos will swerve now to the right and now to the left in such a way that they continue in the main current of evolution. But to make the diagram a little more significant, we may suppose that the main centre line, A B, is not a straight line, but the arc of an enormous circle bending towards the right, so that in the great procession of the ages the great majority will be slowly borne round towards the direction of good — this tendency representing that general preponderance in the long run of the principle of good as compared with the principle of evil, nearly balanced as they often seem to be if we take short views of human affairs. And yet another modification might be introduced into the figure, with which I have not thought it worth while to embarrass the drawing, which should give a somewhat greater breadth to each parallelogram as it swerves from the main centre line in either direction representing the increased efficiency of individual Free Will as the Ego inclines more towards spirituality of either sort. This would hasten the possibility of attaining the completely horizontal position as compared with the rate of progress that would be available if the more spiritualised lives were as narrowly hemmed in by the walls of Karma and circumstance as those on the normal centre line.

I hope it will not be supposed that in the arbitrary length and breadth I have assigned to the parallelograms in the foregoing diagram I have been endeavouring to indicate the extent to which Free Will is a potent factor in determining the events of our lives. Perhaps if we correlated the figure with events alone, the lateral dimensions would have to be much narrower. But reason about Necessity however much we please, even with the light of the present occult interpretation to fortify the conception, we shall always, when the strain of action comes on, proceed on the practical assumption that we have a liberty of choice before us. And there is not much danger for any one with intuitions sufficiently awake to take in the full significance of the occult interpretation, of his taking, as it were, an unfair advantage of his intellectual knowledge of the occult law. Should any one argue after any given surrender to temptation, " Now the thing is done, and therefore it could not have been left undone, and it is useless to make a fuss about it," then the answer would be that the application of such a feeling, state of consciousness, or spirit, to the Karmic result just accomplished would be the very worst possible spirit in which it could be enveloped for its transmission through future ages as a new Karmic force.

It must be remembered, after all is said that can be said about the lateral play of Free Will as regards acts, that the law concerned is mainly related to thought in reference to acts. For the last few pages I have been dealing with an all-important qualification of the main rule, but let us now revert to the consideration of the main rule, always keeping the qualification at the back of our minds, but treating the extent to which Free Will can make the centre line of evolution swerve to the right or left as having chiefly to do with the manner in which we surround the acts of our lives with a Karmic aura imposed on them by our thoughts.

Rightly appreciated, the whole doctrine laid down should tend to elevate and dignify life. It exalts, to begin with, the importance of thought regarded in itself as a force in Nature. Too often people imagine that thought is a casual and unimportant concomitant of acts. Take care of the acts, and the thoughts will take care of themselves, may be a view of the subject that many people will consider to embody a sufficiently heavy tax upon the good aspirations of a fallible humanity. That we may be somehow held responsible for what we do, may be admitted, but our thoughts, it may be argued, are beyond our own control. The lessons of esoteric philosophy are directly at variance with that popular delusion. Our thoughts are by no means beyond our own control, and for them, in a very high degree, we shall be "held responsible," to use a familiar phrase, which can easily be thrown into a more philosophical form.

A very crude and imperfect idea, which points the same way as the doctrine here laid down, is embodied in the frequently-expressed theory that after all " motive " is the great thing; that people may perform the most mischievous acts and yet be blameless in the sight of Providence if they do whatever they do from a good motive. That notion is only to be recognised as sound, in so far as it contains the germ of the far more subtle idea that the Karmic efficiency of acts is greatly qualified by the spirit in which they are performed. It is in its straightforward meaning both incomplete and false, as far as it goes. A good motive will not extinguish the Karma of a bad act any more than a previous belief that a piece of iron you may touch is cold will prevent it from burning you if it is really hot. The act done will reverberate through time and produce its consequences, and if these are evil, they will sometimes, under the infallible operation of the Karmic law, react on their author. Motive may qualify their Karmic effect certainly, but if an act be evil, good motive may simply operate to blind the agent to its evil character, to prevent the development in his mind of the thoughts which bring with them remorse for the evil act, and hence the extinction of the Karma of the act. The tendency to repeat such acts, on the contrary, would be established in the mind, and that line of Karma would be intensified till in later lives it developed, perhaps, to a terrible degree the suffering which such a line of action would be calculated to produce. Moreover, when people talk about good motives excusing bad acts, they speak without regard to the complexities of old Karma, which really produce the acts. They treat them as an altogether fresh departure, which a more philosophical comprehension of the matter shows us that they are not. Of course it is needless to grant that a man who does a bad act from a bad motive is worse than another who does a bad act from a good motive, and up to a certain point the good motive doctrine may be better than none for unphilosophical thinkers. But it is a doctrine that will not carry any one very far on the road to a true conception of ethics, and, above all, it contributes nothing whatever to the elucidation of the mystery concerning Free Will and Necessity, which the corresponding occult doctrine so satisfactorily furnishes.

With that profound reflection before us, it may be worth while to look back at the pitiable shifts by which a corrupt theology and a conventional system of metaphysics — ignoring the sequence of continuous earth lives — have endeavoured to grapple with the plain contradictions of Free Will and Necessity, applied to the one life. The Articles of Religion, for instance, of the Church of England, inform us — in the interests of the necessitarian theory — that "Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel, secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation as vessels made to honour," — certain other vessels in large number being accordingly made to dishonour, and provided for in a very different way. The chosen people "by grace obey the calling," and walk religiously in good works. This, of course, is a naked statement so far of the necessity which makes of men the automata of a Deity who would, by that hypothesis, have decided before the foundations of the world were laid, to carry it on on principles revolting to the moral sense. But though the Articles may not hesitate to libel Divinity, they are quite ready to contradict themselves, and leave their disciples to take which meaning they prefer. So the article containing the words just quoted ends by saying that "we must," after all, "receive God's promises in such wise as they may be generally set forth to us in Holy Scriptures." Inasmuch as Holy Scriptures leave room for many readings, the adherents of Free Will and justice, as a principle of Divine government, are thus empowered to accept the article set forth if they so please, not in the sense the words convey, but as meaning diametrically the reverse. A is B; that is the doctrine of the Church, but at the same time, if you think that A is not B, then you may work it out that way, and remain, nevertheless, a faithful believer of the Church's doctrine. This is as though one should teach geometry by saying the three angles of a triangle were made to equal four right angles before even the foundations of the earth were laid; but, nevertheless, these facts may be received if you are obstinate about them, subject to the general conclusions derived from the study of Euclid; and with this reflection to ease your mind, please go on saying, whenever you talk of such things, that four is the proper number for good people to put their faith in.

Metaphysicians hardly deal with the subject more logically than the church, Materialistic philosophy would, as a rule, plump for "uniformity," a pleasanter word than necessity or predestination, but meaning exactly the same thing in this concatenation. Free Will then goes irretrievably overboard, and with it justice in the government of the world and all conjectures concerning consciousness prolonged beyond the grave. The Materialist and the Calvinist join hands in this matter, and there may not be much to choose between the view of the school which makes Divinity a myth and the soul an attribute of matter, on the one hand, and on the other that which recognises a God only to invest Him with moral attributes that would disgrace the most degraded manhood. However, both the Materialist and the Calvinist are so far logical; that may be granted to them. On the other hand, the reasoners who cling to Free Will — never suspecting that it may exist, and exist with complete efficiency even if generally incapable of controlling acts — try to work it out by saying the emotions of mind have a uniform efficacy as motives; but independently of the attributes of mind, there is the substance thereof to be considered, the actual Self or Ego which is exempt from the conditions that attach to its attributes. This ultimate personality is free and independent, and a self-determining power of action, independent of external causes, resides therein. That is almost as much as saying that the height of a tree may be twenty feet, but that is the measure of its height and not the measure of the tree. Assuredly the Self or Ego is a very different thing from the attributes it manifests during any one earth life, but while it is in that earth life, you can no more deal with it for the purposes of its relations with earth — as something apart from the sum total of its attributes — than you can deal, on the physical plane, with Berkeley's orange apart from the sum total of its size, colour, weight, shape, &c.

There is a something in the Ego which has touch with the physical plane, but is not of it, and which is exempt from the "Uniformities" spoken of by the old disputants concerning Free Will and Necessity. This something is the thought of the Ego, its own interior spiritual aspect which has direct relation to its acts, but does not constitute act, and therefore does not come — or, at all events, does not come entirely — within the operation of the Karmic forces which make up the influences under which the doctrine of uniformity is supposed to operate. It is free at any time, and always to appeal to its own Divine fountain-head to review the acts to which it has found itself driven, in the light of its own Divine consciousness; to reach out towards future acts that may better express the Divine purpose (which it may, if it so choose, become a co-operative agent in carrying out), and very often in so reaching it may discover as the future unrolls itself, that the Karmic forces of the past are asserting themselves in the same direction, and that the Free Will of its ennobled desire has a plain pathway before it, no longer encumbered by the obstacles that have hitherto created such terrible trouble — or it may find them, for that matter, strewn all the thicker in the way, and may only realise that they can be passed, however painful the process.

The great point to emphasise is that the recognition of this interior freedom, which is in scientific and complete harmony with the whole view of Nature prescribed by the Esoteric Teaching, has the effect, among others, of accomplishing what has hitherto been regarded as a problem no less insoluble than the squaring of the circle — the reconciliation of Free Will and Necessity.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:25 pm


The different vehicles of consciousness — Enumeration of the principles — Etheric matter — Jiva free and specialised — The true astral body — Reflection of consciousness in the higher vehicles — The true individual Man — The Karana Sharira — The Aura — Its various elements — The magnetic shell — Colouring of the Aura.

To pave the way for an examination into which we must shortly enter concerning the actual conditions of those realms through which the soul must pass in the course of its progress from physical death to rebirth, it will be desirable to pause for a moment in order to get a clearer view of the complex constitution of man. This constitution includes within itself vehicles adapted to the expression of consciousness on every plane of Nature besides that with which, for the moment, we are chiefly concerned, and no adequate comprehension of the process through which the evolution of the central individual consciousness is accomplished, can be attained by any thinker who fails to grasp the true character of the various vehicles in which that consciousness may at different times be manifest. On the plane of physical incarnation the vehicles are all involved one within the other, and in higher realms of Nature, we are, from one point of view, simpler beings than on this level. The conditions of physical existence have necessitated the finer state of complexity we here encounter, but in passing on to the examination of those which occult teaching describes as the "seven principles of man" it is well to bear in mind that the septenary constitution is a part of man's physical aspect, and that the true individuality must not be thought of as a bundle of souls separable one from the other, as occult science has sometimes been unjustly supposed to teach. The complete entity as we see him here is rather a bundle of vehicles, and inspiring energies, each of which is adapted to function on different planes of Nature, which for mankind at large are almost inseparably imbedded in the lowest and most developed vehicle, the physical body. These various vehicles are to some extent separable, even as regards mankind at large, and are readily and completely separable in the case of persons whose spiritual training has advanced to certain points, and in whose case evolution, likely to be a slow process for the bulk of humanity, has been abnormally hastened.

Coming now to detail, I may enumerate the seven principles in a way which will be seen by readers of "Esoteric Buddhism" to differ in no essential manner from the early statements on the subject there set forth, but which, so far as the language is concerned, may avoid misconceptions which the former terminology, perhaps, made possible. Arranged in numerical order, the seven principles may be described in the following way: —

1. Physical Body.

2. Etheric Double.

3. Jiva.

4. The Astral Vehicle.

5. Manas.

6. Buddhi.

7. Atma.

The first three principles taken in this order belong entirely to the physical manifestation. In the earlier presentation of these ideas I put Jiva as the second principle, and the "Linga Sharira," or Etheric Double, as the third. The modification now adopted involves no variation in the essential teaching, but appears preferable from certain points of view. First of all, as regards the Linga Sharira, that term was imported from Oriental terminology into our theosophical literature in the beginning; but a fuller appreciation of the exact function of this element in our organism and of its own constitution considered separately shows that it is an Etheric rather than an Astral counterpart of the physical body, and, at the same time, the intermediate organism through which the Jiva, or life force, influences the whole system. Occult students can make a very clearly defined distinction in their own minds between the two words used above, which may not at first, to the ordinary reader, have a different signification. Etheric matter is still physical according to the most accurate classification that can be adopted, although it is already entirely beyond the reach of instrumental observation and can only be seen by the finer senses appertaining to the Astral vehicle. Each plane of Nature, as we ascend through the refinements of the Cosmos, is constituted of different orders of matter, each order being subject to various modifications on its own plane. For example, we have solid, liquid, and gaseous matter, and beyond these, four varieties of etheric matter into which the molecules of elementary matter, as known to ordinary chemistry, may gradually be broken up. The whole subject is one of very deep interest, but I should be turning too far aside from the main path of what I have to say if I stopped here to unravel its complexities, even as far as these have at present been examined by occult students qualified to engage in such researches. It will be enough to make the leading idea of this occult development of chemical science intelligible in its broad outlines. The molecule of matter which possesses the characteristics of one of the known chemical elements must be thought of, in accordance with the actual truth of Nature, as a complicated structure built up of numerous ultimate physical atoms. All these ultimate physical atoms are identical in their own composition and attributes, or approximately so; at all events for our present purposes whatever differences are latent within them have nothing to say to their physical plane aspects. Each molecule may be roughly thought of as a different building, but each building is constructed of similar bricks. A great many bricks are required for some molecular structures, and whereas the simplest known to ordinary chemistry, the hydrogen molecule, contains only eighteen atoms, the molecules of some gases include many hundreds, and those of other substances some thousands, the figures expanding enormously in the case of molecules representing the metallic elements.

On the lowest etheric condition the gaseous molecules known to chemistry are broken up into sub-divisions, and in this condition appear at once to escape entirely beyond the reach of physical senses and instruments. Their effects are, of course, manifest in all the various phenomena of Nature which have to do with etheric vibrations; and a time, of course, will come in the progress of physical plane knowledge when all this will be the A B C of the text books. In the higher varieties of etheric matter the sub-divisions get broken up again and again until finally, in the highest condition of etheric matter, we find the atoms entirely separated one from the other, and matter at that level to be perfectly uniform in its structure and homogeneous in its constitution.

It is of matter derived from the etheric sub-planes that the Etheric Double is composed under the guidance of extremely subtle laws, and as the expression indeed of the most exalted spiritual will with which the affairs of this planet are directly concerned. The Etheric Double guides the actual deposition of physical molecules as the body grows, growing with it indeed, but always one step in advance; and the force which circulates through the nerve system of the Etheric Double is that Jiva which constitutes the physical life-principle, which as it becomes differentiated from the vast stores of Nature for the purpose of human requirements, itself comes within the field of vision of the astral senses, and can actually be seen by persons adequately qualified coursing through the nerve system of the Etheric Double as the blood flows through the veins of the physical body. The Jiva itself is primarily a force which pours into this planet from the sun. It has a multitude of tasks to perform connected with organic Nature, but keeping for the present to the question of human growth, we find it undergoing, in healthy human organisations, a process of differentiation which adapts it for its peculiar task, just as organic food is converted into blood by the physical body. A strong and healthy human being specialises a good deal more Jiva than he requires for his own use, just as the bees make more honey than they really want for themselves. In such a case it is constantly radiating from him, supplying the deficiencies more or less completely of those who are too feeble to specialise enough Jiva for themselves.

A man in good health is thus constantly, even without intention, imparting some of his spare vitality to others, though he does this with far greater energy when he employs mesmeric passes to assist the process, and uses his will-power, in a greater or less degree according to the extent of its development, to render them effective. Conversely the man in bad health, who through inefficient action of the appropriate organs in his own system is unable to specialise for his own use an adequate volume of the solar Jiva all around us, acts unconsciously as a sponge, absorbing the specialised Jiva of others with whom he is in contact. To different degrees most people are conscious that some others weary and tire them by their contiguity, even though they may not be able to trace the nature of the process by which they are affected. Persons of a very robust temperament hardly experience this feeling, perhaps, because in most such persons the higher principles, including those subtle emanations belonging to the astral plane, are more inextricably entangled with their physical molecules; and the very materialistic nature which is extremely insensitive itself is generally as little disposed to part with its own influences. The sensitive, very ready to feel the magnetic emanations of others, is, on the other hand, generally the person who is most easily drained of whatever vitality he may himself possess. These considerations, however, must not be read as implying that perfect physical health and robust constitution are identical with materialistic self -involvement. The whole subject of sensitiveness is profoundly misunderstood when, as is too often the case, people imagine it to be in some way identified with states of health; but the complete examination of that idea would take me too far away from the main part of the explanation I am now pursuing.

The fourth principle, or Astral Body, is the vehicle in which the soul may function on the astral plane of Nature, that immediately above the physical, the nature and characteristics of which we shall come to investigate presently.

Nothing is more difficult, in dealing with occult interpretations of Nature, than to decide in what order to take up their various sub-divisions. Nothing can properly be understood without the comprehension of something else. This matter that we are upon for the moment, the septenary constitution of man, requires, of course, for its full appreciation, a comprehension of the whole planetary scheme to which we belong, but no treatise on this great subject can possibly be attempted without constant reference to the seven principles of man. However, if any aspect of the present explanation seems for the moment unintelligible it will fall into its place later on. After a certain degree of progress in occult study, nothing is more impressive to the student than the beautiful coherence of the whole structure and the marvellous way in which each part, as it ramifies through the whole, fits into every detail of the other.

Just as the body, during the activity of our waking life, involves within itself the vehicles or bodies calculated for service on higher planes of Nature, so the astral body, set free from the physical and considered apart from these, involves within itself the higher vehicles which are adapted to function on the spiritual planes of Nature. It includes the whole man, minus the physical vehicle; and as regards the whole man's capacity for thinking and feeling, we may appreciate the extent to which he loses nothing by transfer to the astral plane, if we ask how much is left behind of his original consciousness in the dead body? Nothing whatever, to put the matter briefly; and nothing in this way is lost from the consciousness and feeling of the soul transferred from the physical to the astral plane, and beginning to function in the astral body.

The principles, however, may be thought of as something more than a mere envelope for a central entity of consciousness, because the finer vehicles, as they are capable of separation from the astral, in turn are incapable of giving expression to the lower emotions, desires, and sentiments of the man as we know him here, or as we may deal with him, if properly qualified, on the astral plane. The astral body is not in any true sense, of the term a soul, but it is the manifestation of soul in reference to certain aspects of Nature and certain possibilities of life. If we think of it as apart from the interior consciousness, and apart from the higher vehicles belonging to the spiritual planes on which that consciousness may ultimately function, we can then speak of it in the language which has been usual with occult writers as the principle of Kama or desire; giving expression to all the proclivities of life as engendered by the experiences of physical existence, and as constituting that part of the man which is the seat of almost all evil or criminal propensities which the strain and pressure of physical existence can engender. The spiritual soul escaping from its embrace, leaves it enfeebled, withered, and in process of disintegration, in all cases where the higher nature is at all favourably evolved, and in which the lower nature has been rather the inevitable consequence of physical existence than a commanding condition of consciousness. The circumstances under which this separation is accomplished will be considered when we come to deal with the astral plane more fully, and so we may pass for the moment to the consideration of the fifth principle.

The true individual man, his Higher Self, as evolving under the stimulus of the sixth principle, includes all the product of his thinking forces which have to do with phases of consciousness superior to those concerned with the animal desires and requirements of physical existence. From one point of view, the fifth principle itself may be thought of as the vehicle of the Manas— as the Devachanic body — but by this time, in the marvellous attenuation of matter as we ascend to the higher realms, we find it so incomprehensibly blended with states of consciousness, that it would rather be misleading than helpful to the imagination to think of the Devachanic body as merely a vehicle of Buddhi. In one sense the sixth principle in man, to which this name is given, is itself the vehicle of that universal Atma, the all-pervading Spirit of the Universe, with the attributes of which it would almost be folly to attempt to concern ourselves, while thought is still limited by the conditions of the physical intellect. Of Atma, except through its effects, through its manifestations, which are the whole universe around us, including all conscious beings in whatever gradation of existence, it would be futile to speak. We can know as yet nothing of its nature. We can only regard it as, in some incomprehensible manner, the potentiality of all things and all manifestations. The Ocean of Buddhi is the first manifestation of Atma with which for the purposes of this explanation we need concern ourselves; and when it is sometimes declared in poetical language that every man has within him the spark of Divinity, the truth which this phrase embodies may be otherwise expressed by saying that he has touch or relationship with the Ocean of Buddhi. If we may materialise the thought, so as to render it in one degree more tangible, he has established an individual focus within the Buddhi, or in other words, an individual focus within the Buddhi has become him — which focus or vortex is evermore a persistent fact. During all the ages of his earlier evolution it is little more than a remote possibility of the future, involving nothing that can be thought of as an individual consciousness on the level of Nature to which it belongs. Still, it is the manifestation of this spark of Buddhi on the Devachanic plane, and clothed in the vehicle of Devachanic matter, which constitutes the true human individuality with which we are concerned, sometimes spoken of as the fifth principle, sometimes as the the Higher Self, sometimes as the Higher Ego, sometimes as the Higher Manas. Occult science is a new study for modern writers, and its terminology is not yet thoroughly systematised, though the ideas with which it is concerned are very much more clearly defined in the minds of all advanced students than some surviving confusions of language would lead a hasty observer to imagine. On the Devachanic plane, on the highest levels of that plane itself, presenting various aspects on lower levels, as we shall see hereafter, the Buddhi principle actuates the vehicle which must now no longer be thought of as a vehicle, but as the permanent soul itself, though in its aspect as a vehicle it is spoken of in Oriental philosophy as the Karana Sharira. This, whether we think of it as the soul itself, or the permanent vehicle of that individuality which is a facet of the universal soul, passes on from one manifestation to another, re-incarnating in different physical bodies, and gathering around itself with each descent into physical life the constituent elements of a new astral body.

n the case of all ordinary humanity belonging to this present race of ours, the Karana Sharira itself is little more than the beginning of something which will ultimately become a true spiritual being. It is an imperishable germ from the first moment of its establishment as such in the Ocean of Buddhi, but before its growth can be accomplished it has to manifest on lower and lower planes of Nature till it gets down to the physical plane. Then it can get no further, and begins to expand and accrete self-consciousness and experience in the course of successive incarnations, bringing back something, however little, after each, to involve into its own permanent consciousness.

Amongst the humanity around us we already see this process of growth in progress at almost every possible stage. In some people the individual Higher Self, the Manas, the fifth principle, has become already a highly developed and magnificent entity. In others the corresponding principle of their being is perceptible for those whose vision can penetrate the Arupa levels of Devachan, as a film that has hardly as yet assumed a definite form, which is still less the vehicle of an exalted consciousness. But its progress is assured as regards the future. Those of us who may be best able now to function in the higher spiritual realm of Nature, have been filmy beginnings of Manasic manifestation in our time.

The study of the seven principles is really inseparably blended with the investigation of the Human Aura. The higher vehicles involved in the constitution of man — or in reference to which it may equally be said, and perhaps with greater accuracy, that man is involved within them — are actually visible to the astral senses and Devachanic perception of people whose clairvoyant powers are developed, and as so visible are habitually described as the aura. That aura, indeed, is blended with certain radiations from the three lower principles, which are in no sense vehicles of the soul, but which manifest themselves within the area to which the higher vehicles extend around the body, so that each aura, if we separate one from the other for the purpose of scientific treatment, must be thought of as conterminous with the others.

The aura extends to a distance of eighteen inches or two feet from the body in all directions, and is approximately oval in shape. In most cases it has no very definite outline, but its edges fade very gradually into invisibility. Closer study of this luminous cloud reveals the fact to which reference has already been made, that it has several distinct components. These components, indeed, consist of matter in different states; each of them is, as it were, a distinct aura, and would, if the others were withdrawn, be seen to occupy the whole space covered by the entire mass. They are described as of obviously different degrees of attenuation, and each apparently penetrates the one next below, as the Etheric Double is seen to penetrate the physical body.

The first, beginning at the lowest and most material level, may be regarded as appertaining more especially to the physical body, and may conveniently be called the "Health Aura," from the fact that its condition is greatly affected by the health of the body to which it is attached. It is almost colourless, but becomes perceptible by reason of possessing a curious system of radial striation — that is to say, it is marked by, or perhaps might be described as composed of, an enormous number of straight lines radiating evenly in all directions from the body. That, at least, is the normal condition of these lines when the body is in perfect health. They are each separated from one another, and as nearly parallel as their radiation allows; but wherever disease affects the body there the lines in the neighbourhood of the organs affected fall into confusion, cross one another in all directions, and present the appearance of being tangled together.

The second component of the aura consists of that vital energy, or specialised Jiva, discernible when circulating within the Etheric Double. It is then of a delicate rosy tint, but loses this and becomes of a faint bluish white hue as it radiates outwards. It seems to be the influence under which the lines of the health aura remain radial in their position when the body is in good health. I have known a case in which the clairvoyant has perceived the more or less crumpled lines in the health aura of a person suffering from some nervous prostration, straighten out under the influence of fresh Jivic energy poured into him by a mesmeric operator. The appearance of the Jivic aura, to persons who can discern it, has some resemblance to that appearance which heated air presents when seen in summer rising from ground exposed to the sun's rays. It may also be likened to the faint condensation of vapour due to the breath when perceived in an atmosphere barely cold enough to render it visible, but just below the point at which it would be completely invisible. There is some curious resemblance to be further detected between the Jivic aura of a human being and the magnetic aura which Baron Reichenbach has studied. It is safe to conclude that there is a difference between these two phenomena, because the vital organism of a human being must specialise the general life-principle of Nature in some way different from that in which it is specialised by magnetic and electric instruments. But the Jivic aura (which is itself by far the most visible element in the human aura, so that it will sometimes be seen by persons not clairvoyant enough to perceive any of the other components) is to all appearance identical in its nature with similar emanations which may, under some circumstances, be perceived as coming from magnets and electrical instruments which have been in activity.

One very important and interesting circumstance connected with the Jivic aura is, that to a certain extent it seems to be under the control of the will. At all events, people far advanced enough in psychic development to see it, and others even who cannot see it, but who are intellectually advanced enough to comprehend it, can control its radiation, prevent its dispersion beyond the limits of their own aura, and gather it on the external periphery of this, so to speak, in such a way that it forms a kind of wall or shell around them, that greatly enhances its protective effect, and may render it impervious to any kind of astral or elemental influence as long as the effort of the will is maintained.

In this way an occultist may pass into the most infected atmosphere with perfect impunity. And here, perhaps, I may venture to attempt a little practical recipe for the benefit of those intuitive enough to appreciate its significance, and thus qualified to profit by the hint. The phrase, "an effort of will," is, of course, very vague and indefinite. The difficulty is to translate the want or desire for a certain result into the operative energy of that mysterious power residing within the human being which we call the will; and the first thing to do is to help that closely allied faculty, loosely described as the imagination, to picture before itself clearly the object to be gained. This may be done by any one whose imagination at all transcends the limits of commonplace ignorance and incredulity concerning the unseen, in the following way. I<et the person who desires to protect himself by a magnetic shell inhale a deep breath, and slowly breathe it out, picturing in his own imagination that he is — as indeed in very truth he is doing — throwing out a cloud of magnetic Jiva. Let him imagine this clinging to the external limits of the aura around him, spreading over it as water might spread in a thin film over a surface, and clinging more and more tenaciously with each exhalation of the breath. A person who does that with full belief in the efficacy of the process, whether such belief is derived from his own observation or from the intelligent appreciation of evidence on the subject, produces a definite result, and becomes protected for a time both from disease germs and from disagreeable influences on the astral plane. The protection, however, is likely to wear off in a little while — in ten minutes or a quarter of an hour — unless sustained by renewed thought directed to its maintenance.

Coming now to the aura of the fourth principle, we begin to approach the region of those appearances which have to do with something more than bodily conditions even of the finer order. Keeping to proper occult nomenclature, this aura would be called the Kamic aura — that which has to do with the animal phase of man's consciousness, and the appearance of which expresses to those who comprehend its significance the general state of the lower sensual nature in any individual observed. This aura is the field of manifestation, or the mirror in which every feeling, every desire, is reflected. From it, material, bodily form is given to the dark elementals which men create and set in motion by evil wishes and malicious feeling. It constitutes that astral body in which those who find themselves able to do so, travel about on another plane, while the physical body sleeps. As might naturally be expected, there is little permanency about its manifestations. Its colours, its brilliancy, are all changing from moment to moment. An outburst of anger will charge the whole aura with deep red flashes on a dark ground, while sudden terror will in a moment change everything to a mass of ghastly livid grey.

The highest component of the aura to which clairvoyance short of adeptship can penetrate, is the aura of the Higher Manas. It is not by any means around every person that such an aura would be seen at all. In some mysterious way, of course, its potentiality resides in every human being, but except in those cases where the higher self is evolved to considerable activity, it would be vain to attempt to discern its emanation within the denser clouds of the lower principles. It is described by those who can see it as of almost inconceivable delicacy and beauty, perhaps less a cloud than a living light. But though rarely discernible in ordinary human beings, in those where the spiritual nature is very much the more powerful factor of the whole composition it simply outshines all the rest with startling brilliancy to observers qualified to perceive such phenomena.

This aura is, in fact, the Karana Sharira, the vehicle of the consciousness on the Arupa plane of Devachan — the Higher Self for all practical purposes — if we respectfully put aside for the present any attempt to examine the aspect of consciousness on the plane of Buddhi. The "Carrier Body" is a term applied to it in some Indian books, meaning that it is the vehicle which carries over the consciousness of the individual from life to life. As the human being advances in evolution the Karana Sharira becomes larger, as well as more defined in outline — always maintaining the ovoid form, and has thus in some theosophic writings been spoken of as the "auric egg." This multiplicity of terms is confusing to the beginner, but all confusion disappears when the ideas concerned are rightly apprehended.

When the physical body is seen set in the midst of its higher vehicles, these, overlapping it on all sides, present the appearance of an emanation, and from this point of view are spoken of as the aura; but in all consideration of that subject it is well to keep hold of the fundamental thought that the aura is really made up of the higher vehicles extending over a larger volume of space than that occupied by the physical body. When people are closely massed together, the auras — the higher vehicles — mingle in a curious way and catch, influences one from the other, unless they are specially managed with occult knowledge.

Some of the principles are separable from one another during life, but from the explanations already given it will be seen that this conception in reference to them must not be pushed too far. At the lower end of the scale that the third principle — the Jiva — could not be separated from the Etheric Double, of which it is the very life. And though the Etheric Double, plus its Jiva, may under abnormal conditions be separated for a time from the physical body, such separation would mean the death of the physical body if prolonged beyond brief periods, and no such separation falls within the regular course of any occult exercise. Again, at the other end of the scale there is no possibility within the range of any conditions of spiritual elevation that we need talk about at present of separating the Buddhi principle from Karana Sharira. But the fourth and fifth principles are readily separable from their lower envelopes; and the fourth (carrying with it the higher principles) does actually separate from the body even of ordinary non-psychic people in sleep. The separation becomes possible for occultists advanced in training to a certain degree as an act of will, or again, in cases where the training is still further advanced, the fifth principle — the true Ego or Higher Self — may be disentangled from the astral body (which in such cases would be left behind with the physical body). The soul is then said to be established in its Mayavi Rupa, the vehicle adapted to its manifestation on the lower levels of Devachan. The character of these manifestations on the astral and Devachanic planes will be appreciated better when the regions of Nature in question have been more systematically examined.
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