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The Key to Theosophy


A Clear Exposition in the Form of Question and Answer

of the Ethics, Science, and Philosophy for the Study of Which The Theosophical Society has been Founded.







The purpose of this book is exactly expressed in its title, The Key to

Theosophy, and needs but few words of explanation. It is not a complete or

exhaustive textbook of Theosophy, but only a key to unlock the door that leads

to the deeper study. It traces the broad outlines of the Wisdom-Religion, and

explains its fundamental principles; meeting, at the same time, the various

objections raised by the average Western inquirer, and endeavouring to present

unfamiliar concepts in a form as simple and in language as clear as possible.

That it should succeed in making Theosophy intelligible without mental effort on

the part of the reader, would be too much to expect; but it is hoped that the

obscurity still left is of the thought and not of the language, is due to depth

and not to confusion. To the mentally lazy or obtuse, Theosophy must remain a

riddle; for in the world mental as in the world spiritual each man must progress

by his own efforts. The writer cannot do the reader's thinking for him, nor

would the latter be any the better off if such vicarious thought were possible.

The need for such an exposition as the present has long been felt among those

interested in the Theosophical Society and its work, and it is hoped that it

will supply information, as free as possible from technicalities, to many whose

attention has been awakened, but who, as yet, are merely puzzled and not



Some care has been taken in disentangling some part of what is true from what is

false in Spiritualistic teachings as to the postmortem life, and to showing the

true nature of Spiritualistic phenomena. Previous explanations of a similar kind

have drawn much wrath upon the writer's devoted head; the Spiritualists, like

too many others, preferring to believe what is pleasant rather than what is

true, and becoming very angry with anyone who destroys an agreeable delusion.

For the past year Theosophy has been the target for every poisoned arrow of

Spiritualism, as though the possessors of a half truth felt more antagonism to

the possessors of the whole truth than those who had no share to boast of.

Very hearty thanks are due from the author to many Theosophists who have sent

suggestions and questions, or have otherwise contributed help during the writing

of this book. The work will be the more useful for their aid, and that will be

their best reward.


H.P. Blavatsky







Theosophy and The Theosophical Society


The Meaning of the Name


Q. Theosophy and its doctrines are often referred to as a newfangled religion.

Is it a religion?

A. It is not. Theosophy is Divine Knowledge or Science.


Q. What is the real meaning of the term?

A. "Divine Wisdom," (Theosophia) or Wisdom of the gods, as (theogonia),

genealogy of the gods. The word 'theos' means a god in Greek, one of the divine beings, certainly not "God" in the sense attached in our day to the term.

Therefore, it is not "Wisdom of God," as translated by some, but Divine Wisdom such as that possessed by the gods. The term is many thousand years old.


Q. What is the origin of the name?

A. It comes to us from the Alexandrian philosophers, called lovers of truth,

Philaletheians, from (phil) "loving," and (aletheia) "truth." The name Theosophy

dates from the third century of our era, and began with Ammonius Saccas and his disciples, also called Analogeticists, who started the Eclectic Theosophical



As explained by Professor Wilder, they were called so because of their practice

of interpreting all sacred legends and narratives, myths and mysteries, by a

rule or principle of analogy and correspondence: so that events which were

related as having occurred in the external world were regarded as expressing

operations and experiences of the human soul. They were also denominated

Neo-Platonists. Though Theosophy, or the Eclectic Theosophical system, is

generally attributed to the third century, yet, if Diogenes Laërtius is to be

credited, its origin is much earlier, as he attributed the system to an Egyptian

priest, Pot-Amun, who lived in the early days of the Ptolemaic dynasty. The same author tells us that the name is Coptic, and signifies one consecrated to Amun, the God of Wisdom. Theosophy is the equivalent of Brahma-Vidya , divine knowledge.


Q. What was the object of this system?

A. First of all to inculcate certain great moral truths upon its disciples, and

all those who were "lovers of the truth." Hence the motto adopted by the

Theosophical Society: "There is no religion higher than truth."

Eclectic Theosophy was divided under three heads:


1. Belief in one absolute, incomprehensible and supreme Deity, or infinite

essence, which is the root of all nature, and of all that is, visible and



2. Belief in man's eternal immortal nature, because, being a radiation of the

Universal Soul, it is of an identical essence with it.


3. Theurgy, or "divine work," or producing a work of gods; from theoi, "gods,"

and ergein, "to work."


The term is very old, but, as it belongs to the vocabulary of the mysteries, was

not in popular use. It was a mystic belief-practically proven by initiated

adepts and priests-that, by making oneself as pure as the incorporeal

beings-i.e., by returning to one's pristine purity of nature-man could move the

gods to impart to him Divine mysteries, and even cause them to become

occasionally visible, either subjectively or objectively. It was the

transcendental aspect of what is now called Spiritualism; but having been abused

and misconceived by the populace, it had come to be regarded by some as

necromancy, and was generally forbidden. A travestied practice of the theurgy of Iamblichus lingers still in the ceremonial magic of some modern Cabalists.

Modern Theosophy avoids and rejects both these kinds of magic and "necromancy" as being very dangerous. Real divine theurgy requires an almost superhuman purity and holiness of life; otherwise it degenerates into mediumship or black magic. The immediate disciples of Ammonius Saccas, who was called Theodidaktos, "god-taught"-such as Plotinus and his follower Porphyry-rejected theurgy at first, but were finally reconciled to it through Iamblichus, who wrote a work to that effect entitled De Mysteriis, under the name of his own master, a famous Egyptian priest called Abammon. Ammonius Saccas was the son of Christian parents, and, having been repelled by dogmatic Spiritualistic Christianity from his childhood, became a Neo-Platonist, and like J. Boëhme and other great seers and mystics, is said to have had divine wisdom revealed to him in dreams and visions. Hence his name of Theodidaktos. He resolved to reconcile every system of religion, and by demonstrating their identical origin to establish one universal creed based on ethics. His life was so blameless and pure, his learning so profound and vast, that several Church Fathers were his secret disciples. Clemens Alexandrinus speaks very highly of him. Plotinus, the "St. John" of Ammonius, was also a man universally respected and esteemed, and of the most profound learning and integrity. When thirty-nine years of age he

accompanied the Roman Emperor Gordian and his army to the East, to be instructed by the sages of Bactria and India. He had a School of Philosophy in Rome. Porphyry, his disciple, whose real name was Malek (a Hellenized Jew), collected all the writings of his master. Porphyry was himself a great author, and gave an allegorical interpretation to some parts of Homer's writings.


The system of meditation the Philaletheians resorted to was ecstasy, a system akin to Indian Yoga practice. What is known of the Eclectic School is due to Origen, Longinus, and Plotinus, the immediate disciples of Ammonius.

The chief aim of the Founders of the Eclectic Theosophical School was one of the three objects of its modern successor, the Theosophical Society, namely, to

reconcile all religions, sects, and nations under a common system of ethics,

based on eternal verities.


Q. What have you to show that this is not an impossible dream; and that all the

world's religions are based on the one and the same truth?

A. Their comparative study and analysis. The "Wisdom-Religion" was one in

antiquity; and the sameness of primitive religious philosophy is proven to us by

the identical doctrines taught to the Initiates during the mysteries, an

institution once universally diffused.


All the old worships indicate the existence of a single Theosophy anterior to

them. The key that is to open one must open all; otherwise it cannot be the

right key.



The Policy of the Theosophical Society


Q. In the days of Ammonius there were several ancient great religions, and

numerous were the sects in Egypt and Palestine alone. How could he reconcile


A. By doing that which we again try to do now. The Neo-Platonists were a large

body, and belonged to various religious philosophies; so do our Theosophists.

It was under Philadelphus that Judaism established itself in Alexandria, and

forthwith the Hellenic teachers became the dangerous rivals of the College of

Rabbis of Babylon. As the author of The Eclectic Philosophy very pertinently



The Buddhist, Vedantic, and Magian systems were expounded along with the

philosophies of Greece at that period. It was not wonderful that thoughtful men

supposed that the strife of words ought to cease, and considered it possible to

extract one harmonious system from these various teachings … Panaetius,

Athenagoras, and Clement were thoroughly instructed in Platonic philosophy, and comprehended its essential unity with the Oriental systems.

In those days, the Jew Aristobulus affirmed that the ethics of Aristotle

represented the esoteric teachings of the Law of Moses; Philo Judaeus endeavored to reconcile the pentateuch with the Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy; and Josephus proved that the Essenes of Carmel were simply the copyists and followers of the Egyptian Therapeutae (the healers). So it is in our day.


We can show the line of descent of every Christian religion, as of every, even the smallest, sect. The latter are the minor twigs or shoots grown on the larger

branches; but shoots and branches spring from the same trunk-the

wisdom-religion. To prove this was the aim of Ammonius, who endeavored to induce Gentiles and Christians, Jews and Idolaters, to lay aside their contention and strife, remembering only that they were all in possession of the same truth

under various vestments, and were all the children of a common mother. This is

the aim of Theosophy likewise. Says Mosheim of Ammonius:


Conceiving that not only the philosophers of Greece, but also all those of the

different barbarian nations, were perfectly in unison with each other with

regard to every essential point, he made it his business so to expound the

thousand tenets of all these various sects as to show they had all originated

from one and the same source, and tended all to one and the same end.

If the writer on Ammonius in the Edinburgh Encyclopedia knows what he is talking about, then he describes the modern Theosophists, their beliefs, and their work, for he says, speaking of the Theodidaktos:


He adopted the doctrines which were received in Egypt (the esoteric were those

of India) concerning the Universe and the Deity, considered as constituting one

great whole; concerning the eternity of the world … and established a system of

moral discipline which allowed the people in general to live according to the

laws of their country and the dictates of nature, but required the wise to exalt

their mind by contemplation.


Q. What is your authority for saying this of the ancient Theosophists of


A. An almost countless number of well-known writers. Mosheim, one of them, says that:Ammonius taught that the religion of the multitude went hand-in-hand with philosophy, and with her had shared the fate of being by degrees corrupted and obscured with mere human conceits, superstitions, and lies; that it ought,

therefore, to be brought back to its original purity by purging it of this dross

and expounding it upon philosophical principles; and the whole Christ had in

view was to reinstate and restore to its primitive integrity the wisdom of the

ancients; to reduce within bounds the universally-prevailing dominion of

superstition; and in part to correct, and in part to exterminate the various

errors that had found their way into the different popular religions.

This, again, is precisely what the modern Theosophists say. Only while the great

Philaletheian was supported and helped in the policy he pursued by two Church

Fathers, Clement and Athenagoras, by all the learned Rabbis of the Synagogue,

the Academy and the Groves, and while he taught a common doctrine for all, we, his followers on the same line, receive no recognition, but, on the contrary,

are abused and persecuted. People 1,500 years ago are thus shown to have been

more tolerant than they are in this enlightened century.


Q. Was he encouraged and supported by the Church because, notwithstanding his heresies, Ammonius taught Christianity and was a Christian?

A. Not at all. He was born a Christian, but never accepted Church Christianity.

As said of him by the same writer:


He had but to propound his instructions according to the ancient pillars of

Hermes, which Plato and Pythagoras knew before, and from them constituted their philosophy. Finding the same in the prologue of the Gospel according to St. John, he very properly supposed that the purpose of Jesus was to restore the

great doctrine of wisdom in its primitive integrity. The narratives of the Bible

and the stories of the gods he considered to be allegories illustrative of the

truth, or else fables to be rejected. As says the Edinburgh Encyclopedia:

Moreover, he acknowledged that Jesus Christ was an excellent man and the "friend of God," but alleged that it was not his design entirely to abolish the worship of demons (gods), and that his only intention was to purify the ancient




The Wisdom-Religion, Esoteric in All Ages


Q. Since Ammonius never committed anything to writing, how can one feel sure

that such were his teachings?

A. Neither did Buddha, Pythagoras, Confucius, Orpheus, Socrates, or even Jesus,

leave behind them any writings. Yet most of these are historical personages, and

their teachings have all survived. The disciples of Ammonius (among whom Origen and Herennius) wrote treatises and explained his ethics. Certainly the latter are as historical, if not more so, than the Apostolic writings. Moreover, his

pupils-Origen, Plotinus, and Longinus (counselor of the famous Queen

Zenobia)-have all left voluminous records of the Philaletheian System-so far, at

all events, as their public profession of faith was known, for the school was

divided into exoteric and esoteric teachings.


Q. How have the latter tenets reached our day, since you hold that what is

properly called the wisdom-religion was esoteric?

A. The wisdom-religion was ever one, and being the last word of possible human knowledge, was, therefore, carefully preserved. It preceded by long ages the Alexandrian Theosophists, reached the modern, and will survive every other

religion and philosophy.


Q. Where and by whom was it so preserved?

A. Among Initiates of every country; among profound seekers after truth-their

disciples; and in those parts of the world where such topics have always been

most valued and pursued: in India, Central Asia, and Persia.


Q. Can you give me some proofs of its esotericism?

A. The best proof you can have of the fact is that every ancient religious, or

rather philosophical, cult consisted of an esoteric or secret teaching, and an

exoteric (outward public) worship. Furthermore, it is a well-known fact that the

mysteries of the ancients comprised with every nation the "greater" (secret) and

"Lesser" (public) mysteries-e.g., in the celebrated solemnities called the

Eleusinia, in Greece. From the Hierophants of Samothrace, Egypt, and the

initiated Brahmins of the India of old, down to the later Hebrew Rabbis, all

preserved, for fear of profanation, their real bona fide beliefs secret. The

Jewish Rabbis called their secular religious series the Merkabah(the exterior

body), "the vehicle," or, the covering which contains the hidden soul-i.e.,

their highest secret knowledge. Not one of the ancient nations ever imparted

through its priests its real philosophical secrets to the masses, but allotted

to the latter only the husks. Northern Buddhism has its "greater" and its

"lesser" vehicle, known as the Mahayana, the esoteric, and the Hinayana, the

exoteric, Schools. Nor can you blame them for such secrecy; for surely you would not think of feeding your flock of sheep on learned dissertations on botany instead of on grass?


Pythagoras called his Gnosis "the knowledge of things that are," or [translit. Greek] "he gnosis ton onton" and preserved that knowledge for his pledged disciples only: for those who could digest such mental food and feel satisfied; and he pledged them to silence and secrecy. Occult alphabets and secret ciphers are the development of the old Egyptian hieratic writings, the secret of which was, in the days of old, in the possession only of the Hierogrammatists, or initiated Egyptian priests. Ammonius Saccas, as his biographers tell us, bound his pupils by oath not to divulge his higher doctrines except to those who had already been instructed in preliminary knowledge, and who were also bound by a pledge. Finally, do we not find the same even in early Christianity, among the Gnostics, and even in the teachings of Christ?


Did he not speak to the multitudes in parables which had a two-fold

meaning, and explain his reasons only to his disciples? He says:

To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables The Essenes of Judea and Carmel made similar distinctions, dividing their adherents into neophytes, brethren, and the perfect, or those initiated.Examples might be brought from every country to this effect.


Q. Can you attain the "Secret Wisdom" simply by study? Encyclopedias

defineTheosophy pretty much as Webster's Dictionary does, i.e.,as

… supposed intercourse with God and superior spirits, and consequent attainment of superhuman knowledge by physical means and chemical processes.Is this so?

A. I think not. Nor is there any lexicographer capable of explaining, whether to

himself or others, how superhuman knowledge can be attained by physical or

chemical processes. Had Webster said "by metaphysical and alchemical processes," the definition would be approximately correct: as it is, it is absurd. Ancient Theosophists claimed, and so do the modern, that the infinite cannot be known by the finite-i.e., sensed by the finite Self-but that the divine essence could be communicated to the higher Spiritual Self in a state of ecstasy. This condition can hardly be attained, like hypnotism, by "physical and chemical means."


Q. What is your explanation of it?

A. Real ecstasy was defined by Plotinus as "the liberation of the mind from its

finite consciousness, becoming one and identified with the infinite." This is

the highest condition, says Professor Wilder, but not one of permanent duration,

and it is reached only by the very, very few. It is, indeed, identical with that

state which is known in India as Samadhi. The latter is practiced by the Yogis,

who facilitate it physically by the greatest abstinence in food and drink, and

mentally by an incessant endeavor to purify and elevate the mind. Meditation is

silent and unuttered prayer, or, as Plato expressed it,

… the ardent turning of the soul toward the divine; not to ask any particular

good (as in the common meaning of prayer), but for good itself-for the universal

Supreme Good …-of which we are a part on earth, and out of the essence of which we have all emerged. Therefore, adds Plato, Remain silent in the presence of the divine ones, till they remove the clouds from thy eyes and enable thee to see by the light which issues from themselves, not what appears as good to thee, but what is intrinsically good.


This is what the scholarly author of The Eclectic Philosophy, Professor

Alexander Wilder, F.T.S., describes as "spiritual photography":

The soul is the camera in which facts and events, future, past, and present, are

alike fixed; and the mind becomes conscious of them. Beyond our everyday world of limits all is one day or state-the past and future comprised in the present.


… Death is the last ecstasis on earth. Then the soul is freed from the

constraint of the body, and its nobler part is united to higher nature and

becomes partaker in the wisdom and foreknowledge of the higher beings.

Real Theosophy is, for the mystics, that state which Apollonius of Tyana was

made to describe thus:


I can see the present and the future as in a clear mirror. The sage need not

wait for the vapors of the earth and the corruption of the air to foresee events

… The theoi, or gods, see the future; common men the present, sages that which is about to take place.


"The Theosophy of the Sages" he speaks of is well expressed in the assertion,

"The Kingdom of God is within us."


Q. Theosophy, then, is not, as held by some, a newly devised scheme?

A. Only ignorant people can thus refer to it. It is as old as the world, in its

teachings and ethics, if not in name, as it is also the broadest and most

catholic system among all.


Q. How comes it, then, that Theosophy has remained so unknown to the nations of the Western Hemisphere? Why should it have been a sealed book to races

confessedly the most cultured and advanced?

A. We believe there were nations as cultured in days of old and certainly more

spiritually "advanced" than we are. But there are several reasons for this

willing ignorance. One of them was given by St. Paul to the cultured Athenians-a

loss, for long centuries, of real spiritual insight, and even interest, owing to

their too great devotion to things of sense and their long slavery to the dead

letter of dogma and ritualism. But the strongest reason for it lies in the fact

that real Theosophy has ever been kept secret.


Q. You have brought forward proofs that such secrecy has existed; but what was the real cause for it?

A. The causes for it were:


1. The perversity of average human nature and its selfishness, always tending to

the gratification of personal desires to the detriment of neighbors arid next of

kin. Such people could never be entrusted with divine secrets.


2. Their unreliability to keep the sacred and divine knowledge from desecration.

It is the latter that led to the perversion of the most sublime truths and

symbols, and to the gradual transformation of things spiritual into

anthropomorphic, concrete, and gross imagery-in other words, to the dwarfing of the god-idea and to idolatry.



Theosophy is Not Buddhism


Q. You are often spoken of as "Esoteric Buddhists." Are you then all followers

of Gautama Buddha?

A. No more than musicians are all followers of Wagner. Some of us are Buddhists by religion; yet there are far more Hindus and Brahmins than Buddhists among us, and more Christian-born Europeans and Americans than converted Buddhists. The mistake has arisen from a misunderstanding of the real meaning of the title of Mr. Sinnett's excellent work, Esoteric Buddhism, which last word ought to have been spelt with one, instead of two, d's, as then Budhism would have meant what it was intended for, merely "Wisdom-ism" (Bodha, bodhi, "intelligence," "wisdom") instead of Buddhism, Gautama's religious philosophy. Theosophy, as already said, is the wisdom-religion.


Q. What is the difference between Buddhism, the religion founded by the Prince

of Kapilavastu, and Budhism, the "Wisdomism" which you say is synonymous with Theosophy?

A. Just the same difference as there is between the secret teachings of Christ,

which are called "the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven," and the later

ritualism and dogmatic theology of the Churches and Sects. Buddha means the

"Enlightened" by Bodha, or understanding, Wisdom. This has passed root and

branch into the esoteric teachings that Gautama imparted to his chosen Arhats



Q. But some Orientalists deny that Buddha ever taught any esoteric doctrine at


A. They may as well deny that Nature has any hidden secrets for the men of

science. Further on I will prove it by Buddha's conversation with his disciple

Ananda. His esoteric teachings were simply the Gupta-Vidya(secret knowledge) of the ancient Brahmins, the key to which their modern successors have, with few exceptions, completely lost. And this Vidya has passed into what is now known as the inner teachings of the Mahayana school of Northern Buddhism. Those who deny it are simply ignorant pretenders to Orientalism. I advise you to read the Rev. Mr. Edkin's Chinese Buddhism-especially the chapters on the Exoteric and Esoteric schools and teachings-and then compare the testimony of the whole ancient world upon the subject.


Q. But are not the ethics of Theosophy identical with those taught by Buddha?

A. Certainly, because these ethics are the soul of the Wisdom-Religion, and were once the common property of the initiates of all nations. But Buddha was the first to embody these lofty ethics in his public teachings, and to make them the foundation and the very essence of his public system. It is herein that lies the

immense difference between exoteric Buddhism and every other religion. For while in other religions ritualism and dogma hold the first and most important place, in Buddhism it is the ethics which have always been the most insisted upon. This accounts for the resemblance, amounting almost to identity, between the ethics of Theosophy and those of the religion of Buddha.


Q. Are there any great points of difference?

A. One great distinction between Theosophy and exoteric Buddhism is that the

latter, represented by the Southern Church, entirely denies (a) the existence of

any Deity, and (b) any conscious postmortem life, or even any self-conscious

surviving individuality in man. Such at least is the teaching of the Siamese

sect, now considered as the purest form of exoteric Buddhism. And it is so, if

we refer only to Buddha's public teachings; the reason for such reticence on his

part I will give further on. But the schools of the Northern Buddhist Church,

established in those countries to which his initiated Arhats retired after the

Master's death, teach all that is now called Theosophical doctrines, because

they form part of the knowledge of the initiates-thus proving how the truth has

been sacrificed to the dead-letter by the too-zealous orthodoxy of Southern

Buddhism. But how much grander and more noble, more philosophical and

scientific, even in its dead-letter, is this teaching than that of any other

Church or religion. Yet Theosophy is not Buddhism.



Exoteric and Esoteric Theosophy


What the Modern Theosophical Society is Not


Q. Your doctrines, then, are not a revival of Buddhism, nor are they entirely

copied from the Neo-Platonic Theosophy?

A. They are not. But to these questions I cannot give you a better answer than

by quoting from a paper read on "Theosophy" by Dr. J.D. Buck, F.T.S., No living Theosophist has better expressed and understood the real essence of Theosophy than our honored friend Dr. Buck:


The Theosophical Society was organized for the purpose of promulgating the

Theosophical doctrines, and for the promotion of the Theosophic life. The

present Theosophical Society is not the first of its kind. I have a volume

entitled: Theosophical Transactions of the Philadelphian Society, published in

London in 1697; and another with the following title: Introduction to Theosophy, or the Science of the Mystery of Christ; that is, of Deity, Nature, and Creature, embracing the philosophy of all the working powers of life, magical and spiritual, ant forming a practical guide to the most sublime purity, sanctity, and evangelical perfection; also to the attainment of divine vision, and the holy angelic arts, potencies, and other prerogatives of the regeneration.


-published in London in 1855. The following is the dedication of this volume:

To the students of Universities, Colleges, and schools of Christendom: To

Professors of Metaphysical, Mechanical, and Natural Science in all its forms: To

men and women of Education generally, of fundamental orthodox faith: To Deists, Arians, Unitarians, Swedenborgians, and other defective and ungrounded creeds, rationalists, and skeptics of every kind: To just-minded and enlightened

Mohammedans, Jews, and oriental Patriarch-religionists: but especially to the

gospel minister and missionary, whether to the barbaric or intellectual peoples,

this introduction to Theosophy, or the science of the ground and mystery of all

things, is most humbly and affectionately dedicated. In the following year

(1856) another volume was issued, royal octavo, of 600 pages, diamond type, of

Theosophical Miscellanies. Of the last-named work 500 copies only were issued, for gratuitous distribution to Libraries and Universities. These earlier

movements, of which there were many, originated within the Church, with persons of great piety and earnestness, and of unblemished character; and all of these writings were in orthodox form, using the Christian expressions, and, like the writings of the eminent Churchman William Law, would only be distinguished by the ordinary reader for their great earnestness and piety. These were one and all but attempts to derive and explain the deeper meanings and original import of the Christian Scriptures, and to illustrate and unfold the Theosophic life.


These works were soon forgotten, and are now generally unknown. They sought to reform the clergy and revive genuine piety, and were never welcomed. That one word, Heresy, was sufficient to bury them in the limbo of all such Utopias.


At the time of the Reformation John Reuchlin made a similar attempt with the same result, though he was the intimate and trusted friend of Luther. Orthodoxy never desired to be informed and enlightened. These reformers were informed, as was Paul by Festus, that too much learning had made them mad, and that it would be dangerous to go farther. Passing by the verbiage, which was partly a matter of  habit and education with these writers, and partly due to religious restraint through secular power, and coming to the core of the matter, these writings were Theosophical in the strictest sense, and pertain solely to man's knowledge of his own nature and the higher life of the soul. The present Theosophical Movement has sometimes been declared to be an attempt to convert Christendom to Buddhism, which means simply that the word Heresy has lost its terrors and relinquished its power. Individuals in every age have more or less clearly apprehended the Theosophical doctrines and wrought them into the fabric of their lives. These doctrines belong exclusively to no religion, and are confined to no society or time. They are the birthright of every human soul.


Such a thing as orthodoxy must be wrought out by each individual according to his nature and his needs, and according to his varying experience. This may explain why those who have imagined Theosophy to be a new religion have hunted in vain for its creed and its ritual. Its creed is Loyalty to Truth, and its ritual "To honor every truth by use."


How little this principle of Universal Brotherhood is understood by the masses

of mankind, how seldom its transcendent importance is recognized, may be seen in the diversity of opinion and fictitious interpretations regarding the

Theosophical Society. This Society was organized on this one principle, the

essential Brotherhood of Man, as herein briefly outlined and imperfectly set

forth. It has been assailed as Buddhist and anti-Christian, as though it could

be both these together, when both Buddhism and Christianity, as set forth by

their inspired founders, make brotherhood the one essential of doctrine and of

life. Theosophy has been also regarded as something new under the sun, or, at

best as old mysticism masquerading under a new name.


While it is true that many Societies founded upon, and united to support, the principles of altruism, or essential brotherhood, have borne various names, it is also true that many have also been called Theosophic, and with principles and aims as the present society bearing that name. With these societies, one and all, the essential doctrine has been the same, and all else has been incidental, though this does not obviate the fact that many persons are attracted to the incidentals who overlook or ignore the essentials.


No better or more explicit answer-by a man who is one of our most esteemed and earnest Theosophists-could be given to your questions.


Q. Which system do you prefer or follow, in that case, besides Buddhist ethics?

A. None, and all. We hold to no religion, as to no philosophy in particular: we

cull the good we find in each. But here, again, it must be stated that, like all

other ancient systems, Theosophy is divided into Exoteric and Esoteric Sections.


Q. What is the difference?

A. The members of the Theosophical Society at large are free to profess whatever religion or philosophy they like, or none if they so prefer, provided they are in sympathy with, and ready to carry out one or more of the three objects of the Association. The Society is a philanthropic and scientific body for the propagation of the idea of brotherhood on practical instead of theoretical

lines. The Fellows may be Christians or Muslims, Jews or Parsees, Buddhists or

Brahmins, Spiritualists or Materialists, it does not matter; but every member

must be either a philanthropist, or a scholar, a searcher into ryan and other

old literature, or a psychic student. In short, he has to help, if he can, in

the carrying out of at least one of the objects of the program. Otherwise he has

no reason for becoming a "Fellow." Such are the majority of the exoteric

Society, composed of "attached" and "unattached" members. These may, or may not, become Theosophists de facto. Members they are, by virtue of their having joined the Society; but the latter cannot make a Theosophist of one who has no sense for the divine fitness of things, or of him who understands Theosophy in his own-if the expression may be used-sectarian and egotistic way. "Handsome is, as handsome does" could be paraphrased in this case and be made to run: "Theosophist is, who Theosophy does."



Theosophists and Members of the T.S.


Q. This applies to lay members, as I understand. And what of those who pursue

the esoteric study of Theosophy; are they the real Theosophists?

A. Not necessarily, until they have proven themselves to be such. They have

entered the inner group and pledged themselves to carry out, as strictly as they

can, the rules of the occult body. This is a difficult undertaking, as the

foremost rule of all is the entire renunciation of one's personality-i.e., a

pledged member has to become a thorough altruist, never to think of himself, and to forget his own vanity and pride in the thought of the good of his

fellow-creatures, besides that of his fellow-brothers in the esoteric circle. He

has to live, if the esoteric instructions shall profit him, a life of abstinence

in everything, of self-denial and strict morality, doing his duty by all men.

The few real Theosophists in the T.S. are among these members.

A. This does not imply that outside of the T.S. and the inner circle, there are

no Theosophists; for there are, and more than people know of; certainly far more than are found among the lay members of the T.S.


Q. Then what is the good of joining the so-called Theosophical Society in that

case? Where is the incentive?

A. None, except the advantage of getting esoteric instructions, the genuine

doctrines of the "Wisdom-Religion," and if the real program is carried out,

deriving much help from mutual aid and sympathy. Union is strength and harmony, and well-regulated simultaneous efforts produce wonders. This has been the secret of all associations and communities since mankind existed.


Q. But why could not a man of well-balanced mind and singleness of purpose, one, say, of indomitable energy and perseverance, become an Occultist and even an Adept if he works alone?

A. He may; but there are ten thousand chances against one that he will fail. For

one reason out of many others, no books on Occultism or Theurgy exist in our day which give out the secrets of alchemy or medieval Theosophy in plain language.


All are symbolical or in parables; and as the key to these has been lost for

ages in the West, how can a man learn the correct meaning of what he is reading

and studying? Therein lies the greatest danger, one that leads to unconscious

black magic or the most helpless mediumship. He who has not an Initiate for a

master had better leave the dangerous study alone. Look around you and observe.


While two-thirds of civilized society ridicule the mere notion that there is

anything in Theosophy, Occultism, Spiritualism, or in the Cabala, the other

third is composed of the most heterogeneous and opposite elements. Some believe in the mystical, and even in the supernatural (!), but each believes in his own way. Others will rush single-handed into the study of the Cabala, Psychism,

Mesmerism, Spiritualism, or some form or another of Mysticism. Result: no two

men think alike, no two are agreed upon any fundamental occult principles,

though many are those who claim for themselves the ultima thule of knowledge,

and would make outsiders believe that they are full-blown adepts. Not only is

there no scientific and accurate knowledge of Occultism accessible in the

West-not even of true astrology, the only branch of Occultism which, in its

exoteric teachings, has definite laws and a definite system-but no one has any

idea of what real Occultism means. Some limit ancient wisdom to the cabala and

the Jewish Zohar, which each interprets in his own way according to the

dead-letter of the Rabbinical methods. Others regard Swedenborg or Boëhme as the ultimate expressions of the highest wisdom; while others again see in mesmerism the great secret of ancient magic. One and all of those who put their theory into practice are rapidly drifting, through ignorance, into black magic. Happy are those who escape from it, as they have neither test nor criterion by which they can distinguish between the true and the false.


Q. Are we to understand that the inner group of the T.S. claims to learn what it

does from real initiates or masters of esoteric wisdom?

A. Not directly. The personal presence of such masters is not required. Suffice

it if they give instructions to some of those who have studied under their

guidance for years, and devoted their whole lives to their service. Then, in

turn, these can give out the knowledge so imparted to others, who had no such

opportunity. A portion of the true sciences is better than a mass of undigested

and misunderstood learning. An ounce of gold is worth a ton of dust.


Q. But how is one to know whether the ounce is real gold or only a counterfeit?

A. A tree is known by its fruit, a system by its results. When our opponents are

able to prove to us that any solitary student of Occultism throughout the ages

has become a saintly adept like Ammonius Saccas, or even a Plotinus, or a

Theurgist like Iamblichus, or achieved feats such as are claimed to have been

done by St. Germain, without any master to guide him, and all this without being

a medium, a self-deluded psychic, or a charlatan-then shall we confess ourselves

mistaken. But till then, Theosophists prefer to follow the proven natural law of

the tradition of the Sacred Science. There are mystics who have made great

discoveries in chemistry and physical sciences, almost bordering on alchemy and Occultism; others who, by the sole aid of their genius, have rediscovered

portions, if not the whole, of the lost alphabets of the "Mystery language," and

are, therefore, able to read correctly Hebrew scrolls; others still, who, being

seers, have caught wonderful glimpses of the hidden secrets of Nature. But all

these are specialists. One is a theoretical inventor, another a Hebrew, i.e.,a

Sectarian Cabalist, a third a Swedenborg of modern times, denying all and

everything outside of his own particular science or religion. Not one of them

can boast of having produced a universal or even a national benefit thereby, not

even to himself. With the exception of a few healers-of that class which the

Royal College of Physicians or Surgeons would call quacks-none have helped with their science Humanity, nor even a number of men of the same community.


Where are the Chaldeans of old, those who wrought marvelous cures, "not by charms but by simples"? Where is an Apollonius of Tyana, who healed the sick and raised the dead under any climate and circumstances? We know some specialists of the former class in Europe, but none of the latter-except in Asia, where the secret of the Yogi, "to live in death," is still preserved.


Q. Is the production of such healing adepts the aim of Theosophy?

A. Its aims are several; but the most important of all are those which are

likely to lead to the relief of human suffering under any or every form, moral

as well as physical. And we believe the former to be far more important than the

latter. Theosophy has to inculcate ethics; it has to purify the soul, if it

would relieve the physical body, whose ailments, save cases of accidents, are

all hereditary. It is not by studying Occultism for selfish ends, for the

gratification of one's personal ambition, pride, or vanity, that one can ever

reach the true goal: that of helping suffering mankind. Nor is it by studying

one single branch of the esoteric philosophy that a man becomes an Occultist,

but by studying, if not mastering, them all.


Q. Is help, then, to reach this most important aim, given only to those who

study the esoteric sciences?

A. Not at all. Every lay member is entitled to general instruction if he only

wants it; but few are willing to become what is called "working members," and

most prefer to remain the drones of Theosophy. Let it be understood that private research is encouraged in the T.S., provided it does not infringe the limit

which separates the exoteric from the esoteric, the blind from the conscious




The Difference Between Theosophy and Occultism


Q. You speak of Theosophy and Occultism; are they identical?

A. By no means. A man may be a very good Theosophist indeed, whether in or

outsideof the Society, without being in any way an Occultist. But no one can be

a true Occultist without being a real Theosophist; otherwise he is simply a

black magician, whether conscious or unconscious.


Q. What do you mean?

A. I have said already that a true Theosophist must put in practice the loftiest

moral ideal, must strive to realize his unity with the whole of humanity, and

work ceaselessly for others. Now, if an Occultist does not do all this, he must

act selfishly for his own personal benefit; and if he has acquired more

practical power than other ordinary men, he becomes forthwith a far more

dangerous enemy to the world and those around him than the average mortal. This is clear.


Q. Then is an Occultist simply a man who possesses more power than other people?

A. Far more-if he is a practical and really learned Occultist, and not one only

in name. Occult sciences are not, as described in Encyclopedias, …

those imaginary sciences of the Middle Ages which related to the supposed action or influence of Occult qualities or supernatural powers, as alchemy, magic, necromancy, and astrology …

-for they are real, actual, and very dangerous sciences. They teach the secret

potency of things in Nature, developing and cultivating the hidden powers

"latent in man," thus giving him tremendous advantages over more ignorant

mortals. Hypnotism, now become so common and a subject of serious scientific

inquiry, is a good instance in point. Hypnotic power has been discovered almost

by accident, the way to it having been prepared by mesmerism; and now an able

hypnotist can do almost anything with it, from forcing a man, unconsciously to

himself, to play the fool, to making him commit a crime-often by proxy for the

hypnotist, and for the benefit of the latter. Is not this a terrible power if

left in the hands of unscrupulous persons? And please to remember that this is

only one of the minor branches of Occultism.


Q. But are not all these Occult sciences, magic, and sorcery, considered by the

most cultured and learned people as relics of ancient ignorance and


A. Let me remind you that this remark of yours cuts both ways. The "most

cultured and learned" among you regard also Christianity and every other

religion as a relic of ignorance and superstition. People begin to believe now,

at any rate, in hypnotism, and some-even of the most cultured-in Theosophy and

phenomena. But who among them, except preachers and blind fanatics, will confess to a belief in Biblical miracles? And this is where the point of difference

comes in. There are very good and pure Theosophists who may believe in the

supernatural, divine miracles included, but no Occultist will do so.


For an Occultist practices scientificTheosophy, based on accurate knowledge of Nature's secret workings; but a Theosophist, practicing the powers called abnormal, minus the light of Occultism, will simply tend toward a dangerous form of mediumship, because, although holding to Theosophy and its highest conceivable code of ethics, he practices it in the dark, on sincere but blind faith.


Anyone, Theosophist or Spiritualist, who attempts to cultivate one of the branches of Occult science-e.g.,Hypnotism, Mesmerism, or even the secrets of producing physical phenomena, etc.-without the knowledge of the philosophic rationale of those powers, is like a rudderless boat launched on a stormy ocean.



The Difference Between Theosophy and Spiritualism


Q. But do you not believe in Spiritualism?

A. If by "Spiritualism" you mean the explanation which Spiritualists give of

some abnormal phenomena, then decidedly we do not. They maintain that these

manifestations are all produced by the "spirits" of departed mortals, generally

their relatives, who return to earth, they say, to communicate with those they

have loved or to whom they are attached. We deny this point blank. We assert

that the spirits of the dead cannot return to earth-save in rare and exceptional

cases, of which I may speak later; nor do they communicate with men except by

entirely subjective means. That which does appear objectively, is only the

phantom of the ex-physical man. But in psychic, and so to say, "Spiritual"

Spiritualism, we do believe, most decidedly.


Q. Do you reject the phenomena also?

A. Assuredly not-save cases of conscious fraud.


Q. How do you account for them, then?

A. In many ways. The causes of such manifestations are by no means so simple as the Spiritualists would like to believe. Foremost of all, the deus ex machina of

the so-called "materializations" is usually the astral body or "double" of the

medium or of someone present. This astral body is also the producer or operating force in the manifestations of slate-writing, "Davenport"-like manifestations, and so on.


Q. You say usually-then what is it that produces the rest?

A. That depends on the nature of the manifestations. Sometimes the astral

remains, the Kamalokic "shells" of the vanished personalities that were; at

other times, Elementals. Spirit is a word of manifold and wide significance. I

really do not know what Spiritualists mean by the term; but what we understand

them to claim is that the physical phenomena are produced by the reincarnating

Ego, the Spiritual and immortal "individuality." And this hypothesis we entirely

reject. The Conscious Individuality of the disembodied cannot materialize, nor

can it return from its own mental Devachanic sphere to the plane of terrestrial



Q. But many of the communications received from the "spirits" show not only

intelligence, but a knowledge of facts not known to the medium, and sometimes

even not consciously present to the mind of the investigator, or any of those

who compose the audience.

A. This does not necessarily prove that the intelligence and knowledge you speak of belong to spirits, or emanate from disembodied souls. Somnambulists have been known to compose music and poetry and to solve mathematical problems while in their trance state, without having ever learnt music or mathematics. Others, answered intelligently to questions put to them, and even, in several cases, spoke languages, such as Hebrew and Latin, of which they were entirely ignorant when awake-all this in a state of profound sleep. Will you, then, maintain that this was caused by "spirits"?


Q. But how would you explain it?

A. We assert that the divine spark in man being one and identical in its essence

with the Universal Spirit, our "spiritual Self" is practically omniscient, but

that it cannot manifest its knowledge owing to the impediments of matter. Now

the more these impediments are removed, in other words, the more the physical

body is paralyzed, as to its own independent activity and consciousness, as in

deep sleep or deep trance, or, again, in illness, the more fully can the inner

Self manifest on this plane. This is our explanation of those truly wonderful

phenomena of a higher order, in which undeniable intelligence and knowledge are

exhibited. As to the lower order of manifestations, such as physical phenomena

and the platitudes and common talk of the general "spirit," to explain even the

most important of the teachings we hold upon the subject would take up more

space and time than can be allotted to it at present. We have no desire to

interfere with the belief of the Spiritualists any more than with any other

belief. The responsibility must fall on the believers in "spirits." And at the

present moment, while still convinced that the higher sort of manifestations

occur through the disembodied souls, their leaders and the most learned and

intelligent among the Spiritualists are the first to confess that not all the

phenomena are produced by spirits. Gradually they will come to recognize the

whole truth; but meanwhile we have no right nor desire to proselytize them to

our views. The less so, as in the cases of purely psychic and spiritual

manifestations we believe in the intercommunication of the spirit of the living

man with that of disembodied personalities.


We say that in such cases it is not the spirits of the dead who descend on

earth, but the spirits of the living that ascend to the pure spiritual Souls. In

truth there is neither ascending nor descending, but a change of state or

condition for the medium. The body of the latter becoming paralyzed, or

"entranced," the spiritual Ego is free from its trammels, and finds itself on

the same plane of consciousness with the disembodied spirits. Hence, if there is

any spiritual attraction between the two they can communicate, as often occurs

in dreams. The difference between a mediumistic and a non-sensitive nature is

this: the liberated spirit of a medium has the opportunity and facility of

influencing the passive organs of its entranced physical body, to make them act,

speak, and write at its will. The Ego can make it repeat, echo-like, and in the

human language, the thoughts and ideas of the disembodied entity, as well as its

own. But the non-receptive or non-sensitive organism of one who is very positive cannot be so influenced. Hence, although there is hardly a human being whose Ego does not hold free intercourse, during the sleep of his body, with those whom it loved and lost, yet, on account of the positiveness and non-receptivity of its physical envelope and brain, no recollection, or a very dim, dream-like remembrance, lingers in the memory of the person once awake.


Q. This means that you reject the philosophy of Spiritualism in toto?

A. If by "philosophy" you mean their crude theories, we do. But they have no

philosophy, in truth. Their best, their most intellectual and earnest defenders

say so. Their fundamental and only unimpeachable truth, namely, that phenomena occur through mediums controlled by invisible forces and intelligences-no one, except a blind materialist of the "Huxley big toe" school, will or can deny.


With regard to their philosophy, however, let me read to you what the able

editor of Light, than whom the Spiritualists will find no wiser nor more devoted

champion, says of them and their philosophy.


This is what "M.A. Oxon," one of the very few philosophical Spiritualists,

writes, with respect to their lack of organization and blind bigotry:

It is worthwhile to look steadily at this point, for it is of vital moment. We

have an experience and a knowledge beside which all other knowledge is

comparatively insignificant. The ordinary Spiritualist waxes wroth if anyone

ventures to impugn his assured knowledge of the future and his absolute

certainty of the life to come. Where other men have stretched forth feeble hands

groping into the dark future, he walks boldly as one who has a chart and knows

his way. Where other men have stopped short at a pious aspiration or have been

content with a hereditary faith, it is his boast that he knows what they only

believe, and that out of his rich stores he can supplement the fading faiths

built only upon hope. He is magnificent in his dealings with man's most

cherished expectations. He seems to say:


You hope for that which I can demonstrate. You have accepted a traditional

belief in what I can experimentally prove according to the strictest scientific

method. The old beliefs are fading; come out from them and be separate. They

contain as much falsehood as truth. Only by building on a sure foundation of

demonstrated fact can your superstructure be stable. All round you old faiths

are toppling. Avoid the crash and get you out.


When one comes to deal with this magnificent person in a practical way, what is

the result? Very curious and very disappointing. He is so sure of his ground

that he takes no trouble to ascertain the interpretation which others put upon

his facts. The wisdom of the ages has concerned itself with the explanation of

what he rightly regards as proven; but he does not turn a passing glance on its

researches. He does not even agree altogether with his brother Spiritualist. It

is the story over again of the old Scotch body who, together with her husband,

formed a "kirk." They had exclusive keys to Heaven, or, rather, she had, for she

was "na certain aboot Jamie." So the infinitely divided and subdivided and

re-subdivided sects of Spiritualists shake their heads, and are "na certain

aboot" one another. Again, the collective experience of mankind is solid and

unvarying on this point that union is strength, and disunion a source of

weakness and failure. Shoulder to shoulder, drilled and disciplined, a rabble

becomes an army, each man a match for a hundred of the untrained men that may be brought against it. Organization in every department of man's work means success, saving of time and labor, profit and development. Want of method, want of plan, haphazard work, fitful energy, undisciplined effort-these mean bungling failure. The voice of humanity attests the truth. Does the Spiritualist accept the verdict and act on the conclusion? Verily, no. He refuses to organize. He is a law unto himself, and a thorn in the side of his neighbors.


Q. I was told that the Theosophical Society was originally founded to crush

Spiritualism and belief in the survival of the individuality in man?

A. You are misinformed. Our beliefs are all founded on that immortal

individuality. But then, like so many others, you confuse personality with

individuality. Your Western psychologists do not seem to have established any

clear distinction between the two. Yet it is precisely that difference which

gives the keynote to the understanding of Eastern philosophy, and which lies at

the root of the divergence between the Theosophical and Spiritualistic

teachings. And though it may draw upon us still more the hostility of some

Spiritualists, yet I must state here that it is Theosophy which is the true and

unalloyed Spiritualism, while the modern scheme of that name is, as now

practiced by the masses, simply transcendental materialism.


Q. Please explain your idea more clearly.

A. What I mean is that though our teachings insist upon the identity of spirit

and matter, and though we say that spirit is potential matter, and matter simply

crystallized spirit (e.g., as ice is solidified steam), yet since the original

and eternal condition of allis not spirit but meta-spirit, so to speak, we

maintain that the term spirit can only be applied to the true individuality.


Q. But what is the distinction between this "true individuality" and the "I" or

"Ego" of which we are all conscious?

A. Before I can answer you, we must argue upon what you mean by "I" or "Ego." We distinguish between the simple fact of self-consciousness, the simple feeling that "I am I," and the complex thought that "I am Mr. Smith" or "Mrs. Brown." Believing as we do in a series of births for the same Ego, or reincarnation, this distinction is the fundamental pivot of the whole idea. You see "Mr. Smith" really means a long series of daily experiences strung together by the thread of memory, and forming what Mr. Smith calls "himself." But none of these "experiences" are really the "I" or the Ego, nor do they give "Mr. Smith" the feeling that he is himself, for he forgets the greater part of his daily

experiences, and they produce the feeling of Egoity in him only while they last.

We Theosophists, therefore, distinguish between this bundle of "experiences,"

which we call the false (because so finite and evanescent)personality, and that

element in man to which the feeling of "I am I" is due. It is this "I am I"

which we call the true individuality; and we say that this "Ego" or

individuality plays, like an actor, many parts on the stage of life. Let us call

every new life on earth of the same Egoa night on the stage of a theater. One

night the actor, or "Ego," appears as "Macbeth," the next as "Shylock," the

third as "Romeo," the fourth as "Hamlet" or "King Lear," and so on, until he has

run through the whole cycle of incarnations. The Ego begins his life-pilgrimage

as a sprite, an "Ariel," or a "Puck"; he plays the part of a super, is a

soldier, a servant, one of the chorus; rises then to "speaking parts," plays

leading roles, interspersed with insignificant parts, till he finally retires

from the stage as "Prospero," the magician.


Q. I understand. You say, then, that this true Ego cannot return to earth after

death. But surely the actor is at liberty, if he has preserved the sense of his

individuality, to return if he likes to the scene of his former actions?

A. We say not, simply because such a return to earth would be incompatible with any state of unalloyed bliss after death, as I am prepared to prove. We say that man suffers so much unmerited misery during his life, through the fault of

others with whom he is associated, or because of his environment, that he is

surely entitled to perfect rest and quiet, if not bliss, before taking up again

the burden of life. However, we can discuss this in detail later.



Why is Theosophy Accepted?


Q. I understand to a certain extent; but I see that your teachings are far more

complicated and metaphysical than either Spiritualism or current religious

thought. Can you tell me, then, what has caused this system of Theosophy which you support to arouse so much interest and so much animosity at the same time?

A. There are several reasons for it, I believe; among other causes that may be

mentioned is:

1. The great reaction from the crassly materialistic theories now prevalent

among scientific teachers.

2. General dissatisfaction with the artificial theology of the various Christian

Churches, and the number of daily increasing and conflicting sects.

3. An ever-growing perception of the fact that the creeds which are so obviously

self-and mutually-contradictory cannot be true, and that claims which are

unverified cannot be real. This natural distrust of conventional religions is

only strengthened by their complete failure to preserve morals and to purify

society and the masses.

4. A conviction on the part of many, and knowledge by a few, that there must be

somewhere a philosophical and religious system which shall be scientific and not

merely speculative.

5. A belief, perhaps, that such a system must be sought for in teachings far

antedating any modern faith.


Q. But how did this system come to be put forward just now?

A. Just because the time was found to be ripe, which fact is shown by the

determined effort of so many earnest students to reach the truth, at whatever

cost and wherever it may be concealed. Seeing this, its custodians permitted

that some portions at least of that truth should be proclaimed. Had the

formation of the Theosophical Society been postponed a few years longer, one

half of the civilized nations would have become by this time rank materialists,

and the other half anthropomorphists and phenomenalists.


Q. Are we to regard Theosophy in any way as a revelation?

A. In no way whatever-not even in the sense of a new and direct disclosure from

some higher, supernatural, or, at least, superhuman beings; but only in the

sense of an "unveiling" of old, very old, truths to minds hitherto ignorant of

them, ignorant even of the existence and preservation of any such archaic



It has become "fashionable," especially of late, to deride the notion that there

ever was, in the mysteries of great and civilized peoples, such as the

Egyptians, Greeks, or Romans, anything but priestly imposture. Even the

Rosicrucians were no better than half lunatics, half knaves. Numerous books have been written on them; and tyros, who had hardly heard the name a few years before, sallied out as profound critics and Gnostics on the subject of alchemy, the fire-philosophers, and mysticism in general. Yet a long series of the

Hierophants of Egypt, India, Chaldea, and Arabia are known, along with the

greatest philosophers and sages of Greece and the West, to have included under

the designation of wisdom and divine science all knowledge, for they considered

the base and origin of every art and science as essentially divine. Plato

regarded the mysteries as most sacred, and Clemens Alexandrinus, who had been himself initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries, has declared "that the

doctrines taught therein contained in them the end of all human knowledge." Were Plato and Clemens two knaves or two fools, we wonder, or-both?


Q. You spoke of "Persecution." If truth is as represented by Theosophy, why has it met with such opposition, and with no general acceptance?

A. For many and various reasons again, one of which is the hatred felt by men

for "innovations," as they call them. Selfishness is essentially conservative,

and hates being disturbed. It prefers an easy-going, unexacting lie to the

greatest truth, if the latter requires the sacrifice of one's smallest comfort.

The power of mental inertia is great in anything that does not promise immediate

benefit and reward. Our age is preeminently unspiritual and matter of fact.

Moreover, there is the unfamiliar character of Theosophic teachings; the highly

abstruse nature of the doctrines, some of which contradict flatly many of the

human vagaries cherished by sectarians, which have eaten into the very core of

popular beliefs. If we add to this the personal efforts and great purity of life

exacted of those who would become the disciples of the inner circle, and the

very limited class to which an entirely unselfish code appeals, it will be easy

to perceive the reason why Theosophy is doomed to such slow, uphill work. It is essentially the philosophy of those who suffer, and have lost all hope of being

helped out of the mire of life by any other means. Moreover, the history of any

system of belief or morals, newly introduced into a foreign soil, shows that its

beginnings were impeded by every obstacle that obscurantism and selfishness

could suggest. "The crown of the innovator is a crown of thorns" indeed! No

pulling down of old, worm-eaten buildings can be accomplished without some



Q. All this refers rather to the ethics and philosophy of the T.S. Can you give

me a general idea of the Society itself, its objects and statutes?

A. This was never made secret. Ask, and you shall receive accurate answers.


Q. But I heard that you were bound by pledges?

A. Only in the Arcane or "Esoteric" Section.


Q. And also, that some members after leaving did not regard themselves bound by them. Are they right?

A. This shows that their idea of honor is an imperfect one. How can they be

right? As well said in The Path, our theosophical organ at New York, treating of

such a case:

Suppose that a soldier is tried for infringement of oath and discipline, and is

dismissed from the service. In his rage at the justice he has called down, and

of whose penalties he was distinctly forewarned, the soldier turns to the enemy

with false information-a spy and traitor-as a revenge upon his former Chief, and

claims that his punishment has released him from his oath of loyalty to a cause.

Is he justified, think you? Don't you think he deserves being called a

dishonorable man, a coward?


Q. I believe so; but some think otherwise.

A. So much the worse for them. But we will talk on this subject later, if you



The Working System of the T.S. *1)



The Objects of the Society


Q. What are the objects of the "Theosophical Society"?

A. They are three, and have been so from the beginning.

1. To form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without

distinction of race, color, or creed.

2. To promote the study of Aryan *2) and other Scriptures, of the World's

religions and sciences, and to vindicate the importance of old Asiatic

literature, namely, of the Brahmanical, Buddhist, and Zoroastrian philosophies.

3. To investigate the hidden mysteries of Nature under every aspect possible,

and the psychic and spiritual powers latent in man especially.

These are, broadly stated, the three chief objects of the Theosophical Society.


*1) See also appendix at the end of this file

*2) H.P.B. means the original Indo-Germanic race from Northern India (see

H.P.B., The Theosophical Glossary, London, 1892

and also the glossary at the end of this file)


Q. Can you give me some more detailed information upon these?

A. We may divide each of the three objects into as many explanatory clauses as

may be found necessary.


Q. Then let us begin with the first. What means would you resort to, in order to

promote such a feeling of brotherhood among races that are known to be of the

most diversified religions, customs, beliefs, and modes of thought?

A. Allow me to add that which you seem unwilling to express. Of course we know that with the exception of two remnants of races-the Parsees and the Jews-every nation is divided, not merely against all other nations, but even against

itself. This is found most prominently among the so-called civilized Christian

nations. Hence your wonder, and the reason why our first object appears to you a Utopia. Is it not so?


Q. Well, yes; but what have you to say against it?

A. Nothing against the fact; but much about the necessity of removing the causes which make Universal Brotherhood a Utopia at present.


Q. What are, in your view, these causes?

A. First and foremost, the natural selfishness of human nature. This

selfishness, instead of being eradicated, is daily strengthened and stimulated

into a ferocious and irresistible feeling by the present religious education,

which tends not only to encourage, but positively to justify it. People's ideas

about right and wrong have been entirely perverted by the literal acceptance of

the Jewish Bible. All the unselfishness of the altruistic teachings of Jesus has

become merely a theoretical subject for pulpit oratory; while the precepts of

practical selfishness taught in the Mosaic Bible, against which Christ so vainly

preached, have become ingrained into the innermost life of the Western nations.

"An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" has come to be the first maxim of

your law. Now, I state openly and fearlessly, that the perversity of this

doctrine and of so many others Theosophy alone can eradicate.



The Common Origin of Man


Q. How?

A. Simply by demonstrating on logical, philosophical, metaphysical, and even

scientific grounds that: (a) All men have spiritually and physically the same

origin, which is the fundamental teaching of Theosophy. (b) As mankind is

essentially of one and the same essence, and that essence is one-infinite,

uncreate, and eternal, whether we call it God or Nature-nothing, therefore, can

affect one nation or one man without affecting all other nations and all other

men. This is as certain and as obvious as that a stone thrown into a pond will,

sooner or later, set in motion every single drop of water therein.


Q. But this is not the teaching of Christ, but rather a pantheistic notion.

A. That is where your mistake lies. It is purely Christian, although not Judaic,

and therefore, perhaps, your Biblical nations prefer to ignore it.


Q. This is a wholesale and unjust accusation. Where are your proofs for such a


A. They are ready at hand. Christ is alleged to have said: "Love each other" and

"Love your enemies;" for

… if ye love them (only) which love you, what reward (or merit) have ye? Do not

even the publicans the same? And if you salute your brethren only, what do ye

more than others? Do not even publicans so?

These are Christ's words. But Genesis says "Cursed be Canaan, a servant of

servants shall he be unto his brethren." And, therefore, Christian but Biblical

people prefer the law of Moses to Christ's law of love. They base upon the Old

Testament, which panders to all their passions, their laws of conquest,

annexation, and tyranny over races which they call inferior. What crimes have

been committed on the strength of this infernal (if taken in its dead letter)

passage in Genesis, history alone gives us an idea, however inadequate.


At the close of the Middle Ages slavery, under the power of moral forces, had

mainly disappeared from Europe; but two momentous events occurred which overbore the moral power working in European society and let loose a swarm of curses upon the earth such as mankind had scarcely ever known. One of these events was the first voyaging to a populated and barbarous coast where human beings were a familiar article of traffic; and the other the discovery of a new world, where mines of glittering wealth were open, provided labor could be imported to work them.


For four hundred years men and women and children were torn from all whom they knew and loved, and were sold on the coast of Africa to foreign traders; they were chained below decks-the dead often with the living-during the horrible "middle passage," and, according to Bancroft, an impartial historian, two hundred and fifty thousand out of three and a quarter millions were thrown into the sea on that fatal passage, while the remainder were consigned to nameless misery in the mines, or under the lash in the cane and rice fields. The guilt of this great crime rests on the Christian Church. "In the name of the most Holy Trinity" the Spanish Government (Roman Catholic) concluded more than ten treaties authorizing the sale of five hundred thousand human beings; in 1562 Sir John Hawkins sailed on his diabolical errand of buying slaves in Africa and

selling them in the West Indies in a ship which bore the sacred name of Jesus;

while Elizabeth, the Protestant Queen, rewarded him for his success in this

first adventure of Englishmen in that inhuman traffic by allowing him to wear as

his crest "a demi-Moor in his proper color, bound with a cord, or, in other

words, a manacled Negro slave."


Q. I have heard you say that the identity of our physical origin is proved by

science, that of our spiritual origin by the Wisdom-Religion. Yet we do not find

Darwinists exhibiting great fraternal affection.

A. Just so. This is what shows the deficiency of the materialistic systems, and

proves that we Theosophists are in the right. The identity of our physical

origin makes no appeal to our higher and deeper feelings. Matter, deprived of

its soul and spirit, or its divine essence, cannot speak to the human heart. But

the identity of the soul and spirit, of real, immortal man, as Theosophy teaches

us, once proven and deep-rooted in our hearts, would lead us far on the road of

real charity and brotherly goodwill.


Q. But how does Theosophy explain the common origin of man?

A-1.By teaching that the root of all nature, objective and subjective, and

everything else in the universe, visible and invisible, is, was, and ever will

be one absolute essence, from which all starts, and into which everything

returns. This is Aryan ( See remark on the use of the word Aryan a while back)

philosophy, fully represented only by the Vedantins, and the Buddhist system.

With this object in view, it is the duty of all Theosophists to promote in every

practical way, and in all countries, the spread of non-sectarian education.


Q. What do the written statutes of your Society advise its members to do besides this? On the physical plane, I mean?

A. In order to awaken brotherly feeling among nations we have to assist in the

international exchange of useful arts and products, by advice, information, and

cooperation with all worthy individuals and associations (provided, however, add the statutes, "that no benefit or percentage shall be taken by the Society or

the 'Fellows' for its or their corporate services"). For instance, to take a

practical illustration. The organization of Society, depicted by Edward Bellamy,

in his magnificent work Looking Backwards, admirably represents the Theosophical idea of what should be the first great step towards the full realization of universal brotherhood. The state of things he depicts falls short of perfection, because selfishness still exists and operates in the hearts of men. But in the main, selfishness and individualism have been overcome by the feeling of

solidarity and mutual brotherhood; and the scheme of life there described

reduces the causes tending to create and foster selfishness to a minimum.


Q. Then as a Theosophist you will take part in an effort to realize such an


A. Certainly; and we have proved it by action. Have not you heard of the

Nationalist clubs and party which have sprung up in America since the

publication of Bellamy's book? They are now coming prominently to the front, and will do so more and more as time goes on. Well, these clubs and this party were started in the first instance by Theosophists. One of the first, the Nationalist Club of Boston, Massachusetts, has Theosophists for President and Secretary, and the majority of its executive belong to the T.S. In the constitution of all their clubs, and of the party they are forming, the influence of Theosophy and of the Society is plain, for they all take as their basis, their first and

fundamental principle, the Brotherhood of Humanity as taught by Theosophy. In

their declaration of Principles they state:


The principle of the Brotherhood of Humanity is one of the eternal truths that

govern the world's progress on lines which distinguish human nature from brute



What can be more Theosophical than this? But it is not enough. What is also

needed is to impress men with the idea that, if the root of mankind is one, then

there must also be one truth which finds expression in all the various

religions-except in the Jewish, as you do not find it expressed even in the



Q. This refers to the common origin of religions, and you may be right there.

But how does it apply to practical brotherhood on the physical plane?

A. First, because that which is true on the metaphysical plane must be also true

on the physical. Secondly, because there is no more fertile source of hatred and

strife than religious differences. When one party or another thinks himself the

sole possessor of absolute truth, it becomes only natural that he should think

his neighbor absolutely in the clutches of Error or the Devil. But once get a

man to see that none of them has the whole truth, but that they are mutually

complementary, that the complete truth can be found only in the combined views of all, after that which is false in each of them has been sifted out-then true

brotherhood in religion will be established. The same applies in the physical



Q. Please explain further.

A. Take an instance. A plant consists of a root, a stem, and many shoots and

leaves. As humanity, as a whole, is the stem which grows from the spiritual

root, so is the stem the unity of the plant. Hurt the stem and it is obvious

that every shoot and leaf will suffer. So it is with mankind.


Q. Yes, but if you injure a leaf or a shoot, you do not injure the whole plant.

A. And therefore you think that by injuring one man you do not injure humanity?

But how do you know? Are you aware that even materialistic science teaches that any injury, however, slight, to a plant will affect the whole course of its

future growth and development? Therefore, you are mistaken, and the analogy is

perfect. If, however, you overlook the fact that a cut in the finger may often

make the whole body suffer, and react on the whole nervous system, I must all

the more remind you that there may well be other spiritual laws, operating on

plants and animals as well as on mankind, although, as you do not recognize

their action on plants and animals, you may deny their existence.


Q. What laws do you mean?

A. We call them Karmic laws; but you will not understand the full meaning of the

term unless you study Occultism. However, my argument did not rest on the

assumption of these laws, but really on the analogy of the plant. Expand the

idea, carry it out to a universal application, and you will soon find that in

true philosophy every physical action has its moral and everlasting effect. Hurt

a man by doing him bodily harm; you may think that his pain and suffering cannot spread by any means to his neighbors, least of all to men of other nations.


We affirm that it will, in good time. Therefore, we say, that unless every man is

brought to understand and accept as an axiomatic truth that by having wronged

one man we wrong not only ourselves but the whole of humanity in the long run,

no brotherly feelings such as preached by all the great Reformers, preeminently

by Buddha and Jesus, are possible on earth.



Our Other Objects


Q. Will you now explain the methods by which you propose to carry out the second object?

A. To collect for the library at our headquarters of Adyar, Madras-and by the

Fellows of their Branches for their local libraries-all the good works upon the

world's religions that we can. To put into written form correct information upon

the various ancient philosophies, traditions, and legends, and disseminate the

same in such practicable ways as the translation and publication of original

works of value, and extracts from and commentaries upon the same, or the oral

instructions of persons learned in their respective departments.


Q. And what about the third object, to develop in man his latent spiritual or

psychic powers?

A. This has to be achieved also by means of publications, in those places where

no lectures and personal teachings are possible. Our duty is to keep alive in

man his spiritual intuitions. To oppose and counteract-after due investigation

and proof of its irrational nature-bigotry in every form, religious, scientific,

or social, and cant above all, whether as religious sectarianism or as belief in

miracles or anything supernatural. What we have to do is to seek to obtain

knowledge of all the laws of nature, and to diffuse it. To encourage the study

of those laws least understood by modern people, the so-called Occult Sciences, based on the true knowledge of nature, instead of, as at present, on

superstitious beliefs based on blind faith and authority. Popular folklore and

traditions, however fanciful at times, when sifted may lead to the discovery of

long-lost, but important, secrets of nature. The Society, therefore, aims at

pursuing this line of inquiry, in the hope of widening the field of scientific

and philosophical observation.



On the Sacredness of the Pledge


Q. Have you any ethical system that you carry out in the Society?

A. The ethics are there, ready and clear enough for whomsoever would follow

them. They are the essence and cream of the world's ethics, gathered from the

teachings of all the world's great reformers. Therefore, you will find

represented therein Confucius and Zoroaster, Lao-tzu and the Bhagavad-Gita , the precepts of Gautama Buddha and Jesus of Nazareth, of Hillel and his school, as of Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and their schools.


Q. Do the members of your Society carry out these precepts? I have heard of

great dissensions and quarrels among them.

A. Very naturally, since although the reform (in its present shape) may be

called new, the men and women to be reformed are the same human, sinning natures as of old. As already said, the earnest working members are few; but many are the sincere and well-disposed persons, who try their best to live up to the Society's and their own ideals. Our duty is to encourage and assist individual

fellows in self-improvement, intellectual, moral, and spiritual; not to blame or

condemn those who fail. We have, strictly speaking, no right to refuse admission

to anyone-especially in the Esoteric Section of the Society, wherein "he who

enters is as one newly born." But if any member, his sacred pledges on his word

of honor and immortal Self notwithstanding, chooses to continue, after that "new birth," with the new man, the vices or defects of his old life, and to indulge

in them still in the Society, then, of course, he is more than likely to be

asked to resign and withdraw; or, in case of his refusal, to be expelled. We

have the strictest rules for such emergencies.


Q. Can some of them be mentioned?

A. They can. To begin with, no Fellow in the Society, whether exoteric or

esoteric, has a right to force his personal opinions upon another Fellow.

It is not lawful for any officer of the Parent Society to express in public, by

word or act, any hostility to, or preference for, any one section, religious or

philosophical, more than another. All have an equal right to have the essential

features of their religious belief laid before the tribunal of an impartial

world. And no officer of the Society, in his capacity as an officer, has the

right to preach his own sectarian views and beliefs to members assembled, except when the meeting consists of his co-religionists. After due warning, violation of this rule shall be punished by suspension or expulsion.


This is one of the offenses in the Society at large. As regards the inner

section, now called the Esoteric, the following rules have been laid down and

adopted, so far back as 1880.


No Fellow shall put to his selfish use any knowledge communicated to him by any member of the first section (now a higher "degree"); violation of the rule being punished by expulsion.


Now, however, before any such knowledge can be imparted, the applicant has to bind himself by a solemn oath not to use it for selfish purposes, nor to reveal

anything said except by permission.


Q. But is a man expelled, or resigning, from the section free to reveal anything

he may have learned, or to break any clause of the pledge he has taken?

A. Certainly not. His expulsion or resignation only relieves him from the

obligation of obedience to the teacher, and from that of taking an active part

in the work of the Society, but surely not from the sacred pledge of secrecy.


Q. But is this reasonable and just?

A. Most assuredly. To any man or woman with the slightest honorable feeling a

pledge of secrecy taken even on one's word of honor, much more to one's Higher Self-the God within-is binding till death. And though he may leave the Section and the Society, no man or woman of honor will think of attacking or injuring a body to which he or she has been so pledged.


Q. But is not this going rather far?

A. Perhaps so, according to the low standard of the present time and morality.

But if it does not bind as far as this, what use is a pledge at all? How can

anyone expect to be taught secret knowledge, if he is to be at liberty to free

himself from all the obligations he had taken, whenever he pleases? What

security, confidence, or trust would ever exist among men, if pledges such as

this were to have no really binding force at all? Believe me, the law of

retribution (Karma) would very soon overtake one who so broke his pledge, and

perhaps as soon as the contempt of every honorable man would, even on this

physical plane. As well expressed in the New York Path just cited on this

subject,A pledge once taken, is forever binding in both the moral and the occult worlds.


If we break it once and are punished, that does not justify us in breaking it

again, and so long as we do, so long will the mighty lever of the Law (of Karma)

react upon us.



The Relations of the T.S. to Theosophy


On Self-Improvement


Q. Is moral elevation, then, the principal thing insisted upon in your Society?

A. Undoubtedly! He who would be a true Theosophist must bring himself to live as


Q. If so, then, as I remarked before, the behavior of some members strangely

belies this fundamental rule.

A. Indeed it does. But this cannot be helped among us, any more than amongst

those who call themselves Christians and act like fiends. This is no fault of

our statutes and rules, but that of human nature. Even in some exoteric public

branches, the members pledge themselves on their "Higher Self" to live the life

prescribed by Theosophy. They have to bring their Divine Self to guide their

every thought and action, every day and at every moment of their lives. A true

Theosophist ought "to deal justly and walk humbly."


Q. What do you mean by this?

A. Simply this: the one self has to forget itself for the many selves. Let me

answer you in the words of a true Philaletheian, an F.T.S., who has beautifully

expressed it in The Theosophist:


What every man needs first is to find himself, and then take an honest inventory

of his subjective possessions, and, bad or bankrupt as it may be, it is not

beyond redemption if we set about it in earnest.

But how many do? All are willing to work for their own development and progress; very few for those of others. To quote the same writer again:


Men have been deceived and deluded long enough; they must break their idols, put away their shams, and go to work for themselves-nay, there is one little word

too much or too many, for he who works for himself had better not work at all;

rather let him work himself for others, for all. For every flower of love and

charity he plants in his neighbor's garden, a loathsome weed will disappear from

his own, and so this garden of the gods-Humanity-shall blossom as a rose. In all

Bibles, all religions, this is plainly set forth-but designing men have at first

misinterpreted and finally emasculated, materialized, besotted them. It does not

require a new revelation. Let every man be a revelation unto himself. Let once

man's immortal spirit take possession of the temple of his body, drive out the

money-changers and every unclean thing, and his own divine humanity will redeem him, for when he is thus at one with himself he will know the "builder of the Temple."


Q. This is pure Altruism, I confess.

A. It is. And if only one Fellow of the T.S. out of ten would practice it ours

would be a body of elect indeed. But there are those among the outsiders who

will always refuse to see the essential difference between Theosophy and the

Theosophical Society, the idea and its imperfect embodiment. Such would visit

every sin and shortcoming of the vehicle, the human body, on the pure spirit

which sheds thereon its divine light. Is this just to either? They throw stones

at an association that tries to work up to, and for the propagation of, its

ideal with most tremendous odds against it. Some vilify the Theosophical Society only because it presumes to attempt to do that in which other systems-Church and State Christianity preeminently-have failed most egregiously; others because they would fain preserve the existing state of things: Pharisees and Sadducees in the seat of Moses, and publicans and sinners revelling in high places, as under the Roman Empire during its decadence. Fair-minded people, at any rate, ought to remember that the man who does all he can, does as much as he who has achieved the most, in this world of relative possibilities. This is a simple truism, an axiom supported for believers in the Gospels by the parable of the talents given by their Master: the servant who doubled his two talents was

rewarded as much as that other fellow-servant who had received five. To every

man it is given "according to his several ability."


Q. Yet it is rather difficult to draw the line of demarcation between the

abstract and the concrete in this case, as we have only the latter to form our

judgment by.

A. Then why make an exception for the T.S.? Justice, like charity, ought to

begin at home. Will you revile and scoff at the "Sermon on the Mount" because

your social, political and even religious laws have, so far, not only failed to

carry out its precepts in their spirit, but even in their dead letter? Abolish

the oath in Courts, Parliament, Army and everywhere, and do as the Quakers do,

if you will call yourselves Christians. Abolish the Courts themselves, for if

you would follow the Commandments of Christ, you have to give away your coat to him who deprives you of your cloak, and turn your left cheek to the bully who smites you on the right. "Resist not evil, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you," for "whosoever shall break one of the least of these Commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven," and "whosoever shall say 'Thou fool' shall be in danger of hell fire." And why should you judge, if you would not be judged in your turn? Insist that between Theosophy and the Theosophical Society there is no difference, and forthwith you lay the system of Christianity and its very essence open to the same charges, only in a more serious form.


Q. Why more serious?

A. Because, while the leaders of the Theosophical Movement, recognizing fully

their shortcomings, try all they can do to amend their ways and uproot the evil

existing in the Society; and while their rules and bylaws are framed in the

spirit of Theosophy, the Legislators and the Churches of nations and countries

which call themselves Christian do the reverse. Our members, even the worst

among them, are no worse than the average Christian. Moreover, if the Western

Theosophists experience so much difficulty in leading the true Theosophical

life, it is because they are all the children of their generation. Every one of

them was a Christian, bred and brought up in the sophistry of his Church, his

social customs, and even his paradoxical laws. He was this before he became a

Theosophist, or rather, a member of the Society of that name, as it cannot be

too often repeated that between the abstract ideal and its vehicle there is a

most important difference.



The Abstract and the Concrete


Q. Please elucidate this difference a little more.

A. The Society is a great body of men and women, composed of the most

heterogeneous elements. Theosophy, in its abstract meaning, is Divine Wisdom, or the aggregate of the knowledge and wisdom that underlie the Universe-the

homogeneity of eternal good; and in its concrete sense it is the sum total of

the same as allotted to man by nature, on this earth, and no more. Some members earnestly endeavor to realize and, so to speak, to objectivize Theosophy in their lives; while others desire only to know of, not to practice it; and others still may have joined the Society merely out of curiosity, or a passing

interest, or perhaps, again, because some of their friends belong to it. How,

then, can the system be judged by the standard of those who would assume the

name without any right to it? Is poetry or its muse to be measured only by those

would-be poets who afflict our ears? The Society can be regarded as the

embodiment of Theosophy only in its abstract motives; it can never presume to

call itself its concrete vehicle so long as human imperfections and weaknesses

are all represented in its body; otherwise the Society would be only repeating

the great error and the outflowing sacrilege of the so-called Churches of

Christ. If Eastern comparisons may be permitted, Theosophy is the shoreless

ocean of universal truth, love, and wisdom, reflecting its radiance on the

earth, while the Theosophical Society is only a visible bubble on that

reflection. Theosophy is divine nature, visible and invisible, and its Society

human nature trying to ascend to its divine parent. Theosophy, finally, is the

fixed eternal sun, and its Society the evanescent comet trying to settle in an

orbit to become a planet, ever revolving within the attraction of the sun of

truth. It was formed to assist in showing to men that such a thing as Theosophy

exists, and to help them to ascend towards it by studying and assimilating its

eternal verities.


Q. I thought you said you had no tenets or doctrines of your own?

A. No more we have. The Society has no wisdom of its own to support or teach. It is simply the storehouse of all the truths uttered by the great seers,

initiates, and prophets of historic and even prehistoric ages; at least, as many

as it can get. Therefore, it is merely the channel through which more or less of

truth, found in the accumulated utterances of humanity's great teachers, is

poured out into the world.


Q. But is such truth unreachable outside of the society? Does not every Church

claim the same?

A. Not at all. The undeniable existence of great initiates-true "Sons of

God"-shows that such wisdom was often reached by isolated individuals, never,

however, without the guidance of a master at first. But most of the followers of

such, when they became masters in their turn, have dwarfed the Catholicism of

these teachings into the narrow groove of their own sectarian dogmas. The

commandments of a chosen master alone were then adopted and followed, to the exclusion of all others-if followed at all, note well, as in the case of the

Sermon on the Mount. Each religion is thus a bit of the divine truth, made to

focus a vast panorama of human fancy which claimed to represent and replace that truth.


Q. But Theosophy, you say, is not a religion?

A. Most assuredly it is not, since it is the essence of all religion and of

absolute truth, a drop of which only underlies every creed. To resort once more

to metaphor. Theosophy, on earth, is like the white ray of the spectrum, and

every religion only one of the seven prismatic colors. Ignoring all the others,

and cursing them as false, every special colored ray claims not only priority,

but to be that white ray itself, and anathematizes even its own tints from light

to dark, as heresies. Yet, as the sun of truth rises higher and higher on the

horizon of man's perception, and each colored ray gradually fades out until it

is finally reabsorbed in its turn, humanity will at last be cursed no longer

with artificial polarizations, but will find itself bathing in the pure

colorless sunlight of eternal truth. And this will be Theosophia.


Q. Your claim is, then, that all the great religions are derived from Theosophy,

and that it is by assimilating it that the world will be finally saved from the

curse of its great illusions and errors?

A. Precisely so. And we add that our Theosophical Society is the humble seed

which, if watered and left to live, will finally produce the Tree of Knowledge

of Good and Evil which is grafted on the Tree of Life Eternal. For it is only by

studying the various great religions and philosophies of humanity, by comparing

them dispassionately and with an unbiased mind, that men can hope to arrive at

the truth. It is especially by finding out and noting their various points of

agreement that we may achieve this result. For no sooner do we arrive-either by

study, or by being taught by someone who knows-at their inner meaning, than we find, almost in every case, that it expresses some great truth in Nature.


Q. We have heard of a Golden Age that was, and what you describe would be a

Golden Age to be realized at some future day. When shall it be?

A. Not before humanity, as a whole, feels the need of it. A maxim in the Persian

Javidan Khirad says:


Truth is of two kinds-one manifest and self-evident; the other demanding

incessantly new demonstrations and proofs.


It is only when this latter kind of truth becomes as universally obvious as it

is now dim, and therefore liable to be distorted by sophistry and casuistry; it

is only when the two kinds will have become once more one, that all people will

be brought to see alike.


Q. But surely those few who have felt the need of such truths must have made up their minds to believe in something definite? You tell me that, the Society

having no doctrines of its own, every member may believe as he chooses and

accept what he pleases. This looks as if the Theosophical Society was bent upon reviving the confusion of languages and beliefs of the Tower of Babel of old. Have you no beliefs in common?

A. What is meant by the Society having no tenets or doctrines of its own is,

that no special doctrines or beliefs are obligatory on its members; but, of

course, this applies only to the body as a whole. The Society, as you were told,

is divided into an outer and an inner body. Those who belong to the latter have,

of course, a philosophy, or-if you so prefer it-a religious system of their own.


Q. May we be told what it is?

A. We make no secret of it. It was outlined a few years ago in The Theosophist

and Esoteric Buddhism, and may be found still more elaborated in The Secret

Doctrine. It is based on the oldest philosophy of the world, called the

Wisdom-Religion or the Archaic Doctrine. If you like, you may ask questions and have them explained.



The Fundamental Teachings of Theosophy


On God and Prayer


Q. Do you believe in God?

A. That depends what you mean by the term.


Q. I mean the God of the Christians, the Father of Jesus, and the Creator: the

Biblical God of Moses, in short.

A. In such a God we do not believe. We reject the idea of a personal, or an

extra-cosmic and anthropomorphic God, who is but the gigantic shadow of man, and not of man at his best, either. The God of theology, we say-and prove it-is a bundle of contradictions and a logical impossibility. Therefore, we will have nothing to do with him.


Q. State your reasons, if you please.

A. They are many, and cannot all receive attention. But here are a few. This God

is called by his devotees infinite and absolute, is he not?


Q. I believe he is.

A. Then, if infinite-i.e.,limitless-and especially if absolute, how can he have

a form, and be a creator of anything? Form implies limitation, and a beginning

as well as an end; and, in order to create, a Being must think and plan. How can

the absolute be supposed to think-i.e.,to have any relation whatever to that

which is limited, finite, and conditioned? This is a philosophical, and a

logical absurdity. Even the Hebrew Cabala rejects such an idea, and therefore,

makes of the one and the Absolute Deific Principle an infinite Unity called

Ain-Soph *)


*)Ain-Soph (Greek: toh pan, epeiros), the boundless or limitless, in and of

nature, the non-existing that IS, but that is not a Being.


In order to create, the Creator has to become active; and as this is impossible

for absoluteness, the infinite principle had to be shown becoming the cause of

evolution (not creation) in an indirect way-i.e., through the emanation from

itself (another absurdity, due this time to the translators of the Cabala) of

the Sephiroth.


How can the non-active eternal principle emanate or emit? The Parabrahman of the Vedantins does nothing of the kind; nor does the Ain-Soph of the Chaldean

Cabala. It is an eternal and periodical law which causes an active and creative

force (the logos) to emanate from the ever-concealed and incomprehensible one

principle at the beginning of every Mah -Manvantara, or new cycle of life.


Q. How about those Cabalists, who, while being such, still believe in Jehovah,

or the Tetragrammaton?

A. They are at liberty to believe in what they please, as their belief or

disbelief can hardly affect a self-evident fact. The Jesuits tell us that two

and two are not always four to a certainty, since it depends on the will of God

to make 2 × 2 = 5. Shall we accept their sophistry for all that?


Q. Then you are Atheists?

A. Not that we know of, and not unless the epithet of "Atheist" is to be applied

to those who disbelieve in an anthropomorphic God. We believe in a Universal

Divine Principle, the root of all, from which all proceeds, and within which all

shall be absorbed at the end of the great cycle of Being.


Q. This is the old, old claim of Pantheism. If you are Pantheists, you cannot be

Deists; and if you are not Deists, then you have to answer to the name of


A. Not necessarily so. The term Pantheism is again one of the many abused terms, whose real and primitive meaning has been distorted by blind prejudice and a one-sided view of it. If you accept the Christian etymology of this compound word, and form it of pan , "all," and theos , "god," and then imagine and teach that this means that every stone and every tree in Nature is a God or the one God, then, of course, you will be right, and make of Pantheists

fetish-worshippers, in addition to their legitimate name. But you will hardly be

as successful if you etymologize the word Pantheism esoterically, and as we do.


Q. What is, then, your definition of it?

A. Let me ask you a question in my turn. What do you understand by Pan, or



Q. Nature is, I suppose, the sum total of things existing around us; the

aggregate of causes and effects in the world of matter, the creation or


A. Hence the personified sum and order of known causes and effects; the total of all finite agencies and forces, as utterly disconnected from an intelligent

Creator or Creators, and perhaps "conceived of as a single and separate

force"-as in your encyclopedias?


Q. Yes, I believe so.

A. Well, we neither take into consideration this objective and material nature,

which we call an evanescent illusion, nor do we mean by Nature, in the sense of

its accepted derivation from the Latin Natura(becoming, from nasci, to be born).

When we speak of the Deity and make it identical, hence coeval, with Nature, the

eternal and uncreate nature is meant, and not your aggregate of flitting shadows

and finite unrealities. We leave it to the hymn-makers to call the visible sky

or heaven, God's Throne, and our earth of mud His footstool. Our deity is

neither in a paradise, nor in a particular tree, building, or mountain: it is

everywhere, in every atom of the visible as of the invisible Cosmos, in, over,

and around every invisible atom and divisible molecule; for it is the mysterious

power of evolution and involution, the omnipresent, omnipotent, and even

omniscient creative potentiality.


Q. Stop! Omniscience is the prerogative of something that thinks, and you deny

to your Absoluteness the power of thought.

A. We deny it to the absolute, since thought is something limited and

conditioned. But you evidently forget that in philosophy absolute

unconsciousness is also absolute consciousness, as otherwise it would not be



Q. Then your Absolute thinks?

A. No, it does not; for the simple reason that it is Absolute Thought itself.

Nor does it exist, for the same reason, as it is absolute existence, and

Be-ness, not a Being. Read the superb Cabalistic poem by Solomon Ben Jehudah Gabirol, in the Kether-Malchut, and you will understand:


Thou art one, the root of all numbers, but not as an element of numeration; for

unity admits not of multiplication, change, or form.


Thou art one, and in the secret of Thy unity the wisest of men are lost, because

they know it not.


Thou art one, and Thy unity is never diminished, never extended, and cannot be



Thou art one, and no thought of mine can fix for Thee a limit, or define Thee.


Thou art, but not as one existent, for the understanding and vision of mortals

cannot attain to Thy existence, nor determine for Thee the where, the how and

the why …


In short, our Deity is the eternal, incessantly evolving, not creating, builder

of the universe; that universe itself unfolding out of its own essence, not

being made. It is a sphere, without circumference, in its symbolism, which has

but one ever-acting attribute embracing all other existing or thinkable

attributes-itself. It is the one law, giving the impulse to manifested, eternal,

and immutable laws, within that never-manifesting, because absolute law, which

in its manifesting periods is The ever-Becoming.


Q. I once heard one of your members remarking that Universal Deity, being

everywhere, was in vessels of dishonor, as in those of honor, and, therefore,

was present in every atom of my cigar ash! Is this not rank blasphemy?

A. I do not think so, as simple logic can hardly be regarded as blasphemy. Were

we to exclude the Omnipresent Principle from one single mathematical point of

the universe, or from a particle of matter occupying any conceivable space,

could we still regard it as infinite?


Is it Necessary to Pray?


Q. Do you believe in prayer, and do you ever pray?

A. We do not. We act, instead of talking.


Q. You do not offer prayers even to the Absolute Principle?

A. Why should we? Being well-occupied people, we can hardly afford to lose time in addressing verbal prayers to a pure abstraction. The Unknowable is capable of relations only in its parts to each other, but is non-existent as regards any finite relations. The visible universe depends for its existence and phenomena on its mutually acting forms and their laws, not on prayer or prayers.


Q. Do you not believe at all in the efficacy of prayer?

A. Not in prayer taught in so many words and repeated externally, if by prayer

you mean the outward petition to an unknown God as the addressee, which was

inaugurated by the Jews and popularized by the Pharisees.


Q. Is there any other kind of prayer?

A. Most decidedly; we call it will-prayer, and it is rather an internal command

than a petition.


Q. To whom, then, do you pray when you do so?

A. To "our Father in heaven"-in its esoteric meaning.


Q. Is that different from the one given to it in theology?

A. Entirely so. An Occultist or a Theosophist addresses his prayer to his Father

which is in secret, not to an extra-cosmic and therefore finite God; and that

"Father" is in man himself.


Q. Then you make of man a God?

A. Please say "God" and not a God. In our sense, the inner man is the only God

we can have cognizance of. And how can this be otherwise? Grant us our postulate that God is a universally diffused, infinite principle, and how can man alone escape from being soaked through by, and in, the Deity? We call our "Father in heaven" that deific essence of which we are cognizant within us, in our heart and spiritual consciousness, and which has nothing to do with the

anthropomorphic conception we may form of it in our physical brain or its fancy:

"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of (the

absolute) God dwelleth in you?"


One often finds in Theosophical writings conflicting statements about the

Christos principle in man. Some call it the sixth principle (Buddhi), others the

seventh (Atma).


If Christian Theosophists wish to make use of such expressions,

let them be made philosophically correct by following the analogy of the old

Wisdom-Religion symbols. We say that Christos is not only one of the three

higher principles, but all the three regarded as a Trinity. This Trinity

represents the Holy Ghost, the Father, and the Son, as it answers to abstract

spirit, differentiated spirit, and embodied spirit. Krishna and Christ are

philosophically the same principle under its triple aspect of manifestation. In

the Bhagavad-Gita we find Krishna calling himself indifferently Atma, the

abstract Spirit, Kshetrajña, the Higher or reincarnating Ego, and the Universal

Self, all names which, when transferred from the Universe to man, answer to

Atma, Buddhi, and Manas. The Anugita is full of the same doctrine.

Yet, let no man anthropomorphize that essence in us. Let no Theosophist, if he

would hold to divine, not human truth, say that this "God in secret" listens to,

or is distinct from, either finite man or the infinite essence-for all are one.

Nor, as just remarked, that a prayer is a petition. It is a mystery rather; an

occult process by which finite and conditioned thoughts and desires, unable to

be assimilated by the absolute spirit which is unconditioned, are translated

into spiritual wills and the will; such process being called "spiritual

transmutation." The intensity of our ardent aspirations changes prayer into the

"philosopher's stone," or that which transmutes lead into pure gold. The only

homogeneous essence, our "will-prayer" becomes the active or creative force,

producing effects according to our desire.


Q. Do you mean to say that prayer is an occult process bringing about physical


A. I do. Will-Power becomes a living power. But woe unto those Occultists and

Theosophists, who, instead of crushing out the desires of the lower personal ego or physical man, and saying, addressing their Higher Spiritual Ego immersed in Atma-Buddhic light, "Thy will be done, not mine," etc., send up waves of

will-power for selfish or unholy purposes! For this is black magic, abomination,

and spiritual sorcery. Unfortunately, all this is the favorite occupation of our

Christian statesmen and generals, especially when the latter are sending two

armies to murder each other. Both indulge before action in a bit of such

sorcery, by offering respectively prayers to the same God of Hosts, each

entreating his help to cut its enemies' throats.


Q. David prayed to the Lord of Hosts to help him smite the Philistines and slay

the Syrians and the Moabites, and "the Lord preserved David whithersoever he

went." In that we only follow what we find in the Bible.

A. Of course you do. But since you delight in calling yourselves Christians, not

Israelites or Jews, as far as we know, why do you not rather follow that which

Christ says? And he distinctly commands you not to follow "them of old times,"

or the Mosaic law, but bids you do as he tells you, and warns those who would

kill by the sword, that they, too, will perish by the sword. Christ has given

you one prayer of which you have made a lip prayer and a boast, and which none but the true Occultist understands. In it you say, in your dead-sense meaning: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," which you never do. Again, he told you to love your enemies and do good to them that hate you.


It is surely not the "meek prophet of Nazareth" who taught you to pray to your "Father" to slay, and give you victory over your enemies! This is why we reject what you call "prayers."


Q. But how do you explain the universal fact that all nations and peoples have

prayed to, and worshiped a God or Gods? Some have adored and propitiated devils and harmful spirits, but this only proves the universality of the belief in the

efficacy of prayer.

A. It is explained by that other fact that prayer has several other meanings

besides that given it by the Christians. It means not only a pleading or

petition, but meant, in days of old, far more an invocation and incantation. The

mantra, or the rhythmically chanted prayer of the Hindus, has precisely such a

meaning, as the Brahmins hold themselves higher than the common devas or "Gods."


A prayer may be an appeal or an incantation for malediction, and a curse (as in

the case of two armies praying simultaneously for mutual destruction) as much as for blessing. And as the great majority of people are intensely selfish, and

pray only for themselves, asking to be given their "daily bread" instead of

working for it, and begging God not to lead them "into temptation" but to

deliver them (the memorialists only) from evil, the result is, that prayer, as

now understood, is doubly pernicious: (a) It kills in man self-reliance; (b) It

develops in him a still more ferocious selfishness and egotism than he is

already endowed with by nature. I repeat, that we believe in "communion" and

simultaneous action in unison with our "Father in secret"; and in rare moments

of ecstatic bliss, in the mingling of our higher soul with the universal

essence, attracted as it is towards its origin and center, a state, called

during life Samadhi, and after death, Nirvana. We refuse to pray to created

finite beings-i.e., gods, saints, angels, etc., because we regard it as

idolatry. We cannot pray to the absolute for reasons explained before;

therefore, we try to replace fruitless and useless prayer by meritorious and

good-producing actions.


Q. Christians would call it pride and blasphemy. Are they wrong?

A. Entirely so. It is they, on the contrary, who show Satanic pride in their

belief that the Absolute or the Infinite, even if there was such a thing as the

possibility of any relation between the unconditioned and the conditioned-will

stoop to listen to every foolish or egotistical prayer. And it is they again,

who virtually blaspheme, in teaching that an Omniscient and Omnipotent God needs uttered prayers to know what he has to do! This-understood esoterically-is corroborated by both Buddha and Jesus. The one says:


Seek nought from the helpless Gods-pray not! but rather act; for darkness will

not brighten. Ask nought from silence, for it can neither speak nor hear.


And the other-Jesus-recommends:

"Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name (that of

Christos) that will I do."


Of course, this quotation, if taken in its literal sense, goes against our argument. But if we accept it esoterically, with the full knowledge of the meaning of the term Christos which to us represents Atma-Buddhi-Manas, the "self," it comes to this: the only God we must recognize and pray to, or rather act in unison with, is that spirit of God of which our body is the temple, and in which it dwelleth.


Prayer Kills Self-Reliance


Q. But did not Christ himself pray and recommend prayer?

A. It is so recorded, but those "prayers" are precisely of that kind of

communion just mentioned with one's "Father in secret." Otherwise, and if we

identify Jesus with the universal deity, there would be something too absurdly

illogical in the inevitable conclusion that he, the "very God himself" prayed to

himself, and separated the will of that God from his own!


Q. One argument more; an argument, moreover, much used by some Christians. They say,


I feel that I am not able to conquer any passions and weaknesses in my own

strength. But when I pray to Jesus Christ I feel that he gives me strength and

that in His power I am able to conquer.


A. No wonder. If "Christ Jesus" is God, and one independent and separate from

him who prays, of course everything is, and must be possible to "a mighty God." But, then, where's the merit, or justice either, of such a conquest? Why should the pseudo-conqueror be rewarded for something done which has cost him only prayers? Would you, even a simple mortal man, pay your laborer a full day's wage if you did most of his work for him, he sitting under an apple tree, and praying to you to do so, all the while? This idea of passing one's whole life in moral idleness, and having one's hardest work and duty done by another-whether God or man-is most revolting to us, as it is most degrading to human dignity.


Q. Perhaps so, yet it is the idea of trusting in a personal Savior to help and

strengthen in the battle of life, which is the fundamental idea of modern

Christianity. And there is no doubt that, subjectively, such belief is

efficacious; i.e., that those who believe do feel themselves helped and


A. Nor is there any more doubt, that some patients of "Christian" and "Mental

Scientists"-the great "Deniers"-are also sometimes cured; nor that hypnotism,

and suggestion, psychology, and even mediumship, will produce such results, as

often, if not oftener. You take into consideration, and string on the thread of

your argument, successes alone. And how about ten times the number of failures?


Surely you will not presume to say that failure is unknown even with a

sufficiency of blind faith, among fanatical Christians?


Q. But how can you explain those cases which are followed by full success? Where does a Theosophist look to for power to subdue his passions and selfishness?

A. To his Higher Self, the divine spirit, or the God in him, and to his Karma.

How long shall we have to repeat over and over again that the tree is known by

its fruit, the nature of the cause by its effects? You speak of subduing

passions, and becoming good through and with the help of God or Christ. We ask, where do you find more virtuous, guiltless people, abstaining from sin and

crime, in Christendom or Buddhism-in Christian countries or in heathen lands?

Statistics are there to give the answer and corroborate our claims. According to

the last census in Ceylon and India, in the comparative table of crimes

committed by Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Eurasians, Buddhists, etc., etc., on

two millions of population taken at random from each, and covering the

misdemeanors of several years, the proportion of crimes committed by the

Christian stands as 15 to 4 as against those committed by the Buddhist

population. No Orientalist, no historian of any note, or traveler in Buddhist

lands, from Bishop Bigandet and Abbé Huc, to Sir William Hunter and every

fair-minded official, will fail to give the palm of virtue to Buddhists before

Christians. Yet the former (not the true Buddhist Siamese sect, at all events)

do not believe in either God or a future reward, outside of this earth. They do

not pray, neither priests nor laymen. "Pray!" they would exclaim in wonder, "to

whom, or what?"


Q. Then they are truly Atheists.

A. Most undeniably, but they are also the most virtue-loving and virtue-keeping

men in the whole world. Buddhism says: Respect the religions of other men and

remain true to your own; but Church Christianity, denouncing all the gods of

other nations as devils, would doom every non-Christian to eternal perdition.

Q. Does not the Buddhist priesthood do the same?

A. Never. They hold too much to the wise precept found in the Dhammapada to do so, for they know that,


If any man, whether he be learned or not, consider himself so great as to

despise other men, he is like a blind man holding a candle-blind himself, he

illumines others.



On the Source of the Human Soul


Q. How, then, do you account for man being endowed with a Spirit and Soul?

Whence these?

A. From the Universal Soul. Certainly not bestowed by a personal God. Whence the moist element in the jelly-fish? From the Ocean which surrounds it, in which it lives and breathes and has its being, and whither it returns when dissolved.


Q. So you reject the teaching that Soul is given, or breathed into man, by God?

A. We are obliged to. The "Soul" spoken of in Genesis is, as therein stated, the

"living Soul" or Nephesh (the vital,animal soul) with which God (we say "nature"

and immutable law) endows man like every animal. Is not at all the thinking soul

or mind; least of all is it the immortal Spirit.


Q. Well, let us put it otherwise: is it God who endows man with a human rational

Soul and immortal Spirit?

A. Again, in the way you put the question, we must object to it. Since we

believe in nopersonal God, how can we believe that he endows man with anything?


But granting, for the sake of argument, a God who takes upon himself the risk of

creating a new Soul for every new-born baby, all that can be said is that such a

God can hardly be regarded as himself endowed with any wisdom or prevision.

Certain other difficulties and the impossibility of reconciling this with the

claims made for the mercy, justice, equity and omniscience of that God, are so

many deadly reefs on which this theological dogma is daily and hourly broken.


Q. What do you mean? What difficulties?

A. I am thinking of an unanswerable argument offered once in my presence by a

Singhalese Buddhist priest, a famous preacher, to a Christian missionary-one in

no way ignorant or unprepared for the public discussion during which it was

advanced. It was near Colombo, and the Missionary had challenged the priest

Megattivati to give his reasons why the Christian God should not be accepted by

the "heathen." Well, the Missionary came out of that forever memorable

discussion second best, as usual.


Q. I should be glad to learn in what way.

A. Simply this: the Buddhist priest premised by asking the padre whether his God had given commandments to Moses only for men to keep, but to be broken by God himself. The missionary denied the supposition indignantly. Well, said his opponent,

… you tell us that God makes no exceptions to this rule, and that no Soul can be born without his will. Now God forbids adultery, among other things, and yet you say in the same breath that it is he who creates every baby born, and he who

endows it with a Soul. Are we then to understand that the millions of children

born in crime and adultery are your God's work? That your God forbids and

punishes the breaking of his laws; and that, nevertheless, he creates daily and

hourly souls for just such children? According to the simplest logic, your God

is an accomplice in the crime; since, but for his help and interference, no such

children of lust could be born. Where is the justice of punishing not only the

guilty parents but even the innocent babe for that which is done by that very

God, whom yet you exonerate from any guilt himself?


The missionary looked at his watch and suddenly found it was getting too late

for further discussion.


Q. You forget that all such inexplicable cases are mysteries, and that we are

forbidden by our religion to pry into the mysteries of God.

A. No, we do not forget, but simply reject such impossibilities. Nor do we want

you to believe as we do. We only answer the questions you ask. We have, however, another name for your "mysteries."



The Buddhist Teachings on the Above


Q. What does Buddhism teach with regard to the Soul?

A. It depends whether you mean exoteric, popular Buddhism, or its esoteric

teachings. The former explains itself in The Buddhist Catechism in this wise:

Soul it considers a word used by the ignorant to express a false idea. If

everything is subject to change, then man is included, and every material part

of him must change. That which is subject to change is not permanent, so there

can be no immortal survival of a changeful thing.


This seems plain and definite. But when we come to the question that the new

personality in each succeeding rebirth is the aggregate of "Skandhas," or the

attributes, of the old personality, and ask whether this new aggregation of

Skandhas is a new being likewise, in which nothing has remained of the last, we

read that:

In one sense it is a new being, in another it is not. During this life the

Skandhas are continually changing, while the man A.B. of forty is identical as

regards personality with the youth A.B. of eighteen, yet by the continual waste

and reparation of his body and change of mind and character, he is a different

being. Nevertheless, the man in his old age justly reaps the reward or suffering

consequent upon his thoughts and actions at every previous stage of his life. So

the new being of the rebirth, being the same individuality as before (but not

the same personality), with but a changed form, or new aggregation of

Skandhas,justly reaps the consequences of his actions and thoughts in the

previous existence.


This is abstruse metaphysics, and plainly does not express disbelief in Soul by

any means.


Q. Is not something like this spoken of in Esoteric Buddhism?

A. It is, for this teaching belongs both to Esoteric Budhism or Secret Wisdom,

and to the exoteric Buddhism, or the religious philosophy of Gautama Buddha.


Q. But we are distinctly told that most of the Buddhists do not believe in the

Soul's immortality?

A.No more do we, if you mean by Soul the personal Ego, or life-Soul-Nephesh.But every learned Buddhist believes in the individual or divine Ego.


Those who do not, err in their judgment. They are as mistaken on this point, as those Christians who mistake the theological interpolations of the later editors of

the Gospels about damnation and hellfire, for verbatim utterances of Jesus.

Neither Buddha nor "Christ" ever wrote anything themselves, but both spoke in

allegories and used "dark sayings," as all true Initiates did, and will do for a

long time yet to come. Both Scriptures treat of all such metaphysical questions

very cautiously, and both, Buddhist and Christian records, sin by that excess of

exotericism; the dead letter meaning far overshooting the mark in both cases.


Q. Do you mean to suggest that neither the teachings of Buddha nor those of

Christ have been heretofore rightly understood?

A. What I mean is just as you say. Both Gospels, the Buddhist and the Christian, were preached with the same object in view. Both reformers were ardent philanthropists and practical altruists-preaching most unmistakably Socialism of the noblest and highest type, self-sacrifice to the bitter end. "Let the sins of the whole world fall upon me that I may relieve man's misery and suffering!" cries Buddha. "I would not let one cry whom I could save!" exclaims the Prince-beggar, clad in the refuse rags of the burial-grounds. "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest," is the appeal to

the poor and the disinherited made by the "Man of Sorrows," who hath not where to lay his head. The teachings of both are boundless love for humanity, charity, forgiveness of injury, forgetfulness of self, and pity for the deluded masses; both show the same contempt for riches, and make no difference between meum and tuum.


Their desire was, without revealing to all the sacred mysteries of

initiation, to give the ignorant and the misled, whose burden in life was too

heavy for them, hope enough and an inkling into the truth sufficient to support

them in their heaviest hours. But the object of both Reformers was frustrated,

owing to excess of zeal of their later followers. The words of the Masters

having been misunderstood and misinterpreted, behold the consequences!


Q. But surely Buddha must have repudiated the soul's immortality, if all the

Orientalists and his own Priests say so!

A. The Arhats began by following the policy of their Master and the majority of

the subsequent priests were not initiated, just as in Christianity; and so,

little by little, the great esoteric truths became almost lost. A proof in point

is, that, out of the two existing sects in Ceylon, the Siamese believes death to

be the absolute annihilation of individuality and personality, and the other

explains Nirvana, as we Theosophists do.


Q. But why, in that case, do Buddhism and Christianity represent the two

opposite poles of such belief?

A. Because the conditions under which they were preached were not the same. In India the Brahmins, jealous of their superior knowledge, and excluding from it

every caste save their own, had driven millions of men into idolatry and almost

fetishism. Buddha had to give the death-blow to an exuberance of unhealthy fancy and fanatical superstition resulting from ignorance, such as has rarely been

known before or after. Better a philosophical atheism than such ignorant worship

for those: Who cry upon their gods and are not heard,

Or are not heeded …

-and who live and die in mental despair. He had to arrest first of all this

muddy torrent of superstition, to uprooterrors before he gave out the truth. And

as he could not give out all, for the same good reason as Jesus, who remindshis

disciples that the Mysteries of Heaven are not for the unintelligent masses, but

for the elect alone, and therefore "spake he to them in parables"-so his caution

led Buddhato conceal too much. He even refused to say to the monk Vacchagotta whether there was, or was not an Ego in man. When pressed to answer, "the Exalted one maintained silence."


Buddha gives to Ananda, his initiated disciple, who inquires for the reason of

this silence, a plain and unequivocal answer in the dialogue translated by

Oldenburg from the Samyutta-Nikaya:

If I, Ananda, when the wandering monk Vacchagotta asked me: "Is there the Ego?" had answered "The Ego is," then that, Ananda, would have confirmed the doctrine of the Samanas and Brahmans, who believed in permanence. If I, Ananda, when the wandering monk Vacchagotta asked me, "Is there not the Ego?" had answered, "The Ego is not," then that, Ananda, would have confirmed the doctrine of those who believed in annihilation. If I, Ananda, when the wandering monk Vacchagotta asked me, "Is there the Ego?" had answered, "The Ego is," would that have served my end, Ananda, by producing in him the knowledge: all existences (dhamma) are non-ego? But if I, Ananda, had answered, "The Ego is not," then that, Ananda, would only have caused the wandering monk Vacchagotta to be thrown from one bewilderment to another: "My Ego, did it not exist before? But now it exists no longer!"


This shows, better than anything, that Gautama Buddha withheld such difficult

metaphysical doctrines from the masses in order not to perplex them more. What he meant was the difference between the personal temporary Ego and the Higher Self, which sheds its light on the imperishable Ego, the spiritual "I" of man.


Q. This refers to Gautama, but in what way does it touch the Gospels?

A. Read history and think over it. At the time the events narrated in the

Gospels are alleged to have happened, there was a similar intellectual

fermentation taking place in the whole civilized world, only with opposite

results in the East and the West. The old gods were dying out. While the

civilized classes drifted in the train of the unbelieving Sadducees into

materialistic negations and mere dead-letter Mosaic form in Palestine, and into

moral dissolution in Rome, the lowest and poorer classes ran after sorcery and

strange gods, or became hypocrites and Pharisees. Once more the time for a

spiritual reform had arrived. The cruel, anthropomorphic and jealous God of the

Jews, with his sanguinary laws of "an eye for eye and tooth for tooth," of the

shedding of blood and animal sacrifice, had to be relegated to a secondary place

and replaced by the merciful "Father in Secret." The latter had to be shown, not

as an extra-Cosmic God, but as a divine Savior of the man of flesh, enshrined in

his own heart and soul, in the poor as in the rich. No more here than in India,

could the secrets of initiation be divulged, lest by giving that which is holy

to the dogs, and casting pearls before swine, both the Revealer and the things

revealed should be trodden under foot. Thus, the reticence of both Buddha and

Jesus-whether the latter lived out the historic period allotted to him or not,

and who equally abstained from revealing plainly the Mysteries of Life and

Death-led in the one case to the blank negations of Southern Buddhism, and in

the other, to the three clashing forms of the Christian Church and the 300 sects

in Protestant England alone.


Theosophical Teachings as to Nature and Man


The Unity of All in All


Q. Having told me what God, the Soul and Man are not, in your views, can you

inform me what they are, according to your teachings?

A. In their origin and in eternity the three, like the universe and all therein,

are one with the absolute Unity, the unknowable deific essence I spoke about

some time back. We believe in no creation, but in the periodical and consecutive

appearances of the universe from the subjective onto the objective plane of

being, at regular intervals of time, covering periods of immense duration.


Q. Can you elaborate the subject?

A. Take as a first comparison and a help towards a more correct conception, the solar year, and as a second, the two halves of that year, producing each a day and a night of six months' duration at the North Pole. Now imagine, if you can, instead of a Solar year of 365 days, eternity. Let the sun represent the

universe, and the polar days and nights of six months each-days and nights

lasting each 182 trillions and quadrillions of years, instead of 182 days each.

As the sun arises every morning on our objective horizon out of its (to us)

subjective and antipodal space, so does the Universe emerge periodically on the

plane of objectivity, issuing from that of subjectivity-the antipodes of the

former. This is the "Cycle of Life." And as the sun disappears from our horizon,

so does the Universe disappear at regular periods, when the "Universal night"

sets in. The Hindus call such alternations the "Days and Nights of Brahm ," or

the time of Manvantara and that of Pralaya (dissolution). The Westerns may call

them Universal Days and Nights if they prefer. During the latter (the nights)

All is in All; every atom is resolved into one Homogeneity.



Evolution and Illusion


Q. But who is it that creates each time the Universe?

A. No one creates it. Science would call the process evolution; the

pre-Christian philosophers and the Orientalists called it emanation: we,

Occultists and Theosophists, see in it the only universal and eternal reality

casting a periodical reflection of itself on the infinite Spatial depths. This

reflection, which you regard as the objective materialuniverse, we consider as a

temporary illusion and nothing else. That alone which is eternal is real.


Q. At that rate, you and I are also illusions.

A. As flitting personalities, today one person, tomorrow another-we are. Would

you call the sudden flashes of the aurora borealis, the Northern lights, a

"reality," though it is as real as can be while you look at it? Certainly not;

it is the cause that produces it, if permanent and eternal, which is the only

reality, while the other is but a passing illusion.


Q. All this does not explain to me how this illusion called the universe

originates; how the conscious to be, proceeds to manifest itself from the

unconsciousness that is.

A. It is unconsciousnessonly to our finite consciousness. Verily may we

paraphrase St. John and say:


… and (Absolute) light (which is darkness) shineth in darkness (which is

illusionary material light); and the darkness comprehendeth it not.


This absolute light is also absolute and immutable law. Whether by radiation or

emanation-we need not quarrel over terms-the universe passes out of its

homogeneous subjectivity onto the first plane of manifestation, of which planes

there are seven, we are taught. With each plane it becomes more dense and

material until it reaches this, our plane, on which the only world approximately

known and understood in its physical composition by Science, is the planetary or Solar system-one sui generis,we are told.


Q. What do you mean bysui generis?

A. I mean that, though the fundamental law and the universal working of laws of

Nature are uniform, still our Solar system (like every other such system in the

millions of others in Cosmos) and even our Earth, has its own program of

manifestations differing from the respective programs of all others. We speak of

the inhabitants of other planets and imagine that if they are men, i.e.,

thinking entities, they must be as we are. The fancy of poets and painters and

sculptors never fails to represent even the angels as a beautiful copy of

man-plus wings. We say that all this is an error and a delusion; because, if on

this little earth alone one finds such a diversity in its flora, fauna, and

mankind-from the seaweed to the cedar of Lebanon, from the jellyfish to the

elephant, from the Bushman and negro to the Apollo Belvedere-alter the

conditions cosmic and planetary, and there must be as a result quite a different

flora, fauna, and mankind. The same laws will fashion quite a different set of

things and beings even on this our plane, including in it all our planets. How

much more different then must be externalnature in other Solar systems, and how foolish is it to judge of other stars and worlds and human beings by our own, as physical science does!


Q. But what are your data for this assertion?

A. What science in general will never accept as proof-the cumulative testimony

of an endless series of Seers who have testified to this fact. Their spiritual

visions, real explorations by, and through, physical and spiritual senses

untrammeled by blind flesh, were systematically checked and compared one with the other, and their nature sifted. All that was not corroborated by unanimous and collective experience was rejected, while that only was recorded as established truth which, in various ages, under different climes, and throughout an untold series of incessant observations, was found to agree and receive constantly further corroboration. The methods used by our scholars and students of the psycho-spiritual sciences do not differ from those of students of the natural and physical sciences, as you may see. Only our fields of research are on two different planes, and our instruments are made by no human hands, for which reason perchance they are only the more reliable. The retorts,

accumulators, and microscopes of the chemist and naturalist may get out of

order; the telescope and the astronomer's horological instruments may get

spoiled; our recording instruments are beyond the influence of weather or the



Q. And therefore you have implicit faith in them?

A. Faith is a word not to be found in theosophical dictionaries: we say

knowledge based, on observation and experience. There is this difference,

however, that while the observation and experience of physical science lead the

Scientists to about as many "working" hypotheses as there are minds to evolve

them, our knowledgeconsents to add to its lore only those facts which have

become undeniable, and which are fully and absolutely demonstrated. We have no two beliefs or hypotheses on the same subject.


Q. Is it on such data that you came to accept the strange theories we find in

Esoteric Buddhism?

A. Just so. These theories may be slightly incorrect in their minor details, and

even faulty in their exposition by lay students; they are facts in nature,

nevertheless, and come nearer the truth than any scientific hypothesis.



On The Septenary Constitution of Our Planet


Q. I understand that you describe our earth as forming part of a chain of


A. We do. But the other six "earths" or globes, are not on the same plane of

objectivity as our earth is; therefore we cannot see them.


Q. Is that on account of the great distance?

A. Not at all, for we see with our naked eye planets and even stars at

immeasurably greater distances; but it is owing to those six globes being

outside our physical means of perception, or plane of being. It is not only that

their material density, weight, or fabric are entirely different from those of

our earth and the other known planets; but they are (to us) on an entirely

different layer of space, so to speak; a layer not to be perceived or felt by

our physical senses. And when I say "layer," please do not allow your fancy to

suggest to you layers like strata or beds laid one over the other, for this

would only lead to another absurd misconception. What I mean by "layer" is that plane of infinite space which by its nature cannot fall under our ordinary

waking perceptions, whether mental or physical; but which exists in nature

outside of our normal mentality or consciousness, outside of our

three-dimensional space, and outside of our division of time. Each of the seven

fundamental planes (or layers) in space-of course as a whole, as the pure space

of Locke's definition, not as our finite space-has its own objectivity and

subjectivity, its own space and time, its own consciousness and set of senses.

But all this will be hardly comprehensible to one trained in the modern ways of



Q. What do you mean by a different set of senses? Is there anything on our human plane that you could bring as an illustration of what you say, just to give a

clearer idea of what you may mean by this variety of senses, spaces, and

respective perceptions?

A. None; except, perhaps, that which for Science would be rather a handy peg on which to hang a counter argument. We have a different set of senses in

dreamlife, have we not? We feel, talk, hear, see, taste and function in general

on a different plane; the change of state of our consciousness being evidenced

by the fact that a series of acts and events embracing years, as we think, pass

ideally through our mind in one instant. Well, that extreme rapidity of our

mental operations in dreams, and the perfect naturalness, for the time being, of

all the other functions, show us that we are on quite another plane. Our

philosophy teaches us that, as there are seven fundamental forces in nature, and

seven planes of being, so there are seven states of consciousness in which man

can live, think, remember and have his being. To enumerate these here is

impossible, and for this one has to turn to the study of Eastern metaphysics.

But in these two states-the waking and the dreaming-every ordinary mortal, from

a learned philosopher down to a poor untutored savage, has a good proof that

such states differ.


Q. You do not accept, then, the well-known explanations of biology and

physiology to account for the dream state?

A. We do not. We reject even the hypotheses of your psychologists, preferring

the teachings of Eastern Wisdom. Believing in seven planes of Kosmic being and states of Consciousness, with regard to the Universe or the Macrocosm, we stop at the fourth plane, finding it impossible to go with any degree of certainty

beyond. But with respect to the Microcosm, or man, we speculate freely on his

seven states and principles.


Q. How do you explain these?

A. We find, first of all, two distinct beings in man; the spiritual and the

physical, the man who thinks, and the man who records as much of these thoughts as he is able to assimilate. Therefore we divide him into two distinct natures; the upper or the spiritual being, composed of three principles or aspects; and the lower or the physical quaternary, composed of four-in all seven.


The Septenary Nature of Man


Q. Is it what we call Spirit and Soul, and the man of flesh?

A. It is not. That is the old platonic division. Plato was an Initiate, and

therefore could not go into forbidden details; but he who is acquainted with the

archaic doctrine finds the seven in Plato's various combinations of Soul and

Spirit. He regarded man as constituted of two parts-one eternal, formed of the

same essence as the Absoluteness, the other mortal and corruptible, deriving its

constituent parts from the minor "created" Gods. Man is composed, he shows, of


(1) A mortal body,


(2) An immortal principle,


(3) A "separate mortal kind of Soul." It is that which we respectively call the physical man, the Spiritual Soul or Spirit, and the animal Soul (the Nous and psuche).


This is the division adopted by Paul, another Initiate, who maintains that there is a psychical body which is sown in the corruptible (astral soul or body), and a spiritual body that is raised in incorruptible substance. Even James corroborates the same by saying that the "wisdom" (of our lower soul) descendeth not from the above, but is terrestrial ("psychical," "demoniacal," see the Greek text) while the other is heavenly wisdom. Now so plain is it that Plato and even Pythagoras, while speaking but of three principles, give them seven separate functions, in their various combinations, that if we contrast our teachings this will become quite plain. Let us take a cursory view of these seven aspects by drawing two tables.


Theosophical Division of the Lower Quaternary

Sanskrit Term Exoteric Meaning Explanation


1.Rupa, or Sthula-sarira Physical body Is the vehicle of all the

other principles during life.

1.Prana Life, or Vital principle Necessary only to a, c,

d, and the functions of the lower Manas, which

embrace all those limited to the (physical) brain.

(c) Linga- sarira Astral Body The Double,the phantom body.

(d) Kamarupa The seat of animal desires and passions This is the center of the

animal man, where lies the line of demarcation which separates the mortal man

from the immortal entity.


Theosophical Division of the Upper Imperishable Triad


Sanskrit Term Exoteric Meaning Explanation


(e) Manas-a dual principle in its functions. Mind, Intelligence: which is the

higher human mind, whose light, or radiation links the Monad, for the lifetime,

to the mortal man. The future state and the Karmic destiny of man depend on

whether Manas gravitates more downward to Kamarupa, the seat of the animal

passions, or upwards to Buddhi, the SpiritualEgo. In the later case, the higher

consciousness of the individual Spiritual aspirations of mind (Manas),

assimilating Buddhi, are absorbed by it and form the Ego, which goes into

Devachanic bliss.


(f) Buddhi The Spiritual Soul The vehicle of pure universal spirit.


(g) Atma Spirit One with the Absolute, as its radiation.


In Mr. Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism d, e, and f, are respectively called the

Animal, the Human, and the Spiritual Souls, which answers as well. Though the

principles in Esoteric Buddhism are numbered, this is, strictly speaking,

useless. The dual Monad alone ( Atma-Buddhi) is susceptible of being thought of as the two highest numbers (the sixth and seventh). As to all others, since that

principle only which is predominant in man has to be considered as the first and

foremost, no numeration is possible as a general rule. In some men it is the

higher Intelligence (Manas or the fifth) which dominates the rest; in others the

Animal Soul (Kamarupa) that reigns supreme, exhibiting the most bestial

instincts, etc.


Now what does Plato teach? He speaks of the interior man as constituted of two

parts-one immutable and always the same, formed of the same substance as Deity, and the other mortal and corruptible. These "two parts" are found in our upper Triad, and the lower Quaternary (see table above, ). He explains that when the Soul, psuche, "allies herself to the Nous (divine spirit or substance *)), she

does everything aright and felicitously;" but the case is otherwise when she

attaches herself to Anoia, (folly, or the irrational animal Soul). Here, then,

we have Manas(or the Soul in general) in its two aspects: when attaching itself

to Anoia (our Kamarupa, or the "Animal Soul" in Esoteric Buddhism) it runs

towards entire annihilation, as far as the personal Ego is concerned; when

allying itself to the Nous ( Atma-Buddhi) it merges into the immortal,

imperishable Ego, and then its spiritual consciousness of the personal that was,

becomes immortal.


*) St. Paul calls Plato's nous 'spirit';but since this spirit is 'substance',

Buddhi is meant then and notAtma; philosophically speaking this (Atma) cannot be called 'substance'. We count Atma as a human 'principle' in order to not create yet more confusion. In reality it is not a 'human' but the universal absolute

principle of which buddhi, the soul-spirit, is the vehicle. [reversely

translated note from Dutch translation - editor]



The Distinction Between Soul and Spirit


Q. Do you really teach, as you are accused of doing by some Spiritualists and

French Spiritists, the annihilation of every personality?

A. We do not. But as this question of the duality-the individuality of the

Divine Ego, and the personality of the human animal-involves that of the

possibility of the real immortal Ego appearing in Seance rooms as a

"materialized spirit," which we deny as already explained, our opponents have

started the nonsensical charge.


Q. You have just spoken of psuche running towards its entire annihilation if it

attaches itself to Anoia. What did Plato, and do you mean by this?

A. The entire annihilation of the personal consciousness, as an exceptional and

rare case, I think. The general and almost invariable rule is the merging of the

personal into the individual or immortal consciousness of the Ego, a

transformation or a divine transfiguration, and the entire annihilation only of

the lower quaternary. Would you expect the man of flesh, or the temporary

personality,his shadow, the "astral," his animal instincts and even physical

life, to survive with the "spiritual Ego" and become everlasting, eternal?

Naturally all this ceases to exist, either at, or soon after corporeal death. It

becomes in time entirely disintegrated and disappears from view, being

annihilated as a whole.


Q. Then you also reject resurrection in the flesh?

A. Most decidedly we do! Why should we, who believe in the archaic esoteric

philosophy of the Ancients, accept the unphilosophical speculations of the later

Christian theology, borrowed from the Egyptian and Greek exoteric Systems of the Gnostics?


Q. The Egyptians revered Nature-Spirits, and deified even onions: your Hindus

are idolaters,to this day; the Zoroastrians worshiped, and do still worship, the

Sun; and the best Greek philosophers were either dreamers or

materialists-witness Plato and Democritus. How can you compare!

A. It may be so in your modern Christian and even Scientific catechism; it is

not so for unbiased minds. The Egyptians revered the "One-Only-One," as Nout; and it is from this word that Anaxagoras got his denomination Nous, or as he calls it, nous autokrates , "the Mind or Spirit Self-potent", the archetes

kinedeos , the leading motor, or primum-mobile of all. With him the Nous was

God, and the logos was man, his emanation. The Nous is the spirit (whether in

Kosmos or in man), and the logos, whether Universe or astral body, the emanation of the former, the physical body being merely the animal. Our external powers perceive phenomena; our Nous alone is able to recognize their noumena.


It is the logos alone, or the noumenon, that survives, because it is immortal in its very nature and essence, and the logos in man is the Eternal Ego, that which

reincarnates and lasts forever. But how can the evanescent or external shadow,

the temporary clothing of that divine Emanation which returns to the source

whence it proceeded, be that which is raised in incorruptibility?


Q. Still you can hardly escape the charge of having invented a new division of

man's spiritual and psychic constituents; for no philosopher speaks of them,

though you believe that Plato does.

A. And I support the view. Besides Plato, there is Pythagoras, who also followed the same idea.Says Plutarch:


Plato and Pythagoras distribute the soul into two parts, the rational (noetic)

and irrational (agnoia); that part of the soul of man which is rational is

eternal; for though it be not God, yet it is the product of an eternal deity,

but that part of the soul which is divested of reason (agnoia) dies.

The modern term Agnostic comes from Agnosis,a cognate word. We wonder why Mr. Huxley, the author of the word, should have connected his great intellect with "the soul divested of reason" which dies? Is it the exaggerated humility of the modern materialist?


Pythagoras described the Soul as a self-moving Unit (monad) composed of three elements, the Nous(Spirit), the phren (mind), and the thumos (life, breath or the Nephesh of the Cabalists) which three correspond to our " Atma-buddhi,"

(higher Spirit-Soul), to Manas(the Ego), and to Kamarupa in conjunction with the lower reflection of Manas. That which the Ancient Greek philosophers termed Soul, in general, we call Spirit, or Spiritual Soul, Buddhi, as the vehicle of Atma (the Agathon,or Plato's Supreme Deity). The fact that Pythagoras and others state that phren and thumos are shared by us with the brutes, proves that in this case the lower Manasic reflection (instinct) and Kamarupa (animal living

passions) are meant. And as Socrates and Plato accepted the clue and followed

it, if to these five, namely, Agathon (Deity or Atma),Psuche (Soul in its

collective sense), Nous (Spirit or Mind), Phren (physical mind), and Thumos

(Kamarupa or passions) we add the eidolon of the Mysteries, the shadowyform or the human double, and the physical body,it will be easy to demonstrate that the ideas of both Pythagoras and Plato were identical with ours. Even the Egyptians held to the Septenary division. In its exit, they taught, the Soul (Ego) had to pass through its seven chambers, or principles, those it left behind, and those it took along with itself. The only difference is that, ever bearing in mind the penalty of revealing Mystery-doctrines, which was death, they gave out the

teaching in a broad outline, while we elaborate it and explain it in its

details. But though we do give out to the world as much as is lawful, even in

our doctrine more than one important detail is withheld, which those who study

the esoteric philosophy and are pledged to silence, are alone entitled to know.



The Greek Teachings


Q. We have magnificent Greek and Latin, Sanskrit and Hebrew scholars. How is it that we find nothing in their translations that would afford us a clue to what

you say?

A. Because your translators, their great learning notwithstanding, have made of

the philosophers, the Greeks especially, misty instead of mystic writers. Take

as an instance Plutarch, and read what he says of "the principles" of man. That

which he describes was accepted literally and attributed to metaphysical

superstition and ignorance. Let me give you an illustration in point. Says



Man is compound; and they are mistaken who think him to be compounded of two parts only. For they imagine that the understanding (brain intellect) is a part

of the soul (the upper Triad), but they err in this no less than those who make

the soul to be a part of the body, i.e., those who make of the Triad part of the

corruptible mortal quaternary.For the understanding (nous) as far exceeds the

soul, as the soul is better and diviner than the body. Now this composition of

the soul ( psuche) with the understanding (nous) makes reason; and with the body (or thumos, the animal soul) passion; of which the one is the beginning or

principle of pleasure and pain, and the other of virtue and vice. Of these three

parts conjoined and compacted together, the earth has given the body, the moon

the soul, and the sun the understanding to the generation of man.


This last sentence is purely allegorical, and will be comprehended only by those

who are versed in the esoteric science of correspondences and know which planet is related to every principle. Plutarch divides the latter into three groups,

and makes of the body a compound of physical frame, astral shadow, and breath, or the triple lower part, which "from earth was taken and to earth returns"; of the middle principle and the instinctual soul, the second part, derived from and through and ever influenced by the moon; and only of the higher part or the Spiritual Soul, with the tmic and Manasic elements in it does he make a direct emanation of the Sun, who stands here for Agathon the Supreme Deity.


This is proven by what he says further as follows:


Now of the deaths we die, the one makes man two of three and the other one of

(out of) two. The former is in the region and jurisdiction of Demeter, whence

the name given to the Mysteries, telein , resembled that given to death,

teleutan. The Athenians also heretofore called the deceased sacred to Demeter.

As for the other death, it is in the moon or region of Persephone.


Here you have our doctrine, which shows man a septenary during life; a quintile

just after death, in Kamaloka; and a threefold Ego, Spirit-Soul, and

consciousness inDevachan. This separation, first in "the Meadows of Hades," as Plutarch calls the Kamaloka, then in Devachan, was part and parcel of the

performances during the sacred Mysteries, when the candidates for initiation

enacted the whole drama of death, and the resurrection as a glorified spirit, by

which name we mean Consciousness. This is what Plutarch means when he says:


And as with the one, the terrestrial, so with the other celestial Hermes doth

dwell. This suddenly and with violence plucks the soul from the body; but

Prospina mildly and in a long time disjoins the understanding from the soul.

(Proserpina, or Persephone, stands here for postmortem Karma, which is said to

regulate the separation of the lower from the higher principles: the Soul, as

Nephesh, the breath of animal life, which remains for a time in Kamaloka, from

the higher compound Ego, which goes into the state of Devachan, or bliss.)

For this reason she is called Monogenes, only begotten, or rather begetting one

alone; for the better part of man becomes alone when it is separated by her.Now

both the one and the other happens thus according to nature. It is ordained by

Fate (Fatum or Karma) that every soul, whether with or without understanding

(mind), when gone out of the body, should wander for a time, though not all for

the same, in the region lying between the earth and moon (Kamaloka). For those

that have been unjust and dissolute suffer then the punishment due to their

offenses; but the good and virtuous are there detained till they are purified,

and have, by expiation, purged out of them all the infections they might have

contracted from the contagion of the body, as if from foul health, living in the

mildest part of the air, called the Meadows of Hades, where they must remain for a certain prefixed and appointed time. And then, as if they were returning from a wandering pilgrimage or long exile into their country, they have a taste of

joy, such as they principally receive who are initiated into Sacred Mysteries,

mixed with trouble, admiration, and each one's proper and peculiar hope.

This is Nirvanic bliss, and no Theosophist could describe in plainer though

esoteric language the mental joys of Devachan, where every man has his paradise

around him, erected by his consciousness. But you must beware of the general

error into which too many even of our Theosophists fall. Do not imagine that

because man is called septenary, then quintuple and a triad, he is a compound of

seven, five, or three entities;or, as well expressed by a Theosophical writer,

of skins to be peeled off like the skins of an onion. The principles, as already

said, save the body, the life, and the astral eidolon,all of which disperse at

death, are simply aspects andstates of consciousness. There is but one real man,

enduring through the cycle of life and immortal in essence, if not in form, and

this is Manas, the Mind-man or embodied Consciousness. The objection made by the materialists, who deny the possibility of mind and consciousness acting without matter is worthless in our case. We do not deny the soundness of their argument; but we simply ask our opponents,


Are you acquainted with all the states of matter,you who knew hitherto but of

three? And how do you know whether that which we refer to as absolute

consciousness or Deity forever invisible and unknowable, be not that which,

though it eludes forever our human finite conception, is still universal

Spirit-matter or matter-Spirit in its absolute infinitude?


It is then one of the lowest, and in its manvantaric manifestations

fractioned-aspects of this Spirit-matter, which is the conscious Ego that

creates its own paradise, a fool's paradise, it may be, still a state of bliss.


Q. But what is Devachan?

A. The "land of gods" literally; a condition, a state of mental bliss.

Philosophically a mental condition analogous to, but far more vivid and real

than, the most vivid dream. It is the state after death of most mortals.


On the Various Postmortem States


The Physical and the Spiritual Man


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

A. Not of "the Soul," but of the divine Spirit; or rather in the immortality of

the reincarnating Ego.


Q. What is the difference?

A. A very great one in our philosophy, but this is too abstruse and difficult a

question to touch lightly upon. We shall have to analyze them separately, and

then in conjunction. We may begin with Spirit.


We say that the Spirit (the "Father in secret" of Jesus), or Atma, is no

individual property of any man, but is the Divine essence which has no body, no

form, which is imponderable, invisible and indivisible, that which does not

existand yet is, as the Buddhists say of Nirvana. It only overshadows the

mortal; that which enters into him and pervades the whole body being only its

omnipresent rays, or light, radiated throughBuddhi, its vehicle and direct

emanation. This is the secret meaning of the assertions of almost all the

ancient philosophers, when they said that "the rational part of man's soul"

never entered wholly into the man, but only overshadowed him more or less

through the irrational spiritual Soul or Buddhi.


Buddhi is irrational in the sense that as a pure emanation of the Universal mind

it can have no individual reason of its own on this plane of matter, but like

the Moon, who borrows her light from the Sun and her life from the Earth, so

Buddhi, receiving its light of Wisdom from Atma,gets its rational qualities from

Manas. Per se,as something homogeneous, it is devoid of attributes.


Q. I labored under the impression that the "Animal Soul" alone was irrational,

not the Divine.

A. You have to learn the difference between that which is negatively, or

passively"irrational," because undifferentiated, and that which is irrational

because too active and positive. Man is a correlation of spiritual powers, as

well as a correlation of chemical and physical forces, brought into function by

what we call principles.


Q.I have read a good deal upon the subject, and it seems to me that the notions of the older philosophers differed a great deal from those of the medieval

Cabalists, though they do agree in some particulars.

A. The most substantial difference between them and us is this. While we believe

with the Neo-Platonists and the Eastern teachings that the spirit ( Atma) never

descends hypostatically into the living man, but only showers more or less its

radiance on the inner man (the psychic and spiritual compound of the astral

principles), the Cabalists maintain that the human Spirit, detaching itself from

the ocean of light and Universal Spirit, enters man's Soul, where it remains

throughout life imprisoned in the astral capsule. All Christian Cabalists still

maintain the same, as they are unable to break quite loose from their

anthropomorphic and Biblical doctrines.


Q. And what do you say?

A. We say that we only allow the presence of the radiation of Spirit (or Atma)

in the astral capsule, and so far only as that spiritual radiancy is concerned.

We say that man and Soul have to conquer their immortality by ascending towards the unity with which, if successful, they will be finally linked and into which they are finally, so to speak, absorbed. The individualization of man after

death depends on the spirit, not on his soul and body. Although the word

personality,in the sense in which it is usually understood, is an absurdity if

applied literally to our immortal essence, still the latter is, as our

individual Ego, a distinct entity, immortal and eternal,per se. It is only in

the case of black magicians or of criminals beyond redemption, criminals who

have been such during a long series of lives-that the shining thread, which

links the spirit to the personal soul from the moment of the birth of the child,

is violently snapped, and the disembodied entity becomes divorced from the

personal soul, the latter being annihilated without leaving the smallest

impression of itself on the former. If that union between the lower, or personal

Manas, and the individual reincarnating Ego, has not been effected during life,

then the former is left to share the fate of the lower animals, to gradually

dissolve into ether, and have its personality annihilated. But even then the Ego

remains a distinct being. It (the spiritual Ego) only loses one Devachanic

state-after that special, and in that case indeed useless, life-as that

idealized Personality,and is reincarnated, after enjoying for a short time its

freedom as a planetary spirit almost immediately.


Q. It is stated in Isis Unveiled that such planetary Spirits or Angels, "the

gods of the Pagans or the Archangels of the Christians," will never be men on

our planet.

A. Quite right. Not "such," but some classes of higher Planetary Spirits. They

will never be men on this planet, because they are liberated Spirits from a

previous, earlier world, and as such they cannot rebecome men on this one. Yet

all these will live again in the next and far higher Maha-Manvantara, after this

"great Age," and "Brahma pralaya," (a little period of 16 figures or so) is

over. For you must have heard, of course, that Eastern philosophy teaches us

that mankind consists of such "Spirits" imprisoned in human bodies? The

difference between animals and men is this: the former are ensouled by the

principles potentially,the latter actually. Do you understand now the



Q. Yes; but this specialization has been in all ages the stumbling-block of


A. It was. The whole esotericism of the Buddhist philosophy is based on this

mysterious teaching, understood by so few persons, and so totally misrepresented by many of the most learned modern scholars.


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


Q. If the "Spirit," or the divine portion of the soul, is preexistent as a

distinct being from all eternity, as Origen, Synesius, and other semi-Christians

and semi-Platonic philosophers taught, and if it is the same, and nothing more

than the metaphysically-objective soul, how can it be otherwise than eternal?

And what matters it in such a case, whether man leads a pure life or an animal,

if, do what he may, he can never lose his individuality?

A. This doctrine, as you have stated it, is just as pernicious in its

consequences as that of vicarious atonement. Had the latter dogma, in company

with the false idea that we are all immortal, been demonstrated to the world in

its true light, humanity would have been bettered by its propagation.

Let me repeat to you again. Pythagoras, Plato, Timaeus of Locris, and the old

Alexandrian School, derived the Soulof man (or his higher principles and

attributes) from the Universal World Soul, the latter being, according to their

teachings, Aether(Pater-Zeus). Therefore, neither of these principles can be

unalloyedessence of the Pythagorean Monas, or our Atma-Buddhi,because the Anima Mundi is but the effect, the subjective emanation or rather radiation of the

former. Both the humanSpirit (or the individuality), the reincarnating Spiritual

Ego, and Buddhi, the Spiritual soul, are preexistent. But, while the former

exists as a distinct entity, an individualization, the soul exists as

preexisting breath, an unscient [lacking in knowledge] portion of an intelligent

whole. Both were originally formed from the Eternal Ocean of light; but as the

Fire-Philosophers, the medieval Theosophists, expressed it, there is a visible

as well as invisible spirit in fire. They made a difference between theanima

bruta and the anima divina. Empedocles firmly believed all men and animals to

possess two souls; and in Aristotle we find that he calls one the reasoning

soul,nous , and the other, the animal soul, psuche . According to these

philosophers, the reasoning soul comes from within the universal soul, and the

other from without.


Q. Would you call the Soul, i.e., the human thinking Soul, or what you call the


A. Not matter, but substanceassuredly; nor would the word matter, if prefixed

with the adjective, primordial, be a word to avoid. That matter, we say, is

coeternal with Spirit, and is not our visible, tangible, and divisible matter,

but its extreme sublimation. Pure Spirit is but one remove from the no-Spirit,

or the absolute all.Unless you admit that man was evolved out of this primordial

Spirit-matter, and represents a regular progressive scale of principles

frommeta-Spirit down to the grossest matter, how can we ever come to regard the inner man as immortal, and at the same time as a spiritual Entity and a mortal



Q. Then why should you not believe in God as such an Entity?

A. Because that which is infinite and unconditioned can have no form, and cannot be a being, not in any Eastern philosophy worthy of the name, at any rate. An "entity" is immortal, but is so only in its ultimate essence, not in its

individual form. When at the last point of its cycle, it is absorbed into its

primordial nature; and it becomes spirit, when it loses its name of Entity.

Its immortality as a form is limited only to its life cycle or the Maha

-Manvantara; after which it is one and identical with the Universal Spirit, and

no longer a separate Entity. As to the personal Soul-by which we mean the spark

of consciousness that preserves in the Spiritual Ego the idea of the personal

"I" of the last incarnation-this lasts, as a separate distinct recollection,

only throughout the Devachanic period; after which time it is added to the

series of other innumerable incarnations of the Ego, like the remembrance in our

memory of one of a series of days, at the end of a year. Will you bind the

infinitude you claim for your God to finite conditions? That alone which is

indissolubly cemented by Atma (i.e., Buddhi-Manas) is immortal. The Soul of man

(i.e., of the personality)per se is neither immortal, eternal nor divine. Says

The Zohar:


The soul, when sent to this earth, puts on an earthly garment, to preserve

herself here, so she receives above a shining garment, in order to be able to

look without injury into the mirror, whose light proceeds from the Lord of



Moreover, The Zohar teaches that the soul cannot reach the abode of bliss,

unless she has received the "holy kiss," or the reunion of the soul with the

substance from which she emanated-spirit. All souls are dual, and, while the

latter is a feminine principle, the spirit is masculine. While imprisoned in

body, man is a trinity, unless his pollution is such as to have caused his

divorce from the spirit. "Woe to the soul which prefers to her divine husband

(spirit) the earthly wedlock with her terrestrial body," records a text of The

Book of the Keys, a Hermetic work. Woe indeed, for nothing will remain of that

personality to be recorded on the imperishable tablets of the Ego's memory.


Q. How can that which, if not breathed by God into man, yet is on your own

confession of an identical substance with the divine, fail to be immortal?

A. Every atom and speck of matter, not of substance only, is imperishable in its

essence, but not in its individual consciousness. Immortality is but one's

unbroken consciousness; and the personal consciousness can hardly last longer

than the personality itself, can it? And such consciousness, as I already told

you, survives only throughout Devachan, after which it is reabsorbed, first, in

the individual,and then in the universal consciousness. Better enquire of your

theologians how it is that they have so sorely jumbled up the Jewish Scriptures.

Read the Bible, if you would have a good proof that the writers of the

Pentateuch, and Genesisespecially, never regarded nephesh, that which God

breathes into Adam, as the immortal soul. Here are some instances: "And God

created … every nephesh (life) that moveth," meaning animals; and it is said:

"And man became a nephesh" (living soul), which shows that the wordnephesh was indifferently applied to immortal man and to mortal beast. "And surely your

blood of yournepheshim (lives) will I require; at the hand of every beast will I

require it, and at the hand of man," "Escape for nephesh" (escape for thy life,

it is translated). "Let us not kill him," reads the English version. "Let us not

kill his nephesh," is the Hebrew text. "Nepheshfor nephesh," says Leviticus. "He

that killeth any man shall surely be put to death," literally "He that smiteth

the nephesh of a man;" and from verse 18 and following it reads: "And he that

killeth a beast (nephesh) shall make it good … Beast for beast," whereas the

original text has it "nephesh for nephesh." How could man killthat which is

immortal? And this explains also why the Sadducees denied the immortality of the soul, as it also affords another proof that very probably the Mosaic Jews-the

uninitiated at any rate-never believed in the soul's survival at all.



On Eternal Reward and Punishment, and on Nirvana


Q. It is hardly necessary, I suppose, to ask you whether you believe in the

Christian dogmas of Paradise and Hell, or in future rewards and punishments as

taught by the Orthodox churches?

A. As described in your catechisms, we reject them absolutely; least of all

would we accept their eternity. But we believe firmly in what we call the Law of

Retribution, and in the absolute justice and wisdom guiding this Law, or Karma.

Hence we positively refuse to accept the cruel and unphilosophical belief in

eternal reward or eternal punishment.


We say with Horace:

Let rules be fixed that may our rage contain,

And punish faults with a proportioned pain;

But do not flay him who deserves alone

A whipping for the fault that he has done.


This is a rule for all men, and a just one. Have we to believe that God, of whom

you make the embodiment of wisdom, love and mercy, is less entitled to these

attributes than mortal man?


Q. Have you any other reasons for rejecting this dogma?

A. Our chief reason for it lies in the fact of reincarnation. As already stated,

we reject the idea of a new soul created for every newly-born babe. We believe

that every human being is the bearer, or Vehicle, of anEgo coeval with every

other Ego; because all Egos are of the same essence and belong to the primeval

emanation from one universal infinite Ego. Plato calls the latter thelogos (or

the second manifested God); and we, the manifested divine principle, which is

one with the universal mind or soul, not the anthropomorphic, extra-cosmic and

personal God in which so many Theists believe. Pray do not confuse.


Q. But where is the difficulty, once you accept a manifested principle, in

believing that the soul of every new mortal is created by that Principle, as all

the Souls before it have been so created?

A. Because that which is impersonal can hardly create, plan and think, at its

own sweet will and pleasure. Being a universal Law, immutable in its periodical

manifestations, those of radiating and manifesting its own essence at the

beginning of every new cycle of life, it is not supposed to create men, only to

repent a few years later of having created them. If we have to believe in a

divine principle at all, it must be in one which is as absolute harmony, logic,

and justice, as it is absolute love, wisdom, and impartiality; and a God who

would create every soul for the space ofone brief span of life, regardless of

the fact whether it has to animate the body of a wealthy, happy man, or that of

a poor suffering wretch, hapless from birth to death though he has done nothing

to deserve his cruel fate-would be rather a senselessfiend than a God. Why, even

the Jewish philosophers, believers in the Mosaic Bible (esoterically, of

course), have never entertained such an idea; and, moreover, they believed in

reincarnation, as we do.


Q. Can you give me some instances as a proof of this?

A. Most decidedly I can. Philo Judaeus says:


The air is full of them (of souls); those which are nearest the earth,

descending to be tied to mortal bodies, palindromousi authis , return to other

bodies, being desirous to live in them.


In The Zohar, the soul is made to plead her freedom before God:

Lord of the Universe! I am happy in this world, and do not wish to go into

another world, where I shall be a handmaid, and be exposed to all kinds of



The doctrine of fatal necessity, the everlasting immutable law, is asserted in

the answer of the Deity: "Against thy will thou becomest an embryo, and against

thy will thou art born." Light would be incomprehensible without darkness to

make it manifest by contrast; good would be no longer good without evil to show the priceless nature of the boon; and so personal virtue could claim no merit, unless it had passed through the furnace of temptation. Nothing is eternal and unchangeable, save the concealed Deity. Nothing that is finite-whether because it had a beginning, or must have an end-can remain stationary. It must either progress or recede; and a soul which thirsts after a reunion with its spirit,

which alone confers upon it immortality, must purify itself through cyclic

transmigrations onward toward the only land of bliss and eternal rest, called in

The Zohar,"The Palace of Love," ; in the Hindu religion, "Moksha"; among the

Gnostics, "The Pleroma of Eternal Light"; and by the Buddhists, "Nirvana." And all these states are temporary, not eternal.


Q. Yet there is no reincarnation spoken of in all this.

A. A soul which pleads to be allowed to remain where she is, must be

pre existent,and not have been created for the occasion. In The Zohar,however,

there is a still better proof. Speaking of the reincarnatingEgos (the rational

souls), those whose last personality has to fade out entirely, it is said:

All souls which have alienated themselves in heaven from the Holy One-blessed be His Name-have thrown themselves into an abyss at their very existence, and have anticipated the time when they are to descend once more on earth.

"The Holy One" means here, esoterically, the Atma, or Atma-Buddhi.


Q. Moreover, it is very strange to find Nirvana spoken of as something

synonymous with the Kingdom of Heaven, or the Paradise, since according to every Orientalist of note Nirvana is a synonym of annihilation!

A. Taken literally, with regard to the personality and differentiated matter,

not otherwise. These ideas on reincarnation and the trinity of man were held by

many of the early Christian Fathers. It is the jumble made by the translators of

the New Testament and ancient philosophical treatises between soul and spirit,

that has occasioned the many misunderstandings. It is also one of the many

reasons why Buddha, Plotinus, and so many other Initiates are now accused of

having longed for the total extinction of their souls-"absorption unto the

Deity," or "reunion with the universal soul," meaning, according to modern

ideas, annihilation. The personal soul must, of course, be disintegrated into

its particles, before it is able to link its purer essence forever with the

immortal spirit. But the translators of both the Acts and the Epistles,who laid

the foundation of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the modern commentators on the

Buddhist Sutra of the Foundation of the Kingdom of Righteousness, have muddled the sense of the great apostle of Christianity as of the great reformer of

India. The former have smothered the word psuchikos , so that no reader imagines it to have any relation with soul; and with this confusion of soul and spirit together, Biblereaders get only a perverted sense of anything on the subject.


On the other hand, the interpreters of Buddha have failed to understand the meaning and object of the Buddhist four degrees of Dhyana. Ask the Pythagoreans, "Can that spirit, which gives life and motion and partakes of the nature of light, be reduced to nonentity?" "Can even that sensitive spirit in brutes which exercises memory, one of the rational faculties, die and become nothing?" observe the Occultists. In Buddhist philosophyannihilation means only a dispersion of matter, in whatever form or semblance of form it may be, for everything that has form is temporary, and is, therefore, really an illusion. For in eternity the longest periods of time are as a wink of the eye. So with form. Before we have time to realize that we have seen it, it is gone like an instantaneous flash of lightning, and passed forever. When the Spiritual entity breaks loose forever from every particle of matter, substance, or form, and rebecomes a Spiritual breath: then only does it enter upon the eternal and unchangeable Nirvana, lasting as long as the cycle of life has lasted-an eternity, truly. And then that Breath, existing in Spirit, is nothing because it is all;as a form, a semblance, a shape, it is completely annihilated; as absolute Spirit it still

is, for it has become Be-nessitself. The very word used, "absorbed in the

universal essence," when spoken of the "Soul" as Spirit, means "union with." It

can never mean annihilation, as that would mean eternal separation.


Q. Do you not lay yourself open to the accusation of preaching annihilation by

the language you yourself use? You have just spoken of the Soul of man returning to its primordial elements.

A. But you forget that I have given you the differences between the various

meanings of the word Soul, and shown the loose way in which the term Spirit has been hitherto translated. We speak of ananimal, a human, and a spiritual, Soul, and distinguish between them. Plato, for instance, calls "rational Soul" that

which we call Buddhi, adding to it the adjective of "spiritual," however; but

that which we call the reincarnating Ego, Manas, he calls Spirit, Nous,etc.,

whereas we apply the term Spirit, when standing alone and without any

qualification, to Atma alone. Pythagoras repeats our archaic doctrine when

stating that the Ego (Nous) is eternal with Deity; that the soul only passed

through various stages to arrive at divine excellence; while thumos returned to

the earth, and even the phren, the lower Manas,was eliminated. Again, Plato

defines Soul (Buddhi) as "the motion that is able to move itself." "Soul," he

adds (Laws X.), "is the most ancient of all things, and the commencement of

motion," thus calling Atma-Buddhi "Soul," and Manas "Spirit," which we do not.


Soul was generated prior to body, and body is posterior and secondary, as being according to nature, ruled over by the ruling soul. The soul which administers all things that are moved in every way, administers likewise the heavens.Soul then leads everything in heaven, and on earth, and in the sea, by its

movements-the names of which are, to will, to consider to take care of, to

consult. to form opinions true and false, to be in a state of joy, sorrow,

confidence, fear, hate, love, together with all such primary movements as are

allied to these … Being a goddess herself, she ever takes as an ally Nous, a

god, and disciplines all things correctly and happily; but when with Annoia-not

nous-it works out everything the contrary.


In this language, as in the Buddhist texts, the negative is treated as essential

existence. Annihilation comes under a similar exegesis. The positive state is

essential being, but no manifestation as such. When the spirit, in Buddhist

parlance, enters Nirvana, it loses objective existence, but retains subjective

being. To objective minds this is becoming absolute "nothing"; to subjective,

No-thing, nothing to be displayed to sense. Thus, their Nirvana means the

certitude of individual immortality in Spirit, not in Soul, which, though "the

most ancient of all things," is still-along with all the other Gods-a finite

emanation, in forms and individuality, if not in substance.


Q. I do not quite seize the idea yet, and would be thankful to have you explain

this to me by some illustrations.

A. No doubt it is very difficult to understand, especially to one brought up in

the regular orthodox ideas of the Christian Church. Moreover, I must tell you

one. thing; and this is that unless you have studied thoroughly well the

separate functions assigned to all the human principles and the state of all

these after death, you will hardly realize our Eastern philosophy.



On the Various Principles in Man


Q. I have heard a good deal about this constitution of the "inner man" as you

call it, but could never make "head or tail on't" as Gabalis expresses it.

A. Of course, it is most difficult, and, as you say, "puzzling" to understand

correctly and distinguish between the various aspects,called by us the

principles of the real Ego. It is the more so as there exists a notable

difference in the numbering of those principles by various Eastern schools,

though at the bottom there is the same identical substratum of teaching.


Q. Do you mean the Vedantins, as an instance? Don't they divide your seven

principles into five only?

A.They do; but though I would not presume to dispute the point with a learned

Vedantin, I may yet state as my private opinion that they have an obvious reason

for it. With them it is only that compound spiritual aggregate which consists of

various mental aspects that is called Man at all, the physical body being in

their view something beneath contempt, and merely an illusion. Nor is the

Vedanta the only philosophy to reckon in this manner. Lao-tzu, in his Tao Te

Ching, mentions only five principles, because he, like the Vedantins, omits to

include two principles, namely, the spirit ( Atma) and the physical body, the

latter of which, moreover, he calls "the cadaver." Then there is the Taraka

Raja-Yoga School. Its teaching recognizes only three principles in fact; but

then, in reality, their Sthulopadhi, or the physical body, in its waking

conscious state, their Sukshmopadhi, the same body in Svapna,or the dreaming

state, and their Karanopadhi or "causal body," or that which passes from one

incarnation to another, are all dual in their aspects, and thus make six. Add to

this Atma, the impersonal divine principle or the immortal element in Man,

undistinguished from the Universal Spirit, and you have the same seven again.

They are welcome to hold to their division; we hold to ours.

[See 'Secret Doctrine', part 1, p. 182 for a clearer exposition]


Q. Then it seems almost the same as the division made by the mystic Christians:

body, soul, and spirit?

A. Just the same. We could easily make of the body the vehicle of the "vital

Double"; of the latter the vehicle of Life or Prana; of Kamarupa,or (animal)

soul, the vehicle of the higher and the lowermind, and make of this six

principles, crowning the whole with the one immortal spirit. In Occultism every

qualitative change in the state of our consciousness gives to man a new aspect,

and if it prevails and becomes part of the living and acting Ego, it must be

(and is) given a special name, to distinguish the man in that particular state

from the man he is when he places himself in another state.


Q. It is just that which it is so difficult to understand.

A. It seems to me very easy, on the contrary, once that you have seized the main

idea,i.e., that man acts on this or another plane of consciousness, in strict

accordance with his mental and spiritual condition. But such is the materialism

of the age that the more we explain the less people seem capable of

understanding what we say. Divide the terrestrial being called man into three

chief aspects, if you like, and unless you make of him a pure animal you cannot

do less. Take his objective body; the thinking principle in him-which is only a

little higher than the instinctualelement in the animal-or the vital conscious

soul; and that which places him so immeasurably beyond and higher than the

animal-i.e.,his reasoning soul or "spirit." Well, if we take these three groups

or representative entities, and subdivide them, according to the occult

teaching, what do we get?


First of all, Spirit (in the sense of the Absolute, and therefore, indivisible

All), or Atma. As this can neither be located nor limited in philosophy, being

simply that which is in Eternity, and which cannot be absent from even the

tiniest geometrical or mathematical point of the universe of matter or

substance, it ought not to be called, in truth, a "human" principle at all.

Rather, and at best, it is in Metaphysics, that point in space which the human

Monad and its vehicle man occupy for the period of every life. Now that point is

as imaginary as man himself, and in reality is an illusion, a Maya ; but then

for ourselves, as for other personal Egos, we are a reality during that fit of

illusion called life, and we have to take ourselves into account, in our own

fancy at any rate, if no one else does. To make it more conceivable to the human

intellect, when first attempting the study of Occultism, and to solve the a-b-c

of the mystery of man, Occultism calls this seventh principle the synthesis of

the sixth, and gives it for vehicle the SpiritualSoul, Buddhi. Now the latter

conceals a mystery, which is never given to any one, with the exception of

irrevocably pledgedChelas, or those, at any rate, who can be safely trusted. Of

course, there would be less confusion, could it only be told; but, as this is

directly concerned with the power of projecting one's double consciously and at

will, and as this gift, like the "ring of Gyges," would prove very fatal to man

at large and to the possessor of that faculty in particular, it is carefully

guarded. But let us proceed with the principles. This divine soul, or Buddhi,

then, is the vehicle of the Spirit. In conjunction, these two are one,

impersonal and without any attributes (on this plane, of course), and make two

spiritual principles. If we pass onto the Human Soul, Manas or mens, everyone

will agree that the intelligence of man is dual to say the least: e.g., the

high-minded man can hardly become low-minded; the very intellectual and

spiritual-minded man is separated by an abyss from the obtuse, dull, and

material, if not animal-minded man.


Q. But why should not man be represented by two principles or two aspects,


A. Every man has these two principles in him, one more active than the other,

and in rare cases, one of these is entirely stunted in its growth, so to say, or

paralysed by the strength and predominance of the otheraspect, in whatever

direction. These, then, are what we call the two principles or aspects of Manas,

the higher and the lower; the former, the higher Manas, or the thinking,

conscious Ego gravitating toward the spiritual Soul (Buddhi); and the latter, or

its instinctual principle, attracted to Kama,the seat of animal desires and

passions in man. Thus, we havefour principles justified; the last three being

(1) the "Double," which we have agreed to call Protean, or Plastic Soul; the

vehicle of (2) the life principle; and (3) the physical body. Of course no

physiologist or biologist will accept these principles, nor can he make head or

tail of them. And this is why, perhaps, none of them understand to this day

either the functions of the spleen, the physical vehicle of the Protean Double,

or those of a certain organ on the right side of man, the seat of the

above-mentioned desires, nor yet does he know anything of the pineal gland,

which he describes as a horny gland with a little sand in it, which gland is in

truth the very seat of the highest and divinest consciousness in man, his

omniscient, spiritual and all-embracing mind. And this shows to you still more

plainly that we have neither invented these seven principles, nor are they new

in the world of philosophy, as we can easily prove.


Q. But what is it that reincarnates, in your belief?

A. The Spiritual thinking Ego, the permanent principle in man, or that which is

the seat of Manas. It is not Atma, or even Atma-Buddhi, regarded as the dual

Monad, which is the individual, or divineman, but Manas; for Atma is the

Universal All, and becomes the Higher-Self of man only in conjunction with

Buddhi, its vehicle, which links it to the individuality (or divine man). For it

is the Buddhi-Manas which is called the Causal body,(the United fifth and sixth

Principles) and which is Consciousness,that connects it with every personality

it inhabits on earth. Therefore, Soul being a generic term, there are in men

three aspectsof Soul-the terrestrial, or animal; the Human Soul; and the

Spiritual Soul; these, strictly speaking, are one Soul in its three aspects. Now

of the first aspect, nothing remains after death; of the second (nous or Manas)

only its divine essence if left unsoiledsurvives, while the third in addition to

being immortal becomesconsciously divine, by the assimilation of the higher

Manas. But to make it clear, we have to say a few words first of all about



Q. You will do well, as it is against this doctrine that your enemies fight the

most ferociously.

A. You mean the Spiritualists? I know; and many are the absurd objections

laboriously spun by them over the pages of Light. So obtuse and malicious are

some of them, that they will stop at nothing. One of them found recently a

contradiction, which he gravely discusses in a letter to that journal, in two

statements picked out of Mr. Sinnett's lectures. He discovers that grave

contradiction in these two sentences: "Premature returns to earth-life in the

cases when they occur may be due to Karmic complication … "; and "there is no accident in the supreme act of divine justice guiding evolution." So profound a thinker would surely see a contradiction of the law of gravitation if a man

stretched out his hand to stop a falling stone from crushing the head of a




On Reincarnation or Rebirth


What is Memory According to Theosophical Teaching?


Q. The most difficult thing for you to do, will be to explain and give

reasonable grounds for such a belief. No Theosophist has ever yet succeeded in

bringing forward a single valid proof to shake my skepticism. First of all, you

have against this theory of reincarnation, the fact that no single man has yet

been found to remember that he has lived, least of all who he was, during his

previous life.

A. Your argument, I see, tends to the same old objection; the loss of memory in

each of us of our previous incarnation. You think it invalidates our doctrine?

My answer is that it does not, and that at any rate such an objection cannot be



Q. I would like to hear your arguments.

A. They are short and few. Yet when you take into consideration (a) the utter

inability of the best modern psychologists to explain to the world the nature of

mind; and (b) their complete ignorance of its potentialities, and higher states,

you have to admit that this objection is based on an a priori conclusion drawn

from prima facieand circumstantial evidence more than anything else. Now what is "memory" in your conception, pray?


Q. That which is generally accepted: the faculty in our mind of remembering and

of retaining the knowledge of previous thoughts, deeds, and events.

A. Please add to it that there is a great difference between the three accepted

forms of memory. Besides memory in general you have Remembrance,

Recollection,and Reminiscence, have you not? Have you ever thought over the

difference? Memory, remember, is a generic name.


Q. Yet, all these are only synonyms.

A. Indeed, they are not-not in philosophy, at all events. Memory is simply an

innate power in thinking beings, and even in animals, of reproducing past

impressions by an association of ideas principally suggested by objective things

or by some action on our external sensory organs. Memory is a faculty depending entirely on the more or less healthy and normal functioning of our physical brain; and remembranceand recollection are the attributes and handmaidens of that memory. But reminiscence is an entirely different thing.


Reminiscence is defined by the modern psychologist as something intermediate between remembrance and recollection,or "a conscious process of recalling past occurrences, but without that full and varied reference to particular things which

characterizes recollection." Locke, speaking of recollection and remembrance,



When an idea again recurs without the operation of the like object on the

external sensory, it is remembrance;if it be sought after by the mind, and with

pain and endeavor found and brought again into view, it is recollection.

But even Locke leaves reminiscence without any clear definition, because it is

no faculty or attribute of our physical memory, but an intuitional perception

apart from and outside our physical brain; a perception which, covering as it

does (being called into action by the ever-present knowledge of our spiritual

Ego) all those visions in man which are regarded as abnormal-from the pictures

suggested by genius to theravings of fever and even madness-are classed by

science as having no existence outside of our fancy. Occultism and Theosophy,

however, regard reminiscence in an entirely different light. For us, while

memory is physical and evanescent and depends on the physiological conditions of the brain-a fundamental proposition with all teachers of mnemonics, who have the researches of modern scientific psychologists to back them-we call

reminiscencethe memory of the soul. And it is this memory which gives the

assurance to almost every human being, whether he understands it or not, of his

having lived before and having to live again. Indeed, as Wordsworth has it:


Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting,

The soul that rises with us, our life's star,

Hath elsewhere had its setting,

And cometh from afar.


Q. If it is on this kind of memory-poetry and abnormal fancies, on your own

confession-that you base your doctrine, then you will convince very few, I am


A. I did not "confess" it was a fancy. I simply said that physiologists and

scientists in general regard such reminiscences as hallucinations and fancy, to

which learned conclusion they are welcome. We do not deny that such visions of the past and glimpses far back into the corridors of time, are not abnormal, as

contrasted with our normal daily life experience and physical memory. But we do maintain with Professor W. Knight, that: The absence of memory of any action done in a previous state cannot be a conclusive argument against our having lived through it.


And every fair-minded opponent must agree with what is said in Butler's Lectures on Platonic Philosophy:


That the feeling of extravagance with which it (preexistence) affects us has its

secret source in materialistic or semi-materialistic prejudices.

Besides which we maintain that memory, as Olympiodorus called it, is simply

fantasy, and the most unreliable thing in us.


Says Olympiodorus, in Platonis Phaed.:


The fantasy is an impediment to our intellectual conceptions; and hence, when we are agitated by the inspiring influence of the Divinity, if the fantasy

intervenes, the enthusiastic energy ceases: for enthusiasm and the ecstasy are

contrary to each other. Should it be asked whether the soul is able to energize

without the fantasy, we reply, that its perception of universals proves that it

is able. It has perceptions, therefore, independent of the fantasy; at the same

time, however, the fantasy attends in its energies, just as a storm pursues him

who sails on the sea.


Ammonius Saccas asserted that the only faculty in man directly opposed to

prognostication, or looking into futurity, is memory. Furthermore, remember that

memory is one thing and mind or thought is another; one is a recording machine,

a register which very easily gets out of order; the other (thoughts) are eternal

and imperishable. Would you refuse to believe in the existence of certain things

or men only because your physical eyes have not seen them? Would not the

collective testimony of past generations who have seen him be a sufficient

guarantee that Julius Caesar once lived? Why should not the same testimony of

the psychic senses of the masses be taken into consideration ?


Q. But don't you think that these are too fine distinctions to be accepted by

the majority of mortals?

A. Say rather by the majority of materialists. And to them we say, behold: even

in the short span of ordinary existence, memory is too weak to register all the

events of a lifetime. How frequently do even most important events lie dormant

in our memory until awakened by some association of ideas, or aroused to

function and activity by some other link. This is especially the case with

people of advanced age, who are always found suffering from feebleness of

recollection. When, therefore, we remember that which we know about the physical and the spiritual principles in man, it is not the fact that our memory has

failed to record our precedent life and lives that ought to surprise us, but the

contrary, were it to happen.



Why Do We Not Remember Our Past Lives?


Q. You have given me a bird's eye view of the seven principles; now how do they account for our complete loss of any recollection of having lived before?

A. Very easily. Since those principles which we call physical, and none of which

is denied by science, though it calls them by other names-namely, the body,

life, passional and animal instincts, and the astral eidolon of every man

(whether perceived in thought or our mind's eye, or objectively and separate

from the physical body), which principles we call Sthula-sharira, Prana,

Kamarupa, andLinga-sharira (see above).


[Those principles] are disintegrated after death with their constituent

elements, memory along with its brain, this vanished memory of a vanished

personality, can neither remember nor record anything in the subsequent

reincarnation of the Ego. Reincarnation means that this Ego will be furnished

with a new body, a new brain, and a new memory. Therefore it would be as absurd to expect this memory to remember that which it has never recorded as it would be idle to examine under a microscope a shirt never worn by a murderer, and seek on it for the stains of blood which are to be found only on the clothes he wore.


It is not the clean shirt that we have to question, but the clothes worn during

the perpetration of the crime; and if these are burnt and destroyed, how can you

get at them?


Q. Aye! How can you get at the certainty that the crime was ever committed at

all, or that the "man in the clean shirt" ever lived before?

A. Not by physical processes, most assuredly; nor by relying on the testimony of that which exists no longer. But there is such a thing as circumstantial

evidence, since our wise laws accept it, more, perhaps, even than they should.

To get convinced of the fact of reincarnation and past lives, one must put

oneself in rapport with one's real permanent Ego, not one's evanescent memory.


Q. But how can people believe in that which they do not know, nor have ever

seen, far less put themselves in rapport with it?

A. If people, and the most learned, will believe in the Gravity, Ether, Force,

and what not of Science, abstractions "and working hypotheses," which they have neither seen, touched, smelt, heard, nor tasted-why should not other people

believe, on the same principle, in one's permanent Ego, a far more logical and

important "working hypothesis" than any other?


Q. What is, finally, this mysterious eternal principle? Can you explain its

nature so as to make it comprehensible to all?

A. The Ego which reincarnates, the individual and immortal-not personal-"I"; the

vehicle, in short, of the Atma-Buddhic Monad, that which is rewarded in Devachan and punished on earth, and that, finally, to which the reflection only of the Skandhas, or attributes, of every incarnation attaches itself.

There are five Skandhas or attributes in the Buddhist teachings: Rupa (form or

body), material qualities;Vedana , sensation; Sanna , abstract ideas;

Samkhara,tendencies of mind; Vinnana, mental powers. Of these we are formed, by them we are conscious of existence; and through them communicate with the world about us.


Q. What do you mean by Skandhas?

A. Just what I said: "attributes," among which is memory, all of which perish

like a flower, leaving behind them only a feeble perfume. Here is another

paragraph from H.S. Olcott's Buddhist Catechism which bears directly upon the

subject. It deals with the question as follows:


The aged man remembers the incidents of his youth, despite his being physically

and mentally changed. Why, then, is not the recollection of past lives brought

over by us from our last birth into the present birth? Because memory is

included within the Skandhas, and the Skandhas having changed with the new

existence, a memory, the record of that particular existence, develops. Yet the

record or reflection of all the past lives must survive, for when Prince Siddh

rtha became Buddha, the full sequence of His previous births were seen by Him …

and any one who attains to the state of Jñana can thus retrospectively trace the

line of his lives.


This proves to you that while the undying qualities of the personality-such as

love, goodness, charity, etc.-attach themselves to the immortal Ego,

photographing on it, so to speak, a permanent image of the divine aspect of the

man who was, his material Skandhas (those which generate the most marked Karmic effects) are as evanescent as a flash of lightning, and cannot impress the new brain of the new personality; yet their failing to do so impairs in no way the

identity of the reincarnating Ego.


Q. Do you mean to infer that which survives is only the Soul-memory, as you call it, that Soul or Ego being one and the same, while nothing of the personality


A. Not quite; something of each personality, unless the latter was an

absolutematerialist with not even a chink in his nature for a spiritual ray to

pass through, must survive, as it leaves its eternal impress on the incarnating

permanent Self or Spiritual Ego. (Or the Spiritual,in contradistinction to the

personal Self. The student must not confuse this Spiritual Ego with the "higher

self" which is Atma, the God within us, and inseparable from the Universal



The personality with its Skandhas is ever changing with every new birth. It is,

as said before, only the part played by the actor (the true Ego) for one night.

This is why we preserve no memory on the physical plane of our past lives,

though thereal "Ego" has lived them over and knows them all.


Q. Then how does it happen that the real or Spiritual man does not impress his

new personal "I" with this knowledge?

A. How is it that the servant-girls in a poor farmhouse could speak Hebrew and

play the violin in their trance or somnambular state, and knew neither when in

their normal condition? Because, as every genuine psychologist of the old, not

your modern, school, will tell you, the Spiritual Ego can act only when the

personal Ego is paralyzed. The Spiritual "I" in man is omniscient and has every

knowledge innate in it; while the personal self is the creature of its

environment and the slave of the physical memory. Could the former manifest

itself uninterruptedly, and without impediment, there would be no longer men on

earth, but we should all be gods.


Q. Still there ought to be exceptions, and some ought to remember.

A. And so there are. But who believes in their report? Such sensitives are

generally regarded as hallucinated hysteriacs, as crack-brained enthusiasts, or

humbugs, by modern materialism. Let them read, however, works on this subject, preeminently Reincarnation, a Study of Forgotten Truthby E.D. Walker, F.T.S., and see in it the mass of proofs which the able author brings to bear on this vexed question. One speaks to people of soul, and some ask "What is Soul?" "Have you ever proved its existence?" Of course it is useless to argue with those who are materialists. But even to them I would put the question:


Can you remember what you were or did when a baby? Have you preserved the

smallest recollection of your life, thoughts, or deeds, or that you lived at all

during the first eighteen months or two years of your existence? Then why not

deny that you have ever lived as a babe, on the same principle?

When to all this we add that the reincarnating Ego, or individuality, retains

during the Devachanic period merely the essence of the experience of its past

earth-life or personality, the whole physical experience involving into a state

of in potentia, or being, so to speak, translated into spiritual formulae; when

we remember further that the term between two rebirths is said to extend from

ten to fifteen centuries, during which time the physical consciousness is

totally and absolutely inactive, having no organs to act through, and therefore

no existence, the reason for the absence of all remembrance in the purely

physical memory is apparent.


Q. You just said that the Spiritual Ego was omniscient. Where, then, is that

vaunted omniscience during his Devachanic life, as you call it?

A. During that time it is latent and potential, because, first of all, the

Spiritual Ego (the compound of Buddhi-Manas) is not the Higher Self, which being one with the Universal Soul or Mind is alone omniscient; and, secondly, because Devachan is the idealized continuation of the terrestrial life just left behind, a period of retributive adjustment, and a reward for unmerited wrongs and sufferings undergone in that special life. It is omniscient only potentiallyin

Devachan, and de facto exclusively in Nirvana, when the Ego is merged in the

Universal Mind-Soul. Yet it rebecomesquasi omniscient during those hours on

earth when certain abnormal conditions and physiological changes in the body

make the Ego free from the trammels of matter. Thus the examples cited above of somnambulists, a poor servant speaking Hebrew, and another playing the violin, give you an illustration of the case in point. This does not mean that the

explanations of these two facts offered us by medical science have no truth in

them, for one girl had, years before, heard her master, a clergyman, read Hebrew

works aloud, and the other had heard an artist playing a violin at their farm.

But neither could have done so as perfectly as they did had they not been

ensouled by that which, owing to the sameness of its nature with the Universal

Mind, is omniscient. Here the higher principle acted on the Skandhas and moved

them; in the other, the personality being paralyzed, the individuality

manifested itself. Pray do not confuse the two.



On Individuality and Personality


Q. But what is the difference between the two?

A. Even Col. Olcott, forced to it by the logic of Esoteric philosophy, found

himself obliged to correct the mistakes of previous Orientalists who made no

such distinction, and gives the reader his reasons for it. Thus he says:

The successive appearances upon the earth, or "descents into generation," of the tanhaically coherent parts (Skandhas) of a certain being, are a succession of

personalities. In each birth the personality differs from that of a previous or

next succeeding birth. Karma, the deus ex machina, masks (or shall we say

reflects?) itself now in the personality of a sage, again as an artisan, and so

on throughout the string of births. But though personalities ever shift, the one

line of life along which they are strung, like beads, runs unbroken; it is ever

that particular line, never any other. It is therefore individual, an individual

vital undulation, which began in Nirvana, or the subjective side of nature, as

the light or heat undulation through aether, began at its dynamic source; is

careering through the objective side of nature under the impulse of Karma and

the creative direction of Tanha (the unsatisfied desire for existence); and

leads through many cyclic changes back to Nirvana. Mr. Rhys-Davids calls that

which passes from personality to personality along the individual chain

character, or doing.Since character is not a mere metaphysical abstraction, but

the sum of one's mental qualities and moral propensities, would it not help to

dispel what Mr. Rhys-Davids calls "the desperate expedient of a mystery" if we

regarded the life-undulation as individuality, and each of its series of natal

manifestations as a separate personality? The perfect individual, Buddhist

speaking, is a Buddha, I should say; for Buddha is but the rare flower of

humanity, without the least supernatural admixture. And as countless generations

("four asankheyyas and a hundred thousand cycles,") are required to develop a

man into a Buddha, and the iron will to become one runs throughout all the

successive births, what shall we call that which thus wills and perseveres?

Character? One's individuality: an individuality but partly manifested in any

one birth, but built up of fragments from all the births?


Q. I confess that I am still in the dark. Indeed it is just that difference,

then, that you cannot impress too much on our minds.

A. I try to; but alas, it is harder with some than to make them feel a reverence

for childish impossibilities, only because they are orthodox,and because

orthodoxy is respectable. To understand the idea well, you have to first study

the dual sets of principles: the spiritual,or those which belong to the

imperishable Ego; and the material,or those principles which make up the

ever-changing bodies or the series of personalities of that Ego. Let us fix

permanent names to these, and say that:


1. Atma, the "Higher Self," is neither your Spirit nor mine, but like sunlight

shines on all. It is the universally diffused "divine principle," and is

inseparable from its one and absolute Meta-Spirit, as the sunbeam is inseparable

from sunlight.


2. Buddhi (the spiritual soul) is only its vehicle. Neither each separately, nor

the two collectively, are of any more use to the body of man, than sunlight and

its beams are for a mass of granite buried in the earth, unless the divine Duad

is assimilated by, and reflected in, some consciousness.Neither Atma nor Buddhi are ever reached by Karma, because the former is the highest aspect of Karma, its working agentof itself in one aspect, and the other is unconscious on this plane. This consciousness or mind is,


3. Manas, the derivation or product in a reflected form of Ahankara, "the

conception of I," or Ego-ship. It is, therefore, when inseparably united to the

first two, called the Spiritual Ego, and Taijasi (the radiant). This is the real

Individuality, or the divine man. It is this Ego which-having originally

incarnated in the senseless human form animated by, but unconscious (since it

had no consciousness) of, the presence in itself of the dual monad-made of that

human-like form a real man.Mahat or the "Universal Mind" is the source of Manas. The latter is Mahat, i.e., mind, in man. Manas is also called Kshetrajña, "embodied Spirit," because it is, according to our philosophy, the Manasaputras,or "Sons of the Universal Mind," who created,or rather produced, the thinking man, "manu," by incarnating in the third Race mankind in our Round. It is Manas, therefore, which is the real incarnating and permanent Spiritual Ego, the individuality, and our various and numberless personalities only its external masks.


It is that Ego, that "Causal Body," which overshadows every personality Karma

forces it to incarnate into; and this Ego which is held responsible for all the

sins committed through, and in, every new body or personality-the evanescent

masks which hide the true Individual through the long series of rebirths.


Q. But is this just? Why should this Ego receive punishment as the result of

deeds which it has forgotten?

A. It has not forgotten them; it knows and remembers its misdeeds as well as you remember what you have done yesterday. Is it because the memory of that bundle of physical compounds called "body" does not recollect what its predecessor (the personality that was) did, that you imagine that the real Ego has forgotten them? As well say it is unjust that the new boots on the feet of a boy, who is flogged for stealing apples, should be punished for that which they know nothing of.


Q. But are there no modes of communication between the Spiritual and human

consciousness or memory?

A. Of course there are; but they have never been recognized by your scientific

modern psychologists. To what do you attribute intuition, the "voice of the

conscience," premonitions, vague undefined reminiscences, etc., etc., if not to

such communications? Would that the majority of educated men, at least, had the fine spiritual perceptions of Coleridge, who shows how intuitional he is in some of his comments. Hear what he says with respect to the probability that "all thoughts are in themselves imperishable."


If the intelligent faculty (sudden 'revivals' of memory) should be rendered more

comprehensive, it would require only a different and appropriate organization,

the body celestial instead of the body terrestrial, to bring before every human

soul the collective experience of its whole past existence(existences, rather).

And this body celestial is our Manasic Ego.



On the Reward and Punishment of the Ego


Q. I have heard you say that the Ego, whatever the life of the person he

incarnated in may have been on Earth, is never visited with


A. Never, save in very exceptional and rare cases of which we will not speak

here, as the nature of the "punishment" in no way approaches any of your

theological conceptions of damnation.


Q. But if it is punished in this life for the misdeeds committed in a previous

one, then it is this Ego that ought to be rewarded also, whether here, or when


A. And so it is. If we do not admit of any punishment outside of this earth, it

is because the only state the Spiritual Self knows of, hereafter, is that of

unalloyed bliss.


Q. What do you mean?

A. Simply this: crimes and sins committed on a plane of objectivity and in a

world of matter, cannot receive punishment in a world of pure subjectivity.We

believe in no hell or paradise as localities; in no objective hellfires and

worms that never die, nor in any Jerusalem with streets paved with sapphires and

diamonds. What we believe in is a postmortem state or mental condition, such as we are in during a vivid dream. We believe in an immutable law of absolute Love, Justice, and Mercy. And believing in it, we say: Whatever the sin and dire

results of the original Karmic transgression of the now incarnated Egos no man

(or the outer material and periodical form of the Spiritual Entity) can be held,

with any degree of justice, responsible for the consequences of his birth. He

does not ask to be born, nor can he choose the parents that will give him life.

In every respect he is a victim to his environment, the child of circumstances

over which he has no control; and if each of his transgressions were impartially

investigated, there would be found nine out of every ten cases when he was the

one sinned against, rather than the sinner.


It is on this transgression that the cruel and illogical dogma of the Fallen

Angels has been built. It is explained in Vol. II of The Secret Doctrine. All

our "Egos" are thinking and rational entities (Manasaputas) who had lived,

whether under human or other forms, in the precedent life cycle (Manvantara),

and whose Karma it was to incarnate in the man of this one. It was taught in the

Mysteries that, having delayed to comply with this law (or having "refused to

create" as Hinduism says of the Kumaras and Christian legend of the Archangel

Michael), i.e., having failed to incarnate in due time, the bodies predestined

for them got defiled, hence the original sin of the senseless forms and the

punishment of the Egos. That which is meant by the rebellious angels being

hurled down into Hell is simply explained by these pure Spirits or Egos being

imprisoned in bodies of unclean matter, flesh.


Life is at best a heartless play, a stormy sea to cross, and a heavy burden

often too difficult to bear. The greatest philosophers have tried in vain to

fathom and find out its raison d'être, and have all failed except those who had

the key to it, namely, the Eastern sages. Life is, as Shakespeare describes it:


… but a walking shadow-a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.


Nothing in its separate parts, yet of the greatest importance in its

collectivity or series of lives. At any rate, almost every individual life is,

in its full development, a sorrow. And are we to believe that poor, helpless

man, after being tossed about like a piece of rotten timber on the angry billows

of life, is, if he proves too weak to resist them, to be punished by

never-ending damnation, or even a temporary punishment? Never! Whether a great or an average sinner, good or bad, guilty or innocent, once delivered of the

burden of physical life, the tired and worn-out Manu("thinking Ego") has won the right to a period of absolute rest and bliss. The same unerringly wise and just

rather than merciful Law, which inflicts upon the incarnated Ego the Karmic

punishment for every sin committed during the preceding life on Earth, provided

for the now disembodied Entity a long lease of mental rest, i.e., the entire

oblivion of every sad event, aye, to the smallest painful thought, that took

place in its last life as a personality, leaving in the soul-memory but the

reminiscence of that which was bliss, or led to happiness. Plotinus, who said

that our body was the true river of Lethe, for "souls plunged into it forget

all," meant more than he said. For, as our terrestrial body is like Lethe, so is

our celestial bodyin Devachan, and much more.


Q. Then am I to understand that the murderer, the transgressor of law divine and

human in every shape, is allowed to go unpunished?

A. Who ever said that? Our philosophy has a doctrine of punishment as stern as

that of the most rigid Calvinist, only far more philosophical and consistent

with absolute justice. No deed, not even a sinful thought, will go unpunished;

the latter more severely even than the former, as a thought is far more

potential in creating evil results than even a deed.

Verily I say unto you, that whosoever looketh at a woman to lust after her, hath

committed adultery with her already in his heart.

We believe in an unerring law of Retribution, called Karma, which asserts itself

in a natural concatenation of causes and their unavoidable results.


Q. And how, or where, does it act?

A. Every laborer is worthy of his hire, saith Wisdom in the Gospel; every

action, good or bad, is a prolific parent, saith the Wisdom of the Ages. Put the

two together, and you will find the "why." After allowing the Soul, escaped from

the pangs of personal life, a sufficient, aye, a hundredfold compensation,

Karma, with its army of Skandhas, waits at the threshold of Devachan, whence the Ego reemerges to assume a new incarnation. It is at this moment that the future destiny of the now-rested Ego trembles in the scales of just Retribution, as it now falls once again under the sway of active Karmic law. It is in this rebirth which is ready for it, a rebirth selected and prepared by this mysterious,

inexorable, but in the equity and wisdom of its decrees infallible law, that the

sins of the previous life of the Ego are punished. Only it is into no imaginary

Hell, with theatrical flames and ridiculous tailed and horned devils, that the

Ego is cast, but verily onto this earth, the plane and region of his sins, where

he will have to atone for every bad thought and deed. As he has sown, so will he

reap. Reincarnation will gather around him all those other Egos who have

suffered, whether directly or indirectly, at the hands, or even through the

unconscious instrumentality, of the past personality. They will be thrown by

Nemesis in the way of the new man, concealing the old, the eternal Ego, and …


Q. But where is the equity you speak of, since these new "personalities" are not

aware of having sinned or been sinned against?

A. Has the coat torn to shreds from the back of the man who stole it, by another

man who was robbed of it and recognizes his property, to be regarded as fairly

dealt with? The new "personality" is no better than a fresh suit of clothes with

its specific characteristics, color, form, and qualities; but the real man who

wears it is the same culprit as of old. It is the individualitywho suffers

through his "personality." And it is this, and this alone, that can account for

the terrible, still onlyapparent, injustice in the distribution of lots in life

to man. When your modern philosophers will have succeeded in showing to us a

good reason, why so many apparently innocent and good men are born only to

suffer during a whole lifetime; why so many are born poor unto starvation in the

slums of great cities, abandoned by fate and men; why, while these are born in

the gutter, others open their eyes to light in palaces; while a noble birth and

fortune seem often given to the worst of men and only rarely to the worthy;

while there are beggars whose inner selves are peers to the highest and noblest

of men; when this, and much more, is satisfactorily explained by either your

philosophers or theologians, then only, but not till then, you will have the

right to reject the theory of reincarnation. The highest and grandest of poets

have dimly perceived this truth of truths. Shelley believed in it, Shakespeare

must have thought of it when writing on the worthlessness of Birth. Remember his words:


Why should my birth keep down my mounting spirit?

Are not all creatures subject unto time?

There's legions now of beggars on the earth,

That their original did spring from Kings,

And many monarchs now, whose fathers were

The riff-raff of their age …

Alter the word fathers into Egos-and you will have the truth.



On the Kamaloka and Devachan


On the Fate of the Lower Principles


Q. You spoke of Kamaloka,what is it?

A. When the man dies, his lower three principles leave him forever; i.e., body,

life, and the vehicle of the latter, the astral body or the double of the living

man. And then, his four principles-the central or middle principle, the animal

soul or Kamarupa, with what it has assimilated from the lower Manas, and the

higher triad find themselves in Kamaloka. The latter is an astral locality, the

limbus of scholastic theology, the Hades of the ancients, and, strictly

speaking, a locality only in a relative sense. It has neither a definite area

nor boundary, but exists within subjective space; i.e., is beyond our sensuous

perceptions. Still it exists, and it is there that the astral eidolons of all

the beings that have lived, animals included, await their second death. For the

animals it comes with the disintegration and the entire fading out of their

astral particles to the last. For the human eidolonit begins when the

Atma-Buddhi-Manasic triad is said to "separate" itself from its lower

principles, or the reflection of the ex-personality,by falling into the

Devachanic state.


Q. And what happens after this?

A. Then the Kamarupic phantom, remaining bereft of its informing thinking

principle, the higher Manas, and the lower aspect of the latter, the animal

intelligence, no longer receiving light from the higher mind, and no longer

having a physical brain to work through, collapses.


Q. In what way?

A. Well, it falls into the state of the frog when certain portions of its brain

are taken out by the vivisector. It can think no more, even on the lowest animal

plane. Henceforth it is no longer even the lower Manas, since this "lower" is

nothing without the "higher."


Q. And is it thisnonentity which we find materializing in Seance rooms with


A. It is this nonentity. A true nonentity, however, only as to reasoning or

cogitating powers, still an Entity, however astral and fluidic, as shown in

certain cases when, having been magnetically and unconsciously drawn toward a

medium, it is revived for a time and lives in him by proxy, so to speak. This

"spook," or the Kamarupa, may be compared with the jelly-fish, which has an

ethereal gelatinous appearance so long as it is in its own element, or water

(the medium's specific aura), but which, no sooner is it thrown out of it, than

it dissolves in the hand or on the sand, especially in sunlight. In the medium's

Aura, it lives a kind of vicarious life and reasons and speaks either through

the medium's brain or those of other persons present. But this would lead us too

far, and upon other people's grounds, whereon I have no desire to trespass. Let

us keep to the subject of reincarnation.


Q. What of the latter? How long does the incarnating Ego remain in the

Devachanic state?

A. This, we are taught, depends on the degree of spirituality and the merit or

demerit of the last incarnation. The average time is from ten to fifteen

centuries, as I already told you.


Q. But why could not this Ego manifest and communicate with mortals as

Spiritualists will have it? What is there to prevent a mother from communicating

with the children she left on earth, a husband with his wife, and so on? It is a

most consoling belief, I must confess; nor do I wonder that those who believe in

it are so averse to give it up.

A. Nor are they forced to, unless they happen to prefer truth to fiction,

however "consoling." Uncongenial our doctrines may be to Spiritualists; yet,

nothing of what we believe in and teach is half as selfish and cruel as what

they preach.


Q. I do not understand you. What is selfish?

A. Their doctrine of the return of Spirits, the real "personalities" as they

say; and I will tell you why. If Devachan-call it "paradise" if you like, a

"place of bliss and of supreme felicity," if it is anything-is such a place (or

say state), logic tells us that no sorrow or even a shade of pain can be

experienced therein. "God shall wipe away all the tears from the eyes" of those

in paradise, we read in the book of many promises. And if the "Spirits of the

dead" are enabled to return and see all that is happening on earth, and

especially in their homes, what kind of bliss can be in store for them?



Why Theosophists Do Not Believe in the Return of Pure "Spirits"


Q. What do you mean? Why should this interfere with their bliss?

A. Simply this; and here is an instance. A mother dies, leaving behind her

little helpless children-orphans whom she adores-perhaps a beloved husband also.


We say that her "Spirit" or Ego-that individuality which is now all impregnated,

for the entire Devachanic period, with the noblest feelings held by its late

personality,i.e., love for her children, pity for those who suffer, and so on-we

say that it is now entirely separated from the "vale of tears," that its future

bliss consists in that blessed ignorance of all the woes it left behind.

Spiritualists say, on the contrary, that it is as vividly aware of them, and

more so than before, for "Spirits see more than mortals in the flesh do." We say

that the bliss of the Devachaneeconsists in its complete conviction that it has

never left the earth, and that there is no such thing as death at all; that

thepostmortem spiritual consciousness of the mother will represent to her that

she lives surrounded by her children and all those whom she loved; that no gap,

no link, will be missing to make her disembodied state the most perfect and

absolute happiness. The Spiritualists deny this point blank. According to their

doctrine, unfortunate man is not liberated even by death from the sorrows of

this life. Not a drop from the life-cup of pain and suffering will miss his

lips; and whether willing or unwilling, since he sees everything now, shall he

drink it to the bitter dregs. Thus, the loving wife, who during her lifetime was

ready to save her husband sorrow at the price of her heart's blood, is now

doomed to see, in utter helplessness, his despair, and to register every hot

tear he sheds for her loss. Worse than that, she may see the tears dry too soon,

and another beloved face shine on him, the father of her children; find another

woman replacing her in his affections; doomed to hear her orphans giving the

holy name of "mother" to one indifferent to them, and to see those little

children neglected, if not ill-treated. According to this doctrine the "gentle

wafting to immortal life" becomes without any transition the way into a new path

of mental suffering! And yet, the columns of the Banner of Light, the veteran

journal of the American Spiritualists, are filled with messages from the dead,

the "dear departed ones," who all write to say how very happy they are! Is such

a state of knowledge consistent with bliss? Then bliss stands in such a case for

the greatest curse, and orthodox damnation must be a relief in comparison to it!


Q. But how does your theory avoid this? How can you reconcile the theory of

Soul's omniscience with its blindness to that which is taking place on earth?

A. Because such is the law of love and mercy. During every Devachanic period the Ego, omniscient as it is per se, clothes itself, so to say, with the reflection

of the "personality" that was. I have just told you that the ideal efflorescence

of all the abstract, therefore undying and eternal qualities or attributes, such

as love and mercy, the love of the good, the true and the beautiful, that ever

spoke in the heart of the living "personality," clung after death to the Ego,

and therefore followed it to Devachan. For the time being, then, the Ego becomes the ideal reflection of the human being it was when last on earth, and that is not omniscient. Were it that, it would never be in the state we call Devachan at all.


Q. What are your reasons for it?

A. If you want an answer on the strict lines of our philosophy, then I will say

that it is because everything is illusion (Maya ) outside of eternal truth,

which has neither form, color, nor limitation. He who has placed himself beyond

the veil of Maya -and such are the highest Adepts and Initiates-can have no

Devachan. As to the ordinary mortal, his bliss in it is complete. It is an

absoluteoblivion of all that gave it pain or sorrow in the past incarnation, and

even oblivion of the fact that such things as pain or sorrow exist at all. The

Devachanee lives its intermediate cycle between two incarnations surrounded by

everything it had aspired to in vain, and in the companionship of everyone it

loved on earth. It has reached the fulfillment of all its soul-yearnings. And

thus it lives throughout long centuries an existence of unalloyedhappiness,

which is the reward for its sufferings in earth-life. In short, it bathes in a

sea of uninterrupted felicity spanned only by events of still greater felicity

in degree.


Q. But this is more than simple delusion, it is an existence of insane


A. From your standpoint it may be, not so from that of philosophy. Besides

which, is not our whole terrestrial life filled with such delusions? Have you

never met men and women living for years in a fool's paradise? And because you should happen to learn that the husband of a wife, whom she adores and believes herself as beloved by him, is untrue to her, would you go and break her heart and beautiful dream by rudely awakening her to the reality? I think not. I say it again, such oblivion and hallucination-if you call it so-are only a merciful

law of nature and strict justice. At any rate, it is a far more fascinating

prospect than the orthodox golden harp with a pair of wings. The assurance that

The soul that lives ascends frequently and runs familiarly through the streets

of the heavenly Jerusalem, visiting the patriarchs and prophets, saluting the

apostles, and admiring the army of martyrs.

-may seem of a more pious character to some. Nevertheless, it is a hallucination

of a far more delusive character, since mothers love their children with an

immortal love, we all know, while the personages mentioned in the "heavenly

Jerusalem" are still of a rather doubtful nature. But I would, still, rather

accept the "new Jerusalem," with its streets paved like the show windows of a

jeweler's shop, than find consolation in the heartless doctrine of the

Spiritualists. The idea alone that the intellectual conscious souls of one's

father, mother, daughter, or brother find their bliss in a "Summerland"-only a

little more natural, but just as ridiculous as the "New Jerusalem" in its

description-would be enough to make one lose every respect for one's "departed ones." To believe that a pure spirit can feel happy while doomed to witness the sins, mistakes, treachery, and, above all, the sufferings of those from whom it is severed by death and whom it loves best, without being able to help them, would be a maddening thought.


Q. There is something in your argument. I confess to having never seen it in

this light.

A. Just so, and one must be selfish to the core and utterly devoid of the sense

of retributive justice, to have ever imagined such a thing. We are with those

whom we have lost in material form, and far, far nearer to them now, than when

they were alive. And it is not only in the fancy of the Devachanee, as some may

imagine, but in reality. For pure divine love is not merely the blossom of a

human heart, but has its roots in eternity. Spiritual holy love is immortal, and

Karma brings sooner or later all those who loved each other with such a

spiritual affection to incarnate once more in the same family group. Again we

say that love beyond the grave, illusion though you may call it, has a magic and

divine potency which reacts on the living. A mother's Ego filled with love for

the imaginary children it sees near itself, living a life of happiness, as real

to it as when on earth-that love will always be felt by the children in flesh.

It will manifest in their dreams, and often in various events-in providential

protection and escape, for love is a strong shield, and is not limited by space

or time. As with this Devachanic "mother," so with the rest of human

relationships and attachments, save the purely selfish or material. Analogy will

suggest to you the rest.


Q. In no case, then, do you admit the possibility of the communication of the

living with the disembodied spirit?

A. Yes, there is a case, and even two exceptions to the rule.

The first exception is during the few days that follow immediately the death of

a person and before the Ego passes into the Devachanic state. Whether any living mortal, save a few exceptional cases has derived much benefit from the return of the spirit into the objective plane is another question. The spirit is dazed after death and falls very soon into what we call "predevachanic

unconsciousness." When the intensity of the desire in the dying person to return

for some purpose forced the higher consciousness to remain awake,and therefore it was really the individuality, the "Spirit" that communicated.

The second exception is found in the Nirmanakayas.


Q. What about them? And what does the name mean for you?

A. It is the name given to those who, though they have won the right to Nirvana

and cyclic rest have out of pity for mankind and those they left on earth

renounced the Nirv ic state. This is not "Devachan," as the latter is an

illusion of our consciousness, a happy dream, and as those who are fit for

Nirvana must have lost entirely every desire or possibility of the world's



Such an adept, or Saint, or whatever you may call him, believing it a selfish

act to rest in bliss while mankind groans under the burden of misery produced by ignorance, renounces Nirvana, and determines to remain invisible in spirit on

this earth. They have no material body, as they have left it behind; but

otherwise they remain with all their principles even in astral life in our

sphere. And such can and do communicate with a few elect ones, only surely not with ordinary mediums.


Q. I have put you the question about Nirmanakayas because I read in some German and other works that it was the name given to the terrestrial appearances or bodies assumed by Buddhas in the Northern Buddhist teachings.

A. So they are, only the Orientalists have confused this terrestrial body by

understanding it to be objective and physical instead of purely astral and



Q. And what good can they do on earth?

A. Not much, as regards individuals, as they have no right to interfere with

Karma, and can only advise and inspire mortals for the general good. Yet they do more beneficent actions than you imagine.


Q. To this Science would never subscribe, not even modern psychology. For them, no portion of intelligence can survive the physical brain. What would you answer them?

A. I would not even go to the trouble of answering, but would simply say, in the

words given to "M.A. Oxon,"


Intelligence is perpetuated after the body is dead. Though it is not a question

of the brain only … It is reasonable to propound the indestructibility of the

human spirit from what we know.


Q. But "M.A. Oxon" is a Spiritualist?

A. Quite so, and the only true Spiritualist I know of, though we may still

disagree with him on many a minor question. Apart from this, no Spiritualist

comes nearer to the occult truths than he does. Like any one of us he speaks


… of the surface dangers that beset the ill-equipped, feather-headed muddler

with the occult, who crosses the threshold without counting the cost. Some

things that I do know of Spiritualism and some that I do not.

Our only disagreement rests in the question of "Spirit Identity." Otherwise, I,

for one, coincide almost entirely with him, and accept the three propositions he

embodied in his address of July, 1884. It is this eminent Spiritualist, rather,

who disagrees with us, not we with him.


Q. What are these propositions?

A. They are:


1. That there is a life coincident with, and independent of the physical life of

the body.


2. That, as a necessary corollary, this life extends beyond the life of the

body. We say it extends throughout Devachan.


3. That there is communication between the denizens of that state of existence

and those of the world in which we now live.

All depend, you see, on the minor and secondary aspects of these fundamental

propositions. Everything depends on the views we take of Spirit and Soul, or

Individuality and Personality.Spiritualists confuse the two "into one." We

separate them, and say that, with the exceptions above enumerated, no Spiritwill

revisit the earth, though the animal Soul may. But let us return once more to

our direct subject, the Skandhas.


Q. I begin to understand better now. It is the Spirit, so to say, of those

Skandhas which are the most ennobling, which, attaching themselves to the

incarnating Ego, survive, and are added to the stock of its angelic experiences.

And it is the attributes connected with the material Skandhas, with selfish and

personal motives. which, disappearing from the field of action between two

incarnations, reappear at the subsequent incarnation as Karmic results to be

atoned for; and therefore the Spirit will not leave Devachan. Is it so?

A. Very nearly so. If you add to this that the law of retribution, or Karma,

rewarding the highest and most spiritual in Devachan, never fails to reward them

again on earth by giving them a further development, and furnishing the Ego with

a body fitted for it, then you will be quite correct.


A Few Words About the Skandhas


Q. What becomes of the other, the lower Skandhas of the personality, after the

death of the body? Are they quite destroyed?

A. They are and yet they are not-a fresh metaphysical and occult mystery for you. They are destroyed as the working stock in hand of the personality; they remain as Karmic effects, as germs, hanging in the atmosphere of the terrestrial plane, ready to come to life, as so many avenging fiends, to attach themselves to the new personality of the Ego when it reincarnates.


Q. This really passes my comprehension, and is very difficult to understand.

A. Not once that you have assimilated all the details. For then you will see

that for logic, consistency, profound philosophy, divine mercy and equity, this

doctrine of Reincarnation has not its equal on earth. It is a belief in a

perpetual progress for each incarnating Ego, or divine soul, in an evolution

from the outward into the inward, from the material to the Spiritual, arriving

at the end of each stage at absolute unity with the divine Principle. From

strength to strength, from the beauty and perfection of one plane to the greater

beauty and perfection of another, with accessions of new glory, of fresh

knowledge and power in each cycle, such is the destiny of every Ego, which thus becomes its own Savior in each world and incarnation.


Q. But Christianity teaches the same. It also preaches progression.

A. Yes, only with the addition of something else. It tells us of the

impossibilityof attaining Salvation without the aid of a miraculous Savior, and

therefore dooms to perdition all those who will not accept the dogma. This is

just the difference between Christian theology and Theosophy. The former

enforces belief in the Descent of the Spiritual Ego into the Lower Self; the

latter inculcates the necessity of endeavoring to elevate oneself to the

Christos, or Buddhi state.


Q. By teaching the annihilation of consciousness in case of failure, however,

don't you think that it amounts to the annihilation of Self, a in the opinion of

the non-metaphysical?

A. From the standpoint of those who believe in the resurrection of the body

literally,and insist that every bone, every artery and atom of flesh will be

raised bodily on the Judgment Day-of course it does. If you still insist that it

is the perishable form and finite qualities that make up immortal man, then we shall hardly understand each other. And if you do not understand that, by

limiting the existence of every Ego to one life on earth, you make of Deity an

ever-drunken Indra of the Pur ic dead letter, a cruel Moloch, a god who makes an inextricable mess on Earth, and yet claims thanks for it, then the sooner we drop the conversation the better.


Q. But let us return, now that the subject of the Skandhas is disposed of, to

the question of the consciousness which survives death. This is the point which

interests most people. Do we possess more knowledge in Devachan than we do in earthlife?

A. In one sense, we can acquire more knowledge; that is, we can develop further

any faculty which we loved and strove after during life, provided it is

concerned with abstract and ideal things, such as music, painting, poetry, etc.,

since Devachan is merely an idealized and subjective continuation of earth-life.


Q. But if in Devachan the Spirit is free from matter, why should it not possess

all knowledge?

A. Because, as I told you, the Ego is, so to say, wedded to the memory of its

last incarnation. Thus, if you think over what I have said, and string all the

facts together, you will realize that the Devachanic state is not one of

omniscience, but a transcendental continuation of the personal life just

terminated. It is the rest of the soul from the toils of life.


Q. But the scientific materialists assert that after the death of man nothing

remains; that the human body simply disintegrates into its component elements;

and that what we call soul is merely a temporary self-consciousness produced as

a byproduct of organic action, which will evaporate like steam. Is not theirs a

strange state of mind?

A. Not strange at all, that I see. If they say that self-consciousness ceases

with the body, then in their case they simply utter an unconscious prophecy, for

once they are firmly convinced of what they assert, no conscious after-life is

possible for them. For there are exceptions to every rule.



On Postmortem and Postnatal Consciousness


Q. But if human self-consciousness survives death as a rule, why should there be exceptions?

A. In the fundamental principles of the spiritual world no exception is

possible. But there are rules for those who see, and rules for those who prefer

to remain blind.


Q. Quite so, I understand. This is but an aberration of the blind man, who

denies the existence of the sun because he does not see it. But after death his

spiritual eyes will certainly compel him to see. Is this what you mean?

A. He will not be compelled, nor will he see anything. Having persistently

denied during life the continuance of existence after death, he will be unable

to see it, because his spiritual capacity having been stunted in life, it cannot

develop after death, and he will remain blind. By insisting that he must see it,

you evidently mean one thing and I another. You speak of the spirit from the

spirit, or the flame from the flame-of Atma, in short-and you confuse it with

the human soul-Manas … You do not understand me; let me try to make it clear.

The whole gist of your question is to know whether, in the case of a downright

materialist, the complete loss of self-consciousness and self-perception after

death is possible? Isn't it so? I answer, it is possible. Because, believing

firmly in our Esoteric Doctrine, which refers to the postmortemperiod, or the

interval between two lives or births, as merely a transitory state, I say,

whether that interval between two acts of the illusionary drama of life lasts

one year or a million, that postmortem state may, without any breach of the

fundamental law, prove to be just the same state as that of a man who is in a

dead faint.


Q. But since you have just said that the fundamental laws of the after-death

state admit of no exceptions, how can this be?

A. Nor do I say that it does admit of an exception. But the spiritual law of

continuity applies only to things which are truly real. To one who has read and

understood Mundakya Upanishad and Vedantasara all this becomes very clear. I

will say more: it is sufficient to understand what we mean by Buddhi and the

duality of Manas to gain a clear perception why the materialist may fail to have

a self-conscious survival after death. Since Manas, in its lower aspect, is the

seat of the terrestrial mind, it can, therefore, give only that perception of

the Universe which is based on the evidence of that mind; it cannot give

spiritual vision. It is said in the Eastern school, that between Buddhi and

Manas (the Ego), or Isvara and Prajña *1) there is in reality no more difference

thanbetween a forest and its trees, a lake and its waters,as the Mundakya

teaches. One or hundreds of trees dead from loss of vitality, or uprooted, are

yet incapable of preventing the forest from being still a forest.

1] But, as I understand it, Buddhi represents in this simile the forest, and

Manas-Taijasi *2] the trees. And if Buddhi is immortal, how can that which is

similar to it, i.e.,Manas-Taijasi , entirely lose its consciousness till the day

of its new incarnation? I cannot understand it.

*1] Isvara is the collective consciousness of the manifested godhead, Brahma,

i.e. the collective consciousness of the host of Dhyan Chohans (see Secret

Doctrine); Prajña is their individual wisdom.

*2] Taijasi means the 'radiant', as a consequence of its union with Buddhi, i.e.

Manas, the human soul, enlightened by the rays of the divine soul. Hence

Manas-Taijasi can be described as radiant intellect, the human reason

enlightened by the light of the spirit; and Buddhi-Manas is the revelation of

the divine plus the human intellect and self-consciousness.

(These two footnotes reversely translated from Dutch.[ editor])


Q. But, as I understand it, Buddhi represents in this simile the forest and Manas-taijasi the trees.  And if Buddha is immortal how can that which is similar to it i.e. Mana-taijasi entirely lose it consciousness till the day of its new incarnation ? I cannot understand it.

A. You cannot, because you will mix up an abstract representation of the whole

with its casual changes of form. Remember that if it can be said of Buddhi-Manas that it is unconditionally immortal, the same cannot be said of the lower Manas, still less of Taijasi , which is merely an attribute. Neither of these, neither

Manas nor Taijasi , can exist apart from Buddhi, the divine soul, because the

first (Manas) is, in its lower aspect, a quality of the terrestrial personality,

and the second (Taijasi ) is identical with the first, because it is the same

Manas only with the light of Buddhi reflected on it. In its turn, Buddhi would

remain only an impersonal spirit without this element which it borrows from the

human soul, which conditions and makes of it, in this illusive Universe, as it

were something separate from the universal soul for the whole period of the

cycle of incarnation. Say rather that Buddhi-Manascan neither die nor lose its

compound self-consciousness in Eternity, nor the recollection of its previous

incarnations in which the two-i.e., the spiritual and the human soul-had been

closely linked together. But it is not so in the case of a materialist, whose

human soul not only receives nothing from the divine soul, but even refuses to

recognize its existence. You can hardly apply this axiom to the attributes and

qualities of the human soul, for it would be like saying that because your

divine soul is immortal, therefore the bloom on your cheek must also be

immortal; whereas this bloom, like Taijasi , is simply a transitory phenomenon.


Q. Do I understand you to say that we must not mix in our minds the noumenon

with the phenomenon, the cause with its effect?

A. I do say so, and repeat that, limited to Manas or the human soul alone, the

radiance of Taijas itself becomes a mere question of time; because both

immortality and consciousness after death become, for the terrestrial

personality of man, simply conditioned attributes, as they depend entirely on

conditions and beliefs created by the human soul itself during the life of its

body. Karma acts incessantly: we reap in our after-life only the fruit of that

which we have ourselves sown in this.


Q. But if my Ego can, after the destruction of my body, become plunged in a

state of entire unconsciousness, then where can be the punishment for the sins

of my past life?

A. Our philosophy teaches that Karmic punishment reaches the Ego only in its

next incarnation. After death it receives only the reward for the unmerited

sufferings endured during its past incarnation.


(Some Theosophists have taken exception to this phrase, but the words are those of Master, and the meaning attached to the word unmerited is that given above. In the T.P.S. pamphlet No. 6, a phrase, criticized subsequently in Lucifer, was used which was intended to convey the same idea. In form, however, it was awkward and open to the criticism directed against it; but the essential idea was that men often suffer from the effects of the actions done by others, effects which thus do not strictly belong to their own Karma-and for these sufferings they of course deserve compensation.)


The whole punishment after death, even for the materialist, consists, therefore,

in the absence of any reward, and the utter loss of the consciousness of one's

bliss and rest. Karma is the child of the terrestrial Ego, the fruit of the

actions of the tree which is the objective personality visible to all, as much

as the fruit of all the thoughts and even motives of the spiritual "I"; but

Karma is also the tender mother, who heals the wounds inflicted by her during

the preceding life, before she will begin to torture this Ego by inflicting upon

him new ones. If it may be said that there is not a mental or physical suffering

in the life of a mortal which is not the direct fruit and consequence of some

sin in a preceding existence; on the other hand, since he does not preserve the

slightest recollection of it in his actual life, and feels himself not deserving

of such punishment, and therefore thinks he suffers for no guilt of his own,

this alone is sufficient to entitle the human soul to the fullest consolation,

rest, and bliss in his postmortemexistence. Death comes to our spiritual selves

ever as a deliverer and friend. For the materialist who, notwithstanding his

materialism, was not a bad man, the interval between the two lives will be like

the unbroken and placid sleep of a child, either entirely dreamless, or filled

with pictures of which he will have no definite perception; while for the

average mortal it will be a dream as vivid as life, and full of realistic bliss

and visions.


Q. Then the personal man must always go on suffering blindly the Karmic

penalties which the Ego has incurred?

A. Not quite so. At the solemn moment of death every man, even when death is

sudden, sees the whole of his past life marshaled before him, in its minutest

details. For one short instant the personal becomes one with the individual and

all-knowing Ego. But this instant is enough to show to him the whole chain of

causes which have been at work during his life. He sees and now understands

himself as he is, unadorned by flattery or self-deception. He reads his life,

remaining as a spectator looking down into the arena he is quitting; he feels

and knows the justice of all the suffering that has overtaken him.


Q. Does this happen to everyone?

A. Without any exception. Very good and holy men see, we are taught, not only

the life they are leaving, but even several preceding lives in which were

produced the causes that made them what they were in the life just closing. They

recognize the law of Karma in all its majesty and justice.


Q. Is there anything corresponding to this before rebirth?

A. There is. As the man at the moment of death has a retrospective insight into

the life he has led, so, at the moment he is reborn onto earth, the Ego,awaking

from the state of Devachan, has a prospective vision of the life which awaits

him, and realizes all the causes that have led to it. He realizes them and sees

futurity, because it is between Devachan and rebirth that the Ego regains his

full manasicconsciousness, and rebecomes for a short time the god he was,

before, in compliance with Karmic law, he first descended into matter and

incarnated in the first man of flesh. The "golden thread" sees all its "pearls"

and misses not one of them.



What is Really Meant by Annihilation


Q. I have heard some Theosophists speak of a golden thread on which their lives were strung. What do they mean by this?

A. In the Hindu Sacred books it is said that the part of us which undergoes

periodical incarnation is the Sutratman, which means literally the "Thread

Soul." It is a synonym of the reincarnating Ego-Manas conjoined with

Buddhi-which absorbs the Manasic recollections of all our preceding lives. It is

so called, because, like the pearls on a thread, so is the long series of human

lives strung together on that one thread. In some Upanishad these recurrent

rebirths are likened to the life of a mortal which oscillates periodically

between sleep and waking.


Q. This, I must say, does not seem very clear, and I will tell you why. For the

man who awakes, another day commences, but that man is the same in soul and body as he was the day before; whereas at every incarnation a full change takes place not only of the external envelope, sex, and personality, but even of the mental and psychic capacities. The simile does not seem to me quite correct. The man who arises from sleep remembers quite clearly what he has done yesterday, the day before, and even months and years ago. But none of us has the slightest recollection of a preceding life or of any fact or event concerning it … I may forget in the morning what I have dreamt during the night, still I know that I have slept and have the certainty that I lived during sleep; but what

recollection can I have of my past incarnation until the moment of death? How do you reconcile this?

A. Some people do recollect their past incarnations during life; but these are

Buddhas and Initiates. This is what the Yogis call Samm -Sambuddha, or the

knowledge of the whole series of one's past incarnations.


Q. But we ordinary mortals who have not reached Samm -Sambuddha, how are we to understand this simile?

A. By studying it and trying to understand more correctly the characteristics

and the three kinds of sleep. Sleep is a general and immutable law for man as

for beast, but there are different kinds of sleep and still more different

dreams and visions.


Q. But this takes us to another subject. Let us return to the materialist who,

while not denying dreams, which he could hardly do, yet denies immortality in

general and the survival of his own individuality.

A. And the materialist, without knowing it, is right. One who has no inner

perception of, and faith in, the immortality of his soul, in that man the soul

can never become Buddhi-Taijasi , but will remain simply Manas, and for Manas

alone there is no immortality possible. In order to live in the world to come a

conscious life, one has to believe first of all in that life during the

terrestrial existence. On these two aphorisms of the Secret Science all the

philosophy about the postmortem consciousness and the immortality of the soul is built. The Ego receives always according to its deserts. After the dissolution

of the body, there commences for it a period of full awakened consciousness, or a state of chaotic dreams, or an utterly dreamless sleep undistinguishable from annihilation, and these are the three kinds of sleep. If our physiologists find

the cause of dreams and visions in an unconscious preparation for them during

the waking hours, why cannot the same be admitted for the postmortem dreams?


I repeat it: death is sleep.After death, before the spiritual eyes of the soul,

begins a performance according to a program learnt and very often unconsciously composed by ourselves: the practical carrying out of correct beliefs or of illusions which have been created by ourselves. The Methodist will be Methodist, the Muslim a Muslim, at least for some time-in a perfect fool's paradise of each man's creation and making. These are the postmortem fruits of the tree of life.


Naturally, our belief or unbelief in the fact of conscious immortality is unable

to influence the unconditioned reality of the fact itself, once that it exists;

but the belief or unbelief in that immortality as the property of independent or

separate entities, cannot fail to give color to that fact in its application to

each of these entities. Now do you begin to understand it?


Q. I think I do. The materialist, disbelieving in everything that cannot be

proven to him by his five senses, or by scientific reasoning, based exclusively

on the data furnished by these senses in spite of their inadequacy, and

rejecting every spiritual manifestation, accepts life as the only conscious

existence. Therefore according to their beliefs so will it be unto them. They

will lose their personal Ego, and will plunge into a dreamless sleep until a new

awakening. Is it so?

A. Almost so. Remember the practically universal teaching of the two kinds of

conscious existence: the terrestrial and the spiritual. The latter must be

considered real from the very fact that it is inhabited by the eternal,

changeless, and immortal Monad; whereas the incarnating Ego dresses itself up in new garments entirely different from those of its previous incarnations, and in

which all except its spiritual prototype is doomed to a change so radical as to

leave no trace behind.


Q. How so? Can my conscious terrestrial "I" perish not only for a time, like the

consciousness of the materialist, but so entirely as to leave no trace behind?

A. According to the teaching, it must so perish and in its fullness; all except

the principle which, having united itself with the Monad, has thereby become a

purely spiritual and indestructible essence, one with it in the Eternity. But in

the case of an out-and-out materialist, in whose personal "I" no Buddhi has ever

reflected itself, how can the latter carry away into the Eternity one particle

of that terrestrial personality? Your spiritual "I" is immortal; but from your

present self it can carry away into Eternity that only which has become worthy

of immortality, namely, the aroma alone of the flower that has been mown by



Q. Well, and the flower, the terrestrial "I"?

A. The flower, as all past and future flowers which have blossomed and will have to blossom on the mother bough, the Sutratman, all children of one root or

Buddhi-will return to dust. Your present "I," as you yourself know, is not the

body now sitting before me, nor yet is it what I would call Manas-Sutratman, but



Q. But this does not explain to me, at all, why you call life after death

immortal, infinite, and real, and the terrestrial life a simple phantom or

illusion; since even that postmortem life has limits, however much wider they

may be than those of terrestrial life.

A. No doubt. The spiritual Ego of man moves in eternity like a pendulum between the hours of birth and death. But if these hours, marking the periods of life terrestrial and life spiritual, are limited in their duration, and if the very

number of such stages in Eternity between sleep and awakening, illusion and

reality, has its beginning and its end, on the other hand, the spiritual pilgrim

is eternal. Therefore are the hours of his postmortem life, when, disembodied,

he stands face to face with truth and not the mirages of his transitory earthly

existences, during the period of that pilgrimage which we call "the cycle of

rebirths"-the only reality in our conception. Such intervals, their limitation

notwithstanding, do not prevent the Ego, while ever perfecting itself, from

following undeviatingly, though gradually and slowly, the path to its last

transformation, when that Ego, having reached its goal, becomes a divine being.

These intervals and stages help towards this final result instead of hindering

it; and without such limited intervals the divine Ego could never reach its

ultimate goal. I have given you once already a familiar illustration by

comparing the Ego,or the individuality, to an actor, and its numerous and

various incarnations to the parts it plays. Will you call these parts or their

costumes the individuality of the actor himself? Like that actor, the Ego is

forced to play during the cycle of necessity, up to the very threshold of

ParaNirvana, many parts such as may be unpleasant to it. But as the bee collects

its honey from every flower, leaving the rest as food for the earthly worms, so

does our spiritual individuality, whether we call it Sutratman or Ego.

Collecting from every terrestrial personality, into which Karma forces it to

incarnate, the nectar alone of the spiritual qualities and self-consciousness,

it unites all these into one whole and emerges from its chrysalis as the

glorified Dhyani-Chohan. So much the worse for those terrestrial personalities

from which it could collect nothing. Such personalities cannot assuredly outlive

consciously their terrestrial existence.


Q. Thus, then, it seems that, for the terrestrial personality, immortality is

still conditional. Is, then, immortality itself not unconditional?

A. Not at all. But immortality cannot touch the non-existent: for all that which

exists as Sat, or emanates from Sat, immortality and Eternity are absolute.

Matter is the opposite pole of spirit, and yet the two are one. The essence of

all this, i.e., Spirit, Force, and Matter, or the three in one, is as endless as

it is beginningless; but the form acquired by this triple unity during its

incarnations, its externality, is certainly only the illusion of our personal

conceptions. Therefore do we call Nirvana and the Universal life alone a

reality, while relegating the terrestrial life, its terrestrial personality

included, and even its Devachanic existence, to the phantom realm of illusion.


Q. But why in such a case call sleep the reality, and waking the illusion?

A. It is simply a comparison made to facilitate the grasping of the subject, and

from the standpoint of terrestrial conceptions it is a very correct one.


Q. And still I cannot understand, if the life to come is based on justice and

the merited retribution for all our terrestrial suffering, how in the case of

materialists, many of whom are really honest and charitable men, there should

remain of their personality nothing but the refuse of a faded flower.

A. No one ever said such a thing. No materialist, however unbelieving, can die

forever in the fullness of his spiritual individuality. What was said is that

consciousness can disappear either fully or partially in the case of a

materialist, so that no conscious remains of his personality survive.


Q. But surely this is annihilation?

A. Certainly not. One can sleep a dead sleep and miss several stations during a

long railway journey, without the slightest recollection or consciousness, and

awake at another station and continue the journey past innumerable other

halting-places till the end of the journey or the goal is reached. Three kinds

of sleep were mentioned to you: the dreamless, the chaotic, and the one which is

so real, that to the sleeping man his dreams become full realities. If you

believe in the latter why can't you believe in the former; according to the

after-life a man has believed in and expected, such is the life he will have. He

who expected no life to come will have an absolute blank, amounting to

annihilation, in the interval between the two rebirths. This is just the

carrying out of the program we spoke of, a program created by the materialists

themselves. But there are various kinds of materialists, as you say. A selfish,

wicked Egoist, one who never shed a tear for anyone but himself, thus adding

entire indifference to the whole world to his unbelief, must, at the threshold

of death, drop his personality forever. This personality having no tendrils of

sympathy for the world around and hence nothing to hook onto Sutratman, it

follows that with the last breath every connection between the two is broken.

There being no Devachan for such a materialist, the Sutratman will reincarnate

almost immediately. But those materialists who erred in nothing but their

disbelief will oversleep but one station. And the time will come when that

ex-materialist will perceive himself in the Eternity and perhaps repent that he

lost even one day, one station, from the life eternal.


Q. Still, would it not be more correct to say that death is birth into a new

life, or a return once more into eternity?

A. You may if you like. Only remember that births differ, and that there are

births of "still-born" beings, which are failures of nature. Moreover, with your

Western fixed ideas about material life, the words living and being are quite

inapplicable to the pure subjective state of postmortem existence. It is just

because, save in a few philosophers who are not read by the many, and who

themselves are too confused to present a distinct picture of it, it is just

because your Western ideas of life and death have finally become so narrow, that on the one hand they have led to crass materialism, and on the other, to the

still more material conception of the other life, which the Spiritualists have

formulated in their Summerland. There the souls of men eat, drink, marry, and

live in a paradise quite as sensual as that of Mohammed, but even less

philosophical. Nor are the average conceptions of the uneducated Christians any

better, being if possible still more material. What between truncated angels,

brass trumpets, golden harps, and material hellfires, the Christian heaven seems

like a fairy scene at a Christmas pantomime.


It is because of these narrow conceptions that you find such difficulty in

understanding. It is just because the life of the disembodied soul, while

possessing all the vividness of reality, as in certain dreams, is devoid of

every grossly objective form of terrestrial life, that the Eastern philosophers

have compared it with visions during sleep.



Definite Words for Definite Things


Q. Don't you think it is because there are no definite and fixed terms to

indicate each principle in man, that such a confusion of ideas arises in our

minds with respect to the respective functions of these principles?

A. I have thought of it myself. The whole trouble has arisen from this: we have

started our expositions of, and discussion about, the principles, using their

Sanskrit names instead of coining immediately, for the use of Theosophists,

their equivalents in English. We must try and remedy this now.


Q. You will do well, as it may avoid further confusion; no two theosophical

writers, it seems to me, have hitherto agreed to call the same principle by the

same name.

A. The confusion is more apparent than real, however. I have heard some of our

Theosophists express surprise at, and criticize several essays speaking of these

principles; but, when examined, there was no worse mistake in them than that of

using the word Soul to cover the three principles without specifying the

distinctions. The first, as positively the clearest of our Theosophical writers,

Mr. A.P. Sinnett, has some comprehensive and admirably-written passages on the "Higher Self." His real idea has also been misconceived by some, owing to his using the word Soul in a general sense. Yet here are a few passages which will show to you how clear and comprehensive is all that he writes on the subject:


The human soul, once launched on the streams 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

incarnations the life which its Karma has preordained; modifying its progress

within the limitations of circumstances, and-developing fresh Karma by its use

or abuse of opportunities-it returns to spiritual existence (Devachan) after

each physical life-through the intervening region of Kamaloka-for rest and

refreshment and for the gradual absorption into its essence, as so much cosmic

progress, of the life's experience gained "on earth" or during physical

existence. This view of the matter will, moreover, have suggested many

collateral inferences to anyone thinking over the subject; for instance, that

the transfer of consciousness from the Kamaloka to the Devachanic stage of this

progression would necessarily be gradual; that in truth, no hard-and-fast line

separates the varieties of spiritual conditions, that even the spiritual and

physical planes, as psychic faculties in living people show, are not so

hopelessly walled off from one another as materialistic theories would suggest;

that all states of nature are all around us simultaneously, and appeal to

different perceptive faculties; and so on … It is clear that during physical

existence people who possess psychic faculties remain in connection with the

planes of super-physical consciousness; and although most people may not be

endowed with such faculties, we all, as the phenomena of sleep, even, and

especially … those of somnambulism or mesmerism, show, are capable of entering into conditions of consciousness that the five physical senses have nothing to do with. We-the souls within us-are not as it were altogether adrift in the ocean of matter. We clearly retain some surviving interest or rights in the

shore from which, for a time, we have floated off. The process of incarnation,

therefore, 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. The more correct

definitions of the process would probably 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-materializable portion of the Soul

which abides permanently on the spiritual plane may fitly, perhaps, be spoken of

as the Higher Self.


This "Higher Self" is Atma, and of course it is "non-materializable," as Mr.

Sinnett says. Even more, it can never be "objective" under any circumstances,

even to the highest spiritual perception. For Atma or the "Higher Self" is

really Brahma, the Absolute, and indistinguishable from it. In hours of Samadhi,

the higher spiritual consciousness of the Initiate is entirely absorbed in the

one essence, which is Atma, and therefore, being one with the whole, there can

be nothing objective for it. Now some of our Theosophists have got into the

habit of using the words Self and Ego as synonymous, of associating the term

Self with only man's higher individual or even personal "Self" or Ego,whereas

this term ought never to be applied except to the One universal Self. Hence the

confusion. Speaking of Manas, the "causal body," we may call it-when connecting it with the Buddhic radiance-the "Higher Ego," never the "Higher Self." For even Buddhi, the "Spiritual Soul," is not the Self, but the vehicle only of Self. All the other "Selves"-such as the "Individual" self and "personal" self-ought never to be spoken or written of without their qualifying and characteristic



Thus in this most excellent essay on the "Higher Self," this term is applied to

the sixth principleor Buddhi; and has in consequence given rise to just such

misunderstandings. The statement thatA child does not acquire its sixth principle-or become a morally responsible being capable of generating Karma-until seven years old.-proves what is meant therein by the Higher Self. Therefore, the able author is quite justified in explaining that after the "Higher Self" has passed into the human being and saturated the personality-in some of the finer organizations only-with its consciousness People with psychic faculties may indeed perceive this Higher Self through their finer senses from time to time.


But so are those, who limit the term Higher Selfto the Universal Divine

Principle, "justified" in misunderstanding him. For, when we read, without being

prepared for this shifting of metaphysical terms, that while

Fully manifesting on the physical plane … the Higher Self still remains a

conscious spiritual Ego on the corresponding plane of Nature.


We are apt to see in the "Higher Self" of this sentence, Atma, and in the

spiritual Ego, Manas,or rather Buddhi-Manas, and forthwith to criticize the

whole thing as incorrect.


To avoid henceforth such misapprehensions, I propose to translate literally from

the Occult Eastern terms their equivalents in English, and offer these for

future use.



[The Self and the Egos ]


The Higher Self is Atma, the inseparable ray of the Universal and One Self. It

is the God above, more than within, us. Happy the man who succeeds in saturating his inner Ego with it!


The Spiritual divine Ego is the Spiritual soul or Buddhi, in close union with

Manas, the mind-principle, without which it is no Ego at all, but only the Atmic



The Inner, or Higher "Ego" is Manas,the "Fifth" Principle, so-called,

independently of Buddhi. The Mind-Principle is only the Spiritual Ego when

merged into one with Buddhi-no materialist being supposed to have in himsuch an Ego, however great his intellectual capacities. It is the permanent

Individuality or the "Reincarnating Ego."


The Lower, or Personal "Ego" is the physical man in conjunction with his lower

Self, i.e., animal instincts, passions, desires, etc. It is called the "false

personality," and consists of the lower Manas combined with Kamarupa, and

operating through the Physical body and its phantom or "double."


The remaining principle Prana, or Life, is, strictly speaking, the radiating

force or Energy of Atma-as the Universal Life and the One Self-Its lower or

rather (in its effects) more physical, because manifesting, aspect. Prana or

Life permeates the whole being of the objective Universe; and is called a

principle only because it is an indispensable factor and the deus ex machina of

the living man.


Q. This division being so much simplified in its combinations will answer

better, I believe. The other is much too metaphysical.

A. If outsiders as well as Theosophists would agree to it, it would certainly

make matters much more comprehensible.



On the Nature of Our Thinking Principle


The Mystery of the Ego


Q. I perceive in the quotation you brought forward a little while ago from The

Buddhist Catechisma discrepancy that I would like to hear explained. It is there

stated that the Skandhas-memory included-change with every new incarnation. And yet, it is asserted that the reflection of the past lives, which, we are told,

are entirely made up of Skandhas, "must survive." At the present moment I am not quite clear in my mind as to what it is precisely that survives, and I would

like to have it explained. What is it? Is it only that "reflection," or those

Skandhas, or always that same Ego, the Manas?

A. I have just explained that the reincarnating Principle, or that which we call

the divineman, is indestructible throughout the life cycle: indestructible as a

thinking Entity, and even as an ethereal form. The "reflection" is only the

spiritualized remembrance,during the Devachanic period, of the ex-personality,

Mr. A. or Mrs. B.-with which the Ego identifies itself during that period. Since

the latter is but the continuation of the earth-life, so to say, the very acme

and pitch, in an unbroken series, of the few happy moments in that now past

existence, the Egohas to identify itself with the personal consciousness of that

life, if anything shall remain of it.


Q. This means that theEgo, notwithstanding its divine nature, passes every such

period between two incarnations in a state of mental obscuration, or temporary


A. You may regard it as you like. Believing that, outside the One Reality,

nothing is better than a passing illusion-the whole Universe included-we do not view it as insanity, but as a very natural sequence or development of the terrestrial life.


What is life? A bundle of the most varied experiences, of daily changing ideas,

emotions, and opinions. In our youth we are often enthusiastically devoted to an

ideal, to some hero or heroine whom we try to follow and revive; a few years

later, when the freshness of our youthful feelings has faded out and sobered

down, we are the first to laugh at our fancies. And yet there was a day when we

had so thoroughly identified our own personality with that of the ideal in our

mind-especially if it was that of a living being-that the former was entirely

merged and lost in the latter. Can it be said of a man of fifty that he is the

same being that he was at twenty? The innerman is the same; the outward living

personality is completely transformed and changed. Would you also call these

changes in the human mental states insanity?


Q. How would youname them, and especially how would you explain the permanence of one and the evanescence of the other?

A. We have our own doctrine ready, and to us it offers no difficulty. The clue

lies in the double consciousness of our mind, and also, in the dual nature of

the mental principle. There is a spiritual consciousness, the Manasic mind

illumined by the light of Buddhi, that which subjectively perceives

abstractions; and the sentient consciousness (the lowerManasic light),

inseparable from our physical brain and senses. This latter consciousness is

held in subjection by the brain and physical senses, and, being in its turn

equally dependent on them, must of course fade out and finally die with the

disappearance of the brain and physical senses. It is only the former kind of

consciousness, whose root lies in eternity, which survives and lives forever,

and may, therefore, be regarded as immortal. Everything else belongs to passing



Q. What do you really understand by illusion in this case?

A. It is very well described in the just-mentioned essay on "The Higher Self."

Says its author:


The theory we are considering (the interchange of ideas between the Higher Ego

and the lower self) harmonizes very well with the treatment of this world in

which we live as a phenomenal world of illusion, the spiritual plane of nature

being on the other hand the noumenal world or plane of reality. That region of

nature in which, so to speak, the permanent soul is rooted is more real 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



This is what I mean. The world in which blossom the transitory and evanescent

flowers of personal lives is not the real permanent world; but that one in which

we find the root of consciousness, that root which is beyond illusion and dwells

in the eternity.


Q. What do you mean by the root dwelling in eternity?

A. I mean by this root the thinking entity, the Ego which incarnates, whether we

regard it as an "Angel," "Spirit," or a Force. Of that which falls under our

sensuous perceptions only what grows directly from, or is attached to this

invisible root above, can partake of its immortal life. Hence every noble

thought, idea, and aspiration of the personality it informs, proceeding from and

fed by this root, must become permanent. As to the physical consciousness, as it is a quality of the sentient but lower principle, (Kamarupa or animal instinct,

illuminated by the lower manasicreflection), or the human Soul-it must

disappear. That which displays activity, while the body is asleep or paralyzed,

is the higher consciousness, our memory registering but feebly and

inaccurately-because automatically-such experiences, and often failing to be

even slightly impressed by them.


Q. But how is it that Manas, although you call it Nous, a "God," is so weak

during its incarnations, as to be actually conquered and fettered by its body?

A. I might retort with the same question and ask:

How is it that he, whom you regard as "the God of Gods" and the One living God, is so weak as to allow evil (or the Devil) to have the best of him as much as of all his creatures, whether while he remains in Heaven, or during the time he was incarnated on this earth?


You are sure to reply again: "This is a Mystery; and we are forbidden to pry

into the mysteries of God." Not being forbidden to do so by our religious

philosophy, I answer your question that, unless a God descends as an Avatara,no divine principle can be otherwise than cramped and paralyzed by turbulent, animal matter. Heterogeneity will always have the upper hand over homogeneity, on this plane of illusions, and the nearer an essence is to its root-principle, Primordial Homogeneity, the more difficult it is for the latter to assert itself on earth. Spiritual and divine powers lie dormant in every human Being; and the wider the sweep of his spiritual vision the mightier will be the God within him. But as few men can feel that God, and since, as an average rule, deity is always bound and limited in our thought by earlier conceptions, those ideas that are inculcated in us from childhood, therefore, it is so difficult for you to

understand our philosophy.


Q. And is it this Ego of ours which is our God?

A. Not at all; "A God" is not the universal deity, but only a spark from the one

ocean of Divine Fire. Our God within us, or "our Father in Secret" is what we

call the Higher Self, Atma.Our incarnating Ego was a God in its origin, as were

all the primeval emanations of the One Unknown Principle. But since its "fall

into Matter," having to incarnate throughout the cycle, in succession, from

first to last, it is no longer a free and happy god, but a poor pilgrim on his

way to regain that which he has lost. I can answer you more fully by repeating

what is said of the Inner Man:


From the remotest antiquity mankind as a wholehave always been convinced of the existence of a personal spiritual entity within the personal physical man. This

inner entity was more or less divine, according to its proximity to the

crown.The closer the union the more serene man's destiny, the less dangerous the external conditions. This belief is neither bigotry nor superstition, only an

ever-present, instinctive feeling of the proximity of another spiritual and

invisible world, which, though it be subjective to the senses of the outward

man, is perfectly objective to the inner ego. Furthermore, they believed that

there are external and internal conditions which affect the determination of our

will upon our actions. They rejected fatalism, for fatalism implies a blind

course of some still blinder power. But they believed in destiny or Karma, which

from birth to death every man is weaving thread by thread around himself, as a

spider does his cobweb; and this destiny is guided by that presence termed by

some the guardian angel, or our more intimate astral inner man, who is but too

often the evil genius of the man of flesh or the personality. Both these lead on

Man, but one of them must prevail; and from the very beginning of the invisible

affray the stern and implacable law of compensation and retributionsteps in and

takes its course, following faithfully the fluctuating of the conflict. When the

last strand is woven, and man is seemingly enwrapped in the net-work of his own doing, then he finds himself completely under the empire of this self-made

destiny. It then either fixes him like the inert shell against the immovable

rock, or like a feather carries him away in a whirlwind raised by his own



Such is the destiny of the Man-the true Ego, not the Automaton, the shell that

goes by that name. It is for him to become the conqueror over matter.



The Complex Nature of Manas


Q. But you wanted to tell me something of the essential nature of Manas, and of

the relation in which the Skandhas of physical man stand to it?

A. It is this nature, mysterious, Protean, beyond any grasp, and almost shadowy

in its correlations with the other principles, that is most difficult to

realize, and still more so to explain. Manas is a principle, and yet it is an

"Entity" and individuality or Ego. He is a "God," and yet he is doomed to an

endless cycle of incarnations, for each of which he is made responsible, and for

each of which he has to suffer. All this seems as contradictory as it is

puzzling; nevertheless, there are hundreds of people, even in Europe, who

realize all this perfectly, for they comprehend the Ego not only in its

integrity but in its many aspects. Finally, if I would make myself

comprehensible, I must begin by the beginning and give you the genealogy of this

Ego in a few lines.

Q. Say on.

A. Try to imagine a "Spirit," a celestial Being, whether we call it by one name

or another, divine in its essential nature, yet not pure enough to be one with

the All, and having, in order to achieve this, to do purify its nature as to

finally gain that goal. It can do so only by passing individually and

personally, i.e.,spiritually and physically, through every experience and

feeling that exists in the manifold or differentiated Universe. It has,

therefore, after having gained such experience in the lower kingdoms, and having

ascended higher and still higher with every rung on the ladder of being, to pass

through every experience on the human planes. In its very essence it is thought,

and is, therefore, called in its plurality Manasaputra, "the Sons of the

(Universal) mind." This individualized "Thought" is what we Theosophists call

the real human Ego, the thinking Entity imprisoned in a case of flesh and bones.

This is surely a Spiritual Entity, not Matter, and such Entities are the

incarnating Egos that inform the bundle of animal matter called mankind, and

whose names are Manasa or "Minds." But once imprisoned, or incarnate, their

essence becomes dual: that is to say, the rays of the eternal divine Mind,

considered as individual entities, assume a two-fold attribute which is (a)

their essential inherent characteristic, heaven-aspiring mind (higher Manas),

and (b) the human quality of thinking, or animal cogitation, rationalized owing

to the superiority of the human brain, the Kama-tending or lower Manas. One

gravitates toward Buddhi, the other, tending downward, to the seat of passions

and animal desires. The latter have no room in Devachan, nor can they associate

with the divine triad which ascends as one into mental bliss. Yet it is the Ego,

the Manasic Entity, which is held responsible for all the sins of the lower

attributes, just as a parent is answerable for the transgressions of his child,

so long as the latter remains irresponsible.

Q. Is this "child" the "personality"?

A. It is. When, therefore, it is stated that the "personality" dies with the

body it does not state all. The body, which was only the objective symbol of Mr.

A. or Mrs. B., fades away with all its material Skandhas, which are the visible

expressions thereof. But all that which constituted during life the spiritual

bundle of experiences, the noblest aspirations, undying affections, and

unselfishnature of Mr. A. or Mrs. B. clings for the time of the Devachanic

period to the Ego, which is identified with the spiritual portion of that

terrestrial Entity, now passed away out of sight. The Actor is so imbued with

the role just played by him that he dreams of it during the whole Devachanic

night, which visioncontinues till the hour strikes for him to return to the

stage of life to enact another part.


Q. But how is it that this doctrine, which you say is as old as thinking men,

has found no room, say, in Christian theology?

A. You are mistaken, it has; only theology has disfigured it out of all

recognition, as it has many other doctrines. Theology calls the Ego the Angel

that God gives us at the moment of our birth, to take care of our Soul. Instead

of holding that "Angel" responsible for the transgressions of the poor helpless

"Soul," it is the latter which, according to theological logic, is punished for

all the sins of both flesh and mind! It is the Soul, the immaterialbreath of God

and his alleged creation, which, by some most amazing intellectual jugglery, is

doomed to burn in a material hell without ever being consumed, while the "Angel" escapes scot-free, after folding his white pinions and wetting them with a few tears. Aye, these are our "ministering Spirits," the "messengers of mercy" who are sent, Bishop Mant tells us:

… to fulfill Good for Salvation's heirs, for us they still Grieve when we sin, rejoice when we repent …


Yet it becomes evident that if all the Bishops the world over were asked to

define once for all what they mean bySoul and its functions, they would be as

unable to do so as to show us any shadow of logic in the orthodox belief!


The Doctrine is Taught in St. John's Gospel


Q. To this the adherents to this belief might answer, that if even the orthodox

dogma does promise the impenitent sinner and materialist a bad time of it in a

rather too realistic Inferno, it gives them, on the other hand, a chance for

repentance to the last minute. Nor do they teach annihilation, or loss of

personality, which is all the same.

A. If the Church teaches nothing of the kind, on the other hand, Jesus does; and

that is something to those, at least, who place Christ higher than Christianity.


Q. Does Christ teach anything of the sort?

A. He does; and every well-informed Occultist and even Cabalist will tell you

so. Christ, or the fourth Gospel at any rate, teaches reincarnation as also the

annihilation of the personality, if you but forget the dead letter and hold to

the esoteric Spirit. Remember the parable spoken of by St. John. What does the

parable speak about if not of theupper triad in man? Atma is the Husbandman-the Spiritual Ego or Buddhi (Christos) the Vine, while the animal and vital Soul,

the personality, is the "branch."


I am the true vine, and my Father is the Husbandman. Every branch in me that

beareth not fruit he taketh away … As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself

except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the

Vine-ye are the branches. If a man abide not in me he is cast forth as a branch,

and is withered and cast into the fire and burned.


Now we explain it in this way. Disbelieving in the hellfire which theology

discovers as underlying the threat to the branches, we say that the "Husbandman" means Atma, the Symbol for the infinite, impersonal Principle, while the Vine stands for the Spiritual Soul, Christos, and each "branch" represents a new incarnation.


Q. But what proofs have you to support such an arbitrary interpretation?

A.Universal symbology is a warrant for its correctness and that it is not

arbitrary. Hermas says of "God" that he "planted the Vineyard," i.e., he created

mankind. In the Cabala, it is shown that the Aged of the Aged, or the "Long

Face," plants a vineyard, the latter typifying mankind; and a vine, meaning

Life. The Spirit of "KingMessiah" is, therefore, shown as washing his garments

inthe wine from above, from the creation of the world. [Zohar XL, 10] And King

Messiah is the Ego purified by washing his garments (i.e., his personalities in

rebirth), in the wine from above, or Buddhi. Adam, or A-Dam, is "blood." The

Life of the flesh is in the blood (nephesh-soul). And Adam-Kadmon is the

Only-Begotten. Noah also plants a vineyard-the allegorical hotbed of future

humanity. As a consequence of the adoption of the same allegory, we find it

reproduced in the Nazarene Codex.Seven vines are procreated-which seven vines are our Seven Races with their seven Saviors or Buddhas-which spring from Iukabar Zivo, and Ferho (or Parcha) Raba waters them.[Codex Nazareus, iii, pp. 60,61] When the blessed will ascend among the creatures of Light, they shall see Iavar-Xivo, Lord of Life, and the First Vine.[Cod. Naz., ii, p.281] These Cabalistic metaphors are thus naturally repeated in the Gospel according to St. John.


Let us not forget that in the human system-even according to those philosophies

which ignore our septenary division-the Ego or thinking man is called the Logos,

or the Son of Soul and Spirit. "Manas is the adopted Son of King *** and Queen

***" (esoteric equivalents for Atma and Buddhi), says an occult work. He is the

"man-god" of Plato, who crucifies himself in Space (or the duration of the life

cycle) for the redemption of Matter. This he does by incarnating over and over

again, thus leading mankind onward to perfection, and making thereby room for

lower forms to develop into higher. Not for one life does he cease progressing

himself and helping all physical nature to progress; even the occasional, very

rare event of his losing one of his personalities, in the case of the latter

being entirely devoid of even a spark of spirituality, helps toward his

individual progress.


Q. But surely, if theEgo is held responsible for the transgressions of its

personalities, it has to answer also for the loss, or rather the complete

annihilation, of one of such.

A. Not at all, unless it has done nothing to avert this dire fate. But if, all

its efforts notwithstanding, its voice, that of our conscience, was unable to

penetrate through the wall of matter, then the obtuseness of the latter

proceeding from the imperfect nature of the material is classed with other

failures of nature. The Ego is sufficiently punished by the loss of Devachan,

and especially by having to incarnate almost immediately.


Q. This doctrine of the possibility of losing one's soul-or personality, do you

call it?-militates against the ideal theories of both Christians and

Spiritualists, though Swedenborg adopts it to a certain extent, in what he

callsSpiritual death. They will never accept it.

A. This can in no way alter a fact in nature, if it be a fact, or prevent such a

thing occasionally taking place. The universe and everything in it, moral,

mental, physical, psychic, or Spiritual, is built on a perfect law of

equilibrium and harmony. As said before (see Isis Unveiled), the centripetal

force could not manifest itself without the centrifugal in the harmonious

revolutions of the spheres, and all forms and their progress are the products of

this dual force in nature. Now the Spirit (or Buddhi) is the centrifugal and the

soul (Manas) the centripetal spiritual energy; and to produce one result they

have to be in perfect union and harmony. Break or damage the centripetal motion of the earthly soul tending toward the center which attracts it; arrest its

progress by clogging it with a heavier weight of matter than it can bear, or

than is fit for the Devachanic state, and the harmony of the whole will be

destroyed. Personal life, or perhaps rather its ideal reflection, can only be

continued if sustained by the two-fold force, that is by the close union of

Buddhi and Manasin every rebirth or personal life. The least deviation from

harmony damages it; and when it is destroyed beyond redemption the two forces separate at the moment of death.


During a brief interval the personal form (called indifferently Kamarupa and Mayavirupa), the spiritual efflorescence of which, attaching itself to the Ego, follows it into Devachan and gives to the permanent individuality its personal coloring (pro tem, so to speak), is carried off to remain in Kamaloka and to be gradually annihilated.


For it is after the death of the utterly depraved, the unspiritual and the wicked beyond redemption, that arrives the critical and supreme moment. If during life the ultimate and desperate effort of the Inner Self (Manas), to unite something of the personality with itself and the high glimmering ray of the divine Buddhi, is

thwarted; if this ray is allowed to be more and more shut out from the

ever-thickening crust of physical brain, the Spiritual Ego or Manas, once freed

from the body, remains severed entirely from the ethereal relic of the

personality; and the latter, or Kamarupa, following its earthly attractions, is

drawn into and remains in Hades,which we call the Kamaloka. These are "the

withered branches" mentioned by Jesus as being cut off from the

Vine.Annihilation, however, is never instantaneous, and may require centuries

sometimes for its accomplishment. But there the personality remains along with

the remnants of other more fortunate personal Egos, and becomes with them a

shell and an Elementary.As said in Isis Unveiled, it is these two classes of

"Spirits," the shells and the Elementaries, which are the leading "Stars" on the

great spiritual stage of "materializations." And you may be sure of it, it is

not they who incarnate; and, therefore, so few of these "dear departed ones"

know anything of reincarnation, misleading thereby the Spiritualists.


Q. But does not the author of Isis Unveiled stand accused of having preached

against reincarnation?

A. By those who have misunderstood what was said, yes. At the time that work was written, reincarnation was not believed in by any Spiritualists, either English

or American, and what is said there of reincarnation was directed against the

French Spiritists, whose theory is as unphilosophical and absurd as the Eastern

teaching is logical and self-evident in its truth. The Reincarnationists of the

Allan Kardec School believe in an arbitrary and immediate reincarnation. With

them, the dead father can incarnate in his own unborn daughter, and so on. They

have neither Devachan, Karma, nor any philosophy that would warrant or prove the necessity of consecutive rebirths. But how can the author of Isis Unveiled argue against Karmic reincarnation, at long intervals varying between 1,000 and 1,500 years, when it is the fundamental belief of both Buddhists and Hindus?


Q. Then you reject the theories of both the Spiritists and the Spiritualists, in

their entirety?

A. Not in their entirety, but only with regard to their respective fundamental

beliefs. Both rely on what their "Spirits" tell them; and both disagree as much

with each other as we Theosophists disagree with both. Truth is one; and when we hear the French spooks preaching reincarnation, and the English spooks denying and denouncing the doctrine, we say that either the French or the English "Spirits" do not know what they are talking about. We believe with the

Spiritualists and the Spiritists in the existence of "Spirits," or invisible

Beings endowed with more or less intelligence. But, while in our teachings their

kinds and genera are legion, our opponents admit of no other than human

disembodied "Spirits," which, to our knowledge, are mostly Kamalokic Shells.


Q. You seem very bitter against Spirits. As you have given me your views and

your reasons for disbelieving in the materialization of, and direct

communication in seances, with the disembodied spirits-or the "spirits of the

dead"-would you mind enlightening me as to one more fact? Why are some

Theosophists never tired of saying how dangerous is intercourse with spirits,

and mediumship? Have they any particular reason for this?

A. We must suppose so. I know I have. Owing to my familiarity for over half a

century with these invisible, yet but too tangible and undeniable "influences,"

from the conscious Elementals, semi-consciousshells, down to the utterly

senseless and nondescript spooks of all kinds, I claim a certain right to my



Q. Can you give an instance or instances to show why these practices should be

regarded as dangerous?

A. This would require more time than I can give you. Every cause must be judged by the effects it produces. Go over the history of Spiritualism for the last

fifty years, ever since its reappearance in this century in America-and judge

for yourself whether it has done its votaries more good or harm. Pray understand me. I do not speak against real Spiritualism, but against the modern movement which goes under that name, and the so-called philosophy invented to explain its phenomena.


Q. Don't you believe in their phenomena at all?

A. It is because I believe in them with too good reason, and (save some cases of

deliberate fraud) know them to be as true as that you and I live, that all my

being revolts against them. Once more I speak only of physical, not mental or

even psychic phenomena. Like attracts like. There are several high-minded, pure,

good men and women, known to me personally, who have passed years of their lives under the direct guidance and even protection of high "Spirits," whether

disembodied or planetary. But these Intelligences are not of the type of the

John Kings and the Ernests who figure in seancerooms. These Intelligences guide and control mortals only in rare and exceptional cases to which they are

attracted and magnetically drawn by the Karmic past of the individual. It is not

enough to sit "for development" in order to attract them. That only opens the

door to a swarm of "spooks," good, bad, and indifferent, to which the medium

becomes a slave for life. It is against such promiscuous mediumship and

intercourse with goblins that I raise my voice, not against spiritual mysticism.

The latter is ennobling and holy; the former is of just the same nature as the

phenomena of two centuries ago, for which so many witches and wizards have been made to suffer. Read Glanvil and other authors on the subject of witchcraft, and you will find recorded there the parallels of most, if not all, of the physical phenomena of nineteenth century "Spiritualism."


Q. Do you mean to suggest that it is all witchcraft and nothing more?

A. What I mean is that, whether conscious or unconscious, all this dealing with

the dead is necromancy, and a most dangerous practice. For ages before Moses

such raising of the dead was regarded by all the intelligent nations as sinful

and cruel, inasmuch as it disturbs the rest of the souls and interferes with

their evolutionary development into higher states. The collective wisdom of all

past centuries has ever been loud in denouncing such practices. Finally, I say,

what I have never ceased repeating orally and in print for fifteen years: While

some of the so-called "spirits" do not know what they are talking about,

repeating merely-like poll-parrots-what they find in the mediums' and other

people's brains, others are most dangerous, and can only lead one to evil. These

are two self-evident facts. Go into Spiritualistic circles of the Allan Kardec

school, and you find "spirits" asserting reincarnation and speaking like Roman

Catholics born.


Turn to the "dear departed ones" in England and America, and you

will hear them denying reincarnation through thick and thin, denouncing those

who teach it, and holding to Protestant views. Your best, your most powerful

mediums, have all suffered in health of body and mind. Think of the sad end of

Charles Foster, who died in an asylum, a raving lunatic; of Slade, an epileptic;

of Eglinton-the best medium now in England-subject to the same.


Look back over the life of D.D. Home, a man whose mind was steeped in gall and bitterness, who never had a good word to say of anyone whom he suspected of possessing psychic powers, and who slandered every other medium to the bitter end. This Calvin of Spiritualism suffered for years from a terrible spinal disease, brought on by his intercourse with the "spirits," and died a perfect wreck. Think again of the sad fate of poor Washington Irving Bishop. I knew him in New York, when he was fourteen, and he was undeniably a medium. It is true that the poor man stole a march on his "spirits," and baptized them "unconscious muscular action," to the great gaudiumof all the corporations of highly learned and scientific fools, and to the replenishment of his own pocket. But de mortuis nil nisi bonum; his end was a sad one. He had strenuously concealed his epileptic fits-the first and strongest symptom of genuine mediumship-and who knows whether he was dead or in

a trance when the postmortem examination was performed? His relatives insist

that he was alive, if we are to believe Reuter's telegrams. Finally, behold the

veteran mediums, the founders and prime movers of modern spiritualism-the Fox sisters. After more than forty years of intercourse with the "Angels," the

latter have led them to become incurable sots, who are now denouncing, in public lectures, their own life-long work and philosophy as a fraud. What kind of spirits must they be who prompted them, I ask you?


Q. But is your inference a correct one?

A. What would you infer if the best pupils of a particular school of singing

broke down from overstrained sore throats? That the method followed was a bad one. So I think the inference is equally fair with regard to Spiritualism when

we see their best mediums fall a prey to such a fate. We can only say: Let those

who are interested in the question judge the tree of Spiritualism by its fruits,

and ponder over the lesson. We Theosophists have always regarded the

Spiritualists as brothers having the same mystic tendency as ourselves, but they

have always regarded us as enemies. We, being in possession of an older

philosophy, have tried to help and warn them; but they have repaid us by

reviling and traducing us and our motives in every possible way. Nevertheless,

the best English Spiritualists say just as we do, wherever they treat of their

belief seriously. Hear "M.A. Oxon" confessing this truth:


Spiritualists are too much inclined to dwell exclusively on the intervention of

external spirits in this world of ours,and to ignore the powers of the incarnate

Spirit.Why vilify and abuse us, then, for saying precisely the same? Henceforward, we will have nothing more to do with Spiritualism. And now let us return to Reincarnation.


On the Mysteries of Reincarnation


Periodical Rebirths


Q. You mean, then, that we have all lived on earth before, in many past

incarnations, and shall go on so living?

A. I do. The life cycle, or rather the cycle of conscious life, begins with the

separation of the mortal animal-man into sexes, and will end with the close of

the last generation of men, in the seventh round and seventh race of mankind.

Considering we are only in the fourth round and fifth race, its duration is more

easily imagined than expressed.


Q. And we keep on incarnating in new personalities all the time?

A. Most assuredly so; because this life cycle or period of incarnation may be

best compared to human life. As each such life is composed of days of activity

separated by nights of sleep or of inaction, so, in the incarnation cycle, an

active life is followed by a Devachanic rest.


Q. And it is this succession of births that is generally defined as


A. Just so. It is only through these births that the perpetual progress of the

countless millions of Egos toward final perfection and final rest (as long as

was the period of activity) can be achieved.


Q. And what is it that regulates the duration, or special qualities of these


A. Karma, the universal law of retributive justice.


Q. Is it an intelligent law?

A. For the Materialist, who calls the law of periodicity which regulates the

marshaling of the several bodies, and all the other laws in nature, blind forces

and mechanical laws, no doubt Karma would be a law of chance and no more. For us, no adjective or qualification could describe that which is impersonal and no entity, but a universal operative law. If you question me about the causative

intelligence in it, I must answer you I do not know. But if you ask me to define

its effects and tell you what these are in our belief, I may say that the

experience of thousands of ages has shown us that they are absolute and unerring equity, wisdom, and intelligence.For Karma in its effects is an unfailing

redresser of human injustice, and of all the failures of nature; a stern

adjuster of wrongs; a retributive law which rewards and punishes with equal

impartiality. It is, in the strictest sense, "no respecter of persons," though,

on the other hand, it can neither be propitiated, nor turned aside by prayer.

This is a belief common to Hindus and Buddhists, who both believe in Karma.


Q. In this Christian dogmas contradict both, and I doubt whether any Christian

will accept the teaching.

A. No; and Inman gave the reason for it many years ago. As he puts it, while

… the Christians will accept any nonsense, if promulgated by the Church as a

matter of faith … the Buddhists hold that nothing which is contradicted by sound reason can be a true doctrine of Buddha.


They do not believe in any pardon for their sins, except after an adequate and

just punishment for each evil deed or thought in a future incarnation, and a

proportionate compensation to the parties injured.


Q. Where is it so stated?

A. In most of their sacred works. Consider the following Theosophical tenet:

Buddhists believe that every act, word, or thought has its consequence, which

will appear sooner or later in the present or in the future state. Evil acts

will produce evil consequences, good acts will produce good consequences:

prosperity in this world, or birth in heaven (Devachan) … in the future state.


Q. Christians believe the same thing, don't they?

A. Oh, no; they believe in the pardon and the remission of all sins. They are

promised that if they only believe in the blood of Christ (an innocentvictim!),

in the blood offered by Him for the expiation of the sins of the whole of

mankind, it will atone for every mortal sin. And we believe neither in vicarious

atonement, nor in the possibility of the remission of the smallest sin by any

god, not even by a "personal Absolute" or "Infinite," if such a thing could have

any existence. What we believe in, is strict and impartial justice. Our idea of

the unknown Universal Deity, represented by Karma, is that it is a Power which

cannot fail, and can, therefore, have neither wrath nor mercy, only absolute

Equity, which leaves every cause, great or small, to work out its inevitable

effects. The saying of Jesus: "With what measure you mete it shall be measured

to you again," neither by expression nor implication points to any hope of

future mercy or salvation by proxy. This is why, recognizing as we do in our

philosophy the justice of this statement, we cannot recommend too strongly

mercy, charity, and forgiveness of mutual offenses. Resist not evil, and render

good for evil, are Buddhist precepts, and were first preached in view of the

implacability of Karmic law. For man to take the law into his own hands is

anyhow a sacrilegious presumption. Human Law may use restrictive not punitive

measures; but a man who, believing in Karma, still revenges himself and refuses

to forgive every injury, thereby rendering good for evil, is a criminal and only

hurts himself. As Karma is sure to punish the man who wronged him, by seeking to inflict an additional punishment on his enemy, he, who instead of leaving that

punishment to the great Law adds to it his own mite, only begets thereby a cause

for the future reward of his own enemy and a future punishment for himself. The

unfailing Regulator affects in each incarnation the quality of its successor;

and the sum of the merit or demerit in preceding ones determines it.


Q. Are we then to infer a man's past from his present?

A. Only so far as to believe that his present life is what it justly should be,

to atone for the sins of the past life. Of course-seers and great adepts

excepted-we cannot as average mortals know what those sins were. From our

paucity of data, it is impossible for us even to determine what an old man's

youth must have been; neither can we, for like reasons, draw final conclusions

merely from what we see in the life of some man, as to what his past life may

have been.


What is Karma?


Q. But what is Karma?

A. As I have said, we consider it as the Ultimate Law of the Universe, the

source, origin, and fount of all other laws which exist throughout Nature. Karma

is the unerring law which adjusts effect to cause, on the physical, mental, and

spiritual planes of being. As no cause remains without its due effect from

greatest to least, from a cosmic disturbance down to the movement of your hand, and as like produces like,Karma is that unseen and unknown law which adjusts wisely, intelligently, and equitably each effect to its cause, tracing the

latter back to its producer. Though itself unknowable,its action is perceivable.


Q. Then it is the "Absolute," the "Unknowable" again, and is not of much value

as an explanation of the problems of life?

A. On the contrary. For, though we do not know what Karma is per se, and in its essence, we do know how it works, and we can define and describe its mode of action with accuracy. We only do notknow its ultimate Cause, just as modern

philosophy universally admits that the ultimate Cause of anything is



Q. And what has Theosophy to say in regard to the solution of the more practical needs of humanity? What is the explanation which it offers in reference to the awful suffering and dire necessity prevalent among the so-called "lower


A. To be pointed, according to our teaching all these great social evils, the

distinction of classes in Society, and of the sexes in the affairs of life, the

unequal distribution of capital and of labor-all are due to what we tersely but

truly denominate Karma.


Q. But, surely, all these evils which seem to fall upon the masses somewhat

indiscriminately are not actual merited and individual Karma?

A. No, they cannot be so strictly defined in their effects as to show that each

individual environment, and the particular conditions of life in which each

person finds himself, are nothing more than the retributive Karma which the

individual generated in a previous life. We must not lose sight of the fact that

every atom is subject to the general law governing the whole body to which it

belongs, and here we come upon the wider track of the Karmic law. Do you not

perceive that the aggregate of individual Karma becomes that of the nation to

which those individuals belong, and further, that the sum total of National Karma

is that of the World? The evils that you speak of are not peculiar to the

individual or even to the Nation, they are more or less universal; and it is

upon this broad line of Human interdependence that the law of Karma finds its

legitimate and equable issue.


Q. Do I, then, understand that the law of Karma is not necessarily an individual


A. That is just what I mean. It is impossible that Karma could readjust the

balance of power in the world's life and progress, unless it had a broad and

general line of action. It is held as a truth among Theosophists that the

interdependence of Humanity is the cause of what is called Distributive Karma,

and it is this law which affords the solution to the great question of

collective suffering and its relief. It is an occult law, moreover, that no man

can rise superior to his individual failings, without lifting, be it ever so

little, the whole body of which he is an integral part. In the same way, no one

can sin, nor suffer the effects of sin, alone. In reality, there is no such

thing as "Separateness"; and the nearest approach to that selfish state, which

the laws of life permit, is in the intent or motive.


Q. And are there no means by which the distributive or national Karma might be

concentrated or collected, so to speak, and brought to its natural and

legitimate fulfillment without all this protracted suffering?

A. As a general rule, and within certain limits which define the age to which we

belong, the law of Karma cannot be hastened or retarded in its fulfillment. But

of this I am certain, the point of possibility in either of these directions has

never yet been touched. Listen to the following recital of one phase of national

suffering, and then ask yourself whether, admitting the working power of

individual, relative, and distributive Karma, these evils are not capable of

extensive modification and general relief. What I am about to read to you is

from the pen of a National Savior, one who, having overcome Self, and being free to choose, has elected to serve Humanity, in bearing at least as much as a

woman's shoulders can possibly bear of National Karma. This is what she says:

Yes, Nature always does speak, don't you think? only sometimes we make so much noise that we drown her voice. That is why it is so restful to go out of the

town and nestle awhile in the Mother's arms. I am thinking of the evening on

Hampstead Heath when we watched the sun go down; but oh! upon what suffering and misery that sun had set! A lady brought me yesterday a big hamper of wild flowers. I thought some of my East-end family had a better right to it than I, and so I took it down to a very poor school in Whitechapel this morning.


You should have seen the pallid little faces brighten! Thence I went to pay for some dinners at a little cookshop for some children. It was in a back street, narrow, full of jostling people; stench indescribable, from fish, meat, and other food, all reeking in a sun that, in Whitechapel, festers instead of purifying. The

cookshop was the quintessence of all the smells. Indescribable meat-pies at 1d.,

loathsome lumps of 'food' and swarms of flies, a very altar of Beelzebub! All

about, babies on the prowl for scraps, one, with the face of an angel, gathering

up cherrystones as a light and nutritious form of diet. I came westward with

every nerve shuddering and jarred, wondering whether anything can be done with some parts of London save swallowing them up in an earthquake and starting their inhabitants afresh, after a plunge into some purifying Lethe, out of which not a memory might emerge! And then I thought of Hampstead Heath, and-pondered.


If by any sacrifice one could win the power to save these people, the cost would not be worth counting; but, you see,they must be changed-and how can that be

wrought? In the condition they now are, they would not profit by any environment in which they might be placed; and yet, in their present surroundings they must continue to putrefy.


It breaks my heart, this endless, hopeless misery, and the brutish degradation that is at once its outgrowth and its root. It is like the banyan tree; every branch roots itself and sends out new shoots. What a difference between these feelings and the peaceful scene at Hampstead! and yet we, who are the brothers and sisters of these poor creatures, have only a right to use Hampstead Heaths to gain strength to save Whitechapels.


Q. That is a sad but beautiful letter, and I think it presents with painful

conspicuity the terrible workings of what you have called "Relative and

Distributive Karma." But alas! there seems no immediate hope of any relief short

of an earthquake, or some such general engulfment!

A. What right have we to think so while one-half of humanity is in a position to

effect an immediate relief of the privations which are suffered by their

fellows? When every individual has contributed to the general good what he can

of money, of labor, and of ennobling thought, then, and only then, will the

balance of National Karma be struck, and until then we have no right nor any

reasons for saying that there is more life on the earth than Nature can support.

It is reserved for the heroic souls, the Saviors of our Race and Nation, to find

out the cause of this unequal pressure of retributive Karma, and by a supreme

effort to readjust the balance of power, and save the people from a moral

engulfment a thousand times more disastrous and more permanently evil than the

like physical catastrophe, in which you seem to see the only possible outlet for

this accumulated misery.


Q. Well, then, tell me generally how you describe this law of Karma?

A. We describe Karma as that Law of readjustment which ever tends to restore

disturbed equilibrium in the physical, and broken harmony in the moral world. We say that Karma does not act in this or that particular way always; but that it

always does act so as to restore Harmony and preserve the balance of

equilibrium, in virtue of which the Universe exists.


Q. Give me an illustration.

A. Later on I will give you a full illustration. Think now of a pond. A stone

falls into the water and creates disturbing waves. These waves oscillate

backwards and forwards till at last, owing to the operation of what physicists

call the law of the dissipation of energy, they are brought to rest, and the

water returns to its condition of calm tranquility. Similarly all action, on

every plane, produces disturbance in the balanced harmony of the Universe, and

the vibrations so produced will continue to roll backwards and forwards, if its

area is limited, till equilibrium is restored. But since each such disturbance

starts from some particular point, it is clear that equilibrium and harmony can

only be restored by the reconverging to that same point of all the forces which

were set in motion from it. And here you have proof that the consequences of a

man's deeds, thoughts, etc. must all react upon himself with the same force with

which they were set in motion.


Q. But I see nothing of a moral character about this law. It looks to me like

the simple physical law that action and reaction are equal and opposite.

A. I am not surprised to hear you say that. Europeans have got so much into the

ingrained habit of considering right and wrong, good and evil, as matters of an

arbitrary code of law laid down either by men, or imposed upon them by a

Personal God. We Theosophists, however, say that "Good" and "Harmony," and "Evil" and "Dis-harmony," are synonymous. Further we maintain that all pain and suffering are results of want of Harmony, and that the one terrible and only cause of the disturbance of Harmony is selfishness in some form or another.


Hence Karma gives back to every man the actual consequences of his own actions, without any regard to their moral character; but since he receives his due for all, it is obvious that he will be made to atone for all sufferings which he has

caused, just as he will reap in joy and gladness the fruits of all the happiness

and harmony he had helped to produce. I can do no better than quote for your

benefit certain passages from books and articles written by our Theosophists-those who have a correct idea of Karma.


Q. I wish you would, as your literature seers to be very sparing on this


A. Because it is themost difficult of all our tenets. Some short time ago there

appeared the following objection from a Christian pen:


Granting that the teaching in regard to Theosophy is correct, and that "man must

be his own savior, must overcome self and conquer the evil that is in his dual

nature, to obtain the emancipation of his soul," what is man to do after he has

been awakened and converted to a certain extent from evil or wickedness? How is he to get emancipation, or pardon, or the blotting out of the evil or wickedness he has already done?


To this Mr. J.H. Conelly replies very pertinently that no one can hope to "make

the theosophical engine run on the theological track." As he has it:

The possibility of shirking individual responsibility is not among the concepts

of Theosophy. In this faith there is no such thing as pardoning, or "blotting

out of evil or wickedness already done," otherwise than by the adequate

punishment therefore of the wrong-doer and the restoration of the harmony in the universe that had been disturbed by his wrongful act. The evil has been his own, and while others must suffer its consequences, atonement can be made by nobody but himself.


The condition contemplated … in which a man shall have been "awakened and

converted to a certain extent from evil or wickedness," is that in which a man

shall have realized that his deeds are evil and deserving of punishment. In that

realization a sense of personal responsibility is inevitable, and just in

proportion to the extent of his awakening or "converting" must be the sense of

that awful responsibility. While it is strong upon him is the time when he is

urged to accept the doctrine of vicarious atonement.


He is told that he must also repent, but nothing is easier than that. It is an

amiable weakness of human nature that we are quite prone to regret the evil we

have done when our attention is called, and we have either suffered from it

ourselves or enjoyed its fruits. Possibly, close analysis of the feeling would

show us that thing which we regret is rather the necessity that seemed to

require the evil as a means of attainment of our selfish ends than the evil



Attractive as this prospect of casting our burden of sins "at the foot of the

cross" may be to the ordinary mind, it does not commend itself to the Theosophic student. He does not apprehend why the sinner by attaining knowledge of his evil can thereby merit any pardon for or the blotting out of his past wickedness; or why repentance and future right living entitle him to a suspension in his favor of the universal law of relation between cause and effect.


The results of his evil deeds continue to exist; the suffering caused to others by his wickedness is not blotted out. The Theosophical student takes the result of wickedness upon the innocent into his problem. He considers not only the guilty person, but his victims.


Evil is an infraction of the laws of harmony governing the universe, and the

penalty thereof must fall upon the violator of that law himself. Christ uttered

the warning, "Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee," and St. Paul

said, "Work out your own salvation. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." That, by the way, is a fine metaphoric rendering of the sentence of the Pur as far antedating him-that "every man reaps the consequences of his own



This is the principle of the law of Karma which is taught by Theosophy. Sinnett,

in his Esoteric Buddhism,rendered Karma as "the law of ethical causation." "The

law of retribution," as Mme. Blavatsky translates its meaning, is better. It is

the power which


Just though mysterious, leads us on unerring

Through ways unmarked from guilt to punishment.


But it is more. It rewards merit as unerringly and amply as it punishes demerit.

It is the outcome of every act, of thought, word, and deed, and by it men mold

themselves, their lives and happenings. Eastern philosophy rejects the idea of a

newly created soul for every baby born. It believes in a limited number of

monads, evolving and growing more and more perfect through their assimilation of many successive personalities. Those personalities are the product of Karma and it is by Karma and reincarnation that the human monad in time returns to its

source-absolute deity.


E.D. Walker, in his Reincarnation, offers the following explanation:

Briefly, the doctrine of Karma is that we have made ourselves what we are by

former actions, and are building our future eternity by present actions. There

is no destiny but what we ourselves determine. There is no salvation or

condemnation except what we ourselves bring about … Because it offers no shelter for culpable actions and necessitates a sterling manliness, it is less welcome to weak natures than the easy religious tenets of vicarious atonement, intercession, forgiveness, and deathbed conversions … In the domain of eternal

justice the offense and the punishment are inseparably connected as the same

event, because there is no real distinction between the action and its outcome …

It is Karma, or our old acts, that draws us back into earthly life. The spirit's

abode changes according to its Karma, and this Karma forbids any long

continuance in one condition, because it is always changing. So long as action

is governed by material and selfish motives, just so long must the effect of

that action be manifested in physical rebirths. Only the perfectly selfless man

can elude the gravitation of material life. Few have attained this, but it is

the goal of mankind.


And then the writer quotes from The Secret Doctrine:


Those who believe in Karma have to believe in destiny, which, from birth to

death, every man is weaving, thread by thread, around himself, as a spider does

his cobweb, and this destiny is guided either by the heavenly voice of the

invisible prototype outside of us, or by our more intimate astral or inner man,

who is but too often the evil genius of the embodied entity called man. Both

these lead on the outward man, but one of them must prevail; and from the very

beginning of the invisible affray the stern and implacable law of compensation

steps in and takes its course, faithfully following the fluctuations. When the

last strand is woven, and man is seemingly enwrapped in the network of his own

doing, then he finds himself completely under the empire of this self-made

destiny … An Occultist or a philosopher will not speak of the goodness or

cruelty of Providence; but, identifying it with Karma-Nemesis, he will teach

that, nevertheless, it guards the good and watches over them in this as in

future lives; and that it punishes the evil-doer-aye, even to his seventh

rebirth-so long, in short, as the effect of his having thrown into perturbation

even the smallest atom in the infinite world of harmony has not been finally

readjusted. For the only decree of Karma-an eternal and immutable decree-is

absolute harmony in the world of matter as it is in the world of spirit. It is

not, therefore, Karma that rewards or punishes, but it is we who reward or

punish ourselves according to whether we work with, through and along with

nature, abiding by the laws on which that harmony depends, or-break them. Nor

would the ways of Karma be inscrutable were men to work in union and harmony, instead of disunion and strife. For our ignorance of those ways-which one portion of mankind calls the ways of Providence, dark and intricate; while

another sees in them the action of blind fatalism; and a third simple chance,

with neither gods nor devils to guide them-would surely disappear if we would

but attribute all these to their correct cause … We stand bewildered before the

mystery of our own making and the riddles of life that we will not solve, and

then accuse the great Sphinx of devouring us. But verily there is not an

accident of our lives, not a misshapen day, or a misfortune, that could not be

traced back to our own doings in this or in another life … The law of Karma is

inextricably interwoven with that of reincarnation … It is only this doctrine

that can explain to us the mysterious problem of good and evil, and reconcile

man to the terrible and apparent injustice of life. Nothing but such certainty

can quiet our revolted sense of justice. For, when one unacquainted with the

noble doctrine looks around him and observes the inequalities of birth and

fortune, of intellect and capacities; when one sees honor paid to fools and

wastrels, on whom fortune has heaped her favors by mere privilege of birth, and

their nearest neighbor, with all his intellect and noble virtues-far more

deserving in every way-perishing for want and for lack of sympathy-when one sees all this and has to turn away, helpless to relieve the undeserved suffering,

one's ears ringing and heart aching with the cries of pain around him-that

blessed knowledge of Karma alone prevents him from cursing life and men as well as their supposed Creator … This law, whether conscious or unconscious,

predestines nothing and no one. It exists from and in eternity truly, for it is

eternity itself; and as such, since no act can be coequal with eternity, it

cannot be said to act, for it is action itself. It is not the wave which drowns

the man, but the personal action of the wretch who goes deliberately and places

himself under the impersonal action of the laws that govern the ocean's motion.

Karma creates nothing, nor does it design. It is man who plants and creates

causes, and Karmic law adjusts the effects, which adjustment is not an act but

universal harmony, tending ever to resume its original position, like a bough,

which, bent down too forcibly, rebounds with corresponding vigor. If it happen

to dislocate the arm that tried to bend it out of its natural position, shall we

say it is the bough which broke our arm or that our own folly has brought us to

grief? Karma has never sought to destroy intellectual and individual liberty,

like the god invented by the Monotheists. It has not involved its decrees in

darkness purposely to perplex man, nor shall it punish him who dares to

scrutinize its mysteries. On the contrary, he who unveils through study and

meditation its intricate paths, and throws light on those dark ways, in the

windings of which so many men perish owing to their ignorance of the labyrinth

of life, is working for the good of his fellowmen. Karma is an absolute and

eternal law in the world of manifestation; and as there can only be one

Absolute, as one Eternal, ever-present Cause, believers in Karma cannot be

regarded as atheists or materialists, still less as fatalists, for Karma is one

with the Unknowable, of which it is an aspect, in its effects in the phenomenal



Another able Theosophic writer says:


Every individual is making Karma either good or bad in each action and thought

of his daily round, and is at the same time working out in this life the Karma

brought about by the acts and desires of the last. When we see people afflicted

by congenital ailments it may be safely assumed that these ailments are the

inevitable results of causes started by themselves in a previous birth. It may

be argued that, as these afflictions are hereditary, they can have nothing to do

with a past incarnation; but it must be remembered that the Ego, the real man,

the individuality, has no spiritual origin in the parentage by which it is

reembodied, but it is drawn by the affinities which its previous mode of life

attracted round it into the current that carries it, when the time comes for

rebirth, to the home best fitted for the development of those tendencies … This

doctrine of Karma, when properly understood, is well calculated to guide and

assist those who realize its truth to a higher and better mode of life, for it

must not be forgotten that not only our actions but our thoughts also are most

assuredly followed by a crowd of circumstances that will influence for good or

for evil our own future, and, what is still more important, the future of many

of our fellow-creatures. If sins of omission and commission could in any case be only self-regarding, the fact on the sinner's Karma would be a matter of minor

consequence. The effect that every thought and act through life carries with it

for good or evil a corresponding influence on other members of the human family renders a strict sense of justice, morality, and unselfishness so necessary to future happiness or progress. A crime once committed, an evil thought sent out from the mind, are past recall-no amount of repentance can wipe out their

results in the future. Repentance, if sincere, will deter a man from repeating

errors; it cannot save him or others from the effects of those already produced,

which will most unerringly overtake him either in this life or in the next



Mr. J.H. Conelly proceeds-


The believers in a religion based upon such doctrine are willing it should be

compared with one in which man's destiny for eternity is determined by the

accidents of a single, brief earthly existence, during which he is cheered by

the promise that "as the tree falls so shall it lie"; in which his brightest

hope, when he wakes up to a knowledge of his wickedness, is the doctrine of

vicarious atonement, and in which even that is handicapped, according to the

Presbyterian Confession of Faith.


By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels

are predestinated unto everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting



These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained are particularly and

unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it

cannot be either increased or diminished … As God hath appointed the elect unto glory … Neither are any other redeemed by Christ effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.


The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of

his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the

glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by and to ordain them

to dishonor and wrath for their sin to the praise of his glorious justice.

This is what the able defender says. Nor can we do any better than wind up the

subject as he does, by a quotation from a magnificent poem. As he says:


The exquisite beauty of Edwin Arnold's exposition of Karma in The Light of Asia tempts to its reproduction here, but it is too long for quotation in full. Here

is a portion of it:


Karma-all that total of a soul


Which is the things it did, the thoughts it had,

The "self" it wove with woof of viewless time

Crossed on the warp invisible of acts.


Before beginning and without an end,

As space eternal and as surety sure,

Is fixed a Power divine which moves to good,

Only its laws endure.


It will not be despised of anyone;

Who thwarts it loses, and who serves it gains;

The hidden good it pays with peace and bliss,

The hidden ill with pains.


It seeth everywhere and marketh all;

Do right-it recompenseth! Do one wrong-

The equal retribution must be made,

Though Dharma tarry long.


It knows not wrath nor pardon; utter-true,

Its measures mete, its faultless balance weighs;

Times are as naught, tomorrow it will judge

Or after many days.


Such is the law which moves to righteousness,

Which none at last can turn aside or stay;

The heart of it is love, the end of it

Is peace and consummation sweet. Obey.


And now I advise you to compare our Theosophic views upon Karma, the law of Retribution, and say whether they are not both more philosophical and just than this cruel and idiotic dogma which makes of "God" a senseless fiend; the tenet, namely, that the "elect only" will be saved, and the rest doomed to eternal



Q. Yes, I see what you mean generally; but I wish you could give some concrete

example of the action of Karma?

A. That I cannot do. We can only feel sure, as I said before, that our present

lives and circumstances are the direct results of our own deeds and thoughts in

lives that are past. But we, who are not Seers or Initiates, cannot know

anything about the details of the working of the law of Karma.


Q. Can anyone, even an Adept or Seer, follow out this Karmic process of

readjustment in detail?

A. Certainly: "Those who know" can do so by the exercise of powers which are

latent even in all men.


Who Are Those Who Know?


Q. Does this hold equally of ourselves as of others?

A. Equally. Aa just said, the same limited vision exists for all, save those who

have reached in the present incarnation the acme of spiritual vision and

clairvoyance. We can only perceive that, if things with us ought to have been

different, they would have been different; that we are what we have made

ourselves, and have only what we have earned for ourselves.


Q. I am afraid such a conception would only embitter us.

A. I believe it is precisely the reverse. It is disbelief in the just law of

retribution that is more likely to awaken every combative feeling in man. A

child, as much as a man, resents a punishment, or even a reproof he believes to

be unmerited, far more than he does a more severe punishment, if he feels that

it is merited. Belief in Karma is the highest reason for reconcilement to one's

lot in this life, and the very strongest incentive towards effort to better the

succeeding rebirth. Both of these, indeed, would be destroyed if we supposed

that our lot was the result of anything but strict Law, or that destiny was in

any other hands than our own.


Q. You have just asserted that this system of Reincarnation under Karmic law

commended itself to reason, justice, and the moral sense. But, if so, is it not

at some sacrifice of the gentler qualities of sympathy and pity, and thus a

hardening of the finer instincts of human nature?

A. Only apparently, not really. No man can receive more or less than his deserts

without a corresponding injustice or partiality to others; and a law which could

be averted through compassion would bring about more misery than it saved, more irritation and curses than thanks. Remember also, that we do not administer the law, if we do create causes for its effects; it administers itself; and again, that the most copious provision for the manifestation of just compassion and mercy is shown in the state of Devachan.


Q. You speak of Adepts as being an exception to the rule of our general

ignorance. Do they really know more than we do of Reincarnation and after


A. They do, indeed. By the training of faculties we all possess, but which they

alone have developed to perfection, they have entered in spirit these various

planes and states we have been discussing. For long ages, one generation of

Adepts after another has studied the mysteries of being, of life, death, and

rebirth, and all have taught in their turn some of the facts so learned.


Q. And is the production of Adepts the aim of Theosophy?

A. Theosophy considers humanity as an emanation from divinity on its return path thereto. At an advanced point upon the path, Adeptship is reached by those who have devoted several incarnations to its achievement. For, remember well, no man has ever reached Adeptship in the Secret Sciences in one life; but many

incarnations are necessary for it after the formation of a conscious purpose and

the beginning of the needful training. Many may be the men and women in the very midst of our Society who have begun this uphill work toward illumination several incarnations ago, and who yet, owing to the personal illusions of the present life, are either ignorant of the fact, or on the road to losing every chance in this existence of progressing any farther. They feel an irresistible attraction

toward occultism and the Higher Life, and yet are too personal and

self-opinionated, too much in love with the deceptive allurements of mundane

life and the world's ephemeral pleasures, to give them up; and so lose their

chance in their present birth. But, for ordinary men, for the practical duties

of daily life, such a far-off result is inappropriate as an aim and quite

ineffective as a motive.


Q. What, then, may be their object or distinct purpose in joining the

Theosophical Society?

A. Many are interested in our doctrines and feel instinctively that they are

truer than those of any dogmatic religion. Others have formed a fixed resolve to

attain the highest ideal of man's duty.


The Difference Between Faith and Knowledge, Or Blind and Reasoned Faith


Q. You say that they accept and believe in the doctrines of Theosophy. But, as

they do not belong to those Adepts you have just mentioned, then they must

accept your teachings on blind faith. In what does this differ from that of

conventional religions?

A. As it differs on almost all the other points, so it differs on this one. What

you call "faith," and that which is blind faith, in reality, and with regard to

the dogmas of the Christian religions, becomes with us "knowledge," the logical

sequence of things we know, about facts in nature. Your Doctrines are based upon interpretation, therefore, upon the secondhandtestimony of Seers; ours upon the invariable and unvarying testimony of Seers. The ordinary Christian theology, for instance, holds that man is a creature of God, of three component

parts-body, soul, and spirit-all essential to his integrity, and all, either in

the gross form of physical earthly existence or in the etherealized form of

post-resurrection experience, needed to so constitute him forever, each man

having thus a permanent existence separate from other men, and from the Divine.

Theosophy, on the other hand, holds that man, being an emanation from the

Unknown, yet ever present and infinite Divine Essence, his body and everything

else is impermanent, hence an illusion; Spirit alone in him being the one

enduring substance, and even that losing its separated individuality at the

moment of its complete reunion with the Universal Spirit.


Q. If we lose even our individuality, then it becomes simply annihilation.

A. I say it does not,since I speak of separate, not of universal individuality.

The latter becomes as a part transformed into the whole; the dewdropis not

evaporated, but becomes the sea. Is physical man annihilated,when from a fetus

he becomes an old man? What kind of Satanic pride must be ours if we place our infinitesimally small consciousness and individuality higher than the universal

and infinite consciousness!


Q. It follows, then, that there is, de facto, no man, but all is Spirit?

A. You are mistaken. It thus follows that the union of Spirit with matter is but

temporary; or, to put it more clearly, since Spirit and matter are one, being

the two opposite poles of the universal manifested substance-that Spirit loses

its right to the name so long as the smallest particle and atom of its

manifesting substance still clings to any form, the result of differentiation.

To believe otherwise is blind faith.


Q. Thus it is on knowledge,not on faith, that you assert that the permanent

principle, the Spirit, simply makes a transit through matter?

A. I would put it otherwise and say-we assert that the appearance of the

permanent and oneprinciple, Spirit, as matter is transient, and, therefore, no

better than an illusion.


Q. Very well; and this, given out on knowledge not faith?

A. Just so. But as I see very well what you are driving at, I may just as well

tell you that we hold faith, such as you advocate, to be a mental disease, and

real faith, i.e., the pistis of the Greeks, as "belief based on knowledge,"

whether supplied by the evidence of physical or spiritual senses.


Q. What do you mean?

A. I mean, if it is the difference between the two that you want to know, then I

can tell you that between faith on authority and faith on one's spiritual

intuition, there is a very great difference.


Q. What is it?

A. One is human credulity and superstition, the other human belief and

intuition.As Professor Alexander Wilder says in his "Introduction to the

Eleusinian Mysteries,"

It is ignorance which leads to profanation. Men ridicule what they do not

properly understand … The undercurrent of this world is set towards one goal;

and inside of human credulity … is a power almost infinite, a holy faith capable

of apprehending the most supreme truths of all existence.

Those who limit that "credulity" to human authoritative dogmas alone, will never

fathom that power nor even perceive it in their natures. It is stuck fast to the

external plane and is unable to bring forth into play the essence that rules it;

for to do this they have to claim their right of private judgment, and this they

never dare to do.


Q. And is it that "intuition" which forces you to reject God as a personal

Father, Ruler, and Governor of the Universe?

A. Precisely. We believe in an ever unknowable Principle, because blind

aberration alone can make one maintain that the Universe, thinking man, and all

the marvels contained even in the world of matter, could have grown without some intelligent powers to bring about the extraordinarily wise arrangement of all

its parts. Nature may err, and often does, in its details and the external

manifestations of its materials, never in its inner causes and results. Ancient

pagans held on this question far more philosophical views than modern

philosophers, whether Agnostics, Materialists, or Christians; and no pagan

writer has ever yet advanced the proposition that cruelty and mercy are not

finite feelings, and can therefore be made the attributes of an infinite god.

Their gods, therefore, were all finite. The Siamese author of the Wheel of the

Law,expresses the same idea about your personal god as we do; he says:

A Buddhist might believe in the existence of a god, sublime above all human

qualities and attributes-a perfect god, above love, and hatred, and jealousy,

calmly resting in a quietude that nothing could disturb, and of such a god he

would speak no disparagement not from a desire to please him or fear to offend

him, but from natural veneration; but he cannot understand a god with the

attributes and qualities of men, a god who loves and hates, and shows anger; a

Deity who, whether described as by Christian Missionaries or by Mohammedans or Brahmins, or Jews, falls below his standard of even an ordinary good man.


Q. Faith for faith, is not the faith of the Christian who believes, in his human

helplessness and humility, that there is a merciful Father in Heaven who will

protect him from temptation, help him in life, and forgive him his

transgressions, better than the cold and proud, almost fatalistic faith of the

Buddhists, Vedantins, and Theosophists?

A. Persist in calling our belief "faith" if you will. But once we are again on

this ever-recurring question, I ask in my turn: faith for faith, is not the one

based on strict logic and reason better than the one which is based simply on

human authority or-hero-worship?Our "faith" has all the logical force of the

arithmetical truism that two and two will produce four. Your faith is like the

logic of some emotional women, of whom Tourgenyeff said that for them two and two were generally five, and a tallow candle into the bargain. Yours is a faith, moreover, which clashes not only with every conceivable view of justice and logic, but which, if analyzed, leads man to his moral perdition, checks the

progress of mankind, and positively making of might, right-transforms every

second man into a Cain to his brother Abel.

Q. What do you allude to?


Has God the Right to Forgive?


A. To the Doctrine of Atonement; I allude to that dangerous dogma in which you believe, and which teaches us that no matter how enormous our crimes against the laws of God and of man, we have but to believe in the self-sacrifice of Jesus for the salvation of mankind, and his blood will wash out every stain. It is twenty years that I preach against it, and I may now draw your attention to a

paragraph from Isis Unveiled, written in 1875. This is what Christianity

teaches, and what we combat:


God's mercy is boundless and unfathomable. It is impossible to conceive of a

human sin so damnable that the price paid in advance for the redemption of the

sinner would not wipe it out if a thousandfold worse. And furthermore, it is

never too late to repent. Though the offender wait until the last minute of the

last hour of the last day of his mortal life, before his blanched lips utter the

confession of faith, he may go to Paradise; the dying thief did it, and so may

all others as vile. These are the assumptions of the Church, and of the Clergy;

assumptions banged at the heads of your countrymen by England's favorite

preachers, right in the "light of the nineteenth century," …

-this most paradoxical age of all. Now to what does it lead?


Q. Does it not make the Christian happier than the Buddhist or Brahmin?

A. No; not the educated man, at any rate, since the majority of these have long

since virtually lost all belief in this cruel dogma. But it leads those who

still believe in it more easily to the threshold of every conceivable crime,

than any other I know of. Let me quote to you once more:


If we step outside the little circle of creed and consider the universe as a

whole balanced by the exquisite adjustment of parts, how all sound logic, how

the faintest glimmering sense of Justice, revolts against this Vicarious

Atonement! If the criminal sinned only against himself, and wronged no one but

himself; if by sincere repentance he could cause the obliteration of past

events, not only from the memory of man, but also from that imperishable record, which no deity-not even the most Supreme of the Supreme-can cause to disappear, then this dogma might not be incomprehensible. But to maintain that one may wrong his fellowman, kill, disturb the equilibrium of society and the natural order of things, and then-through cowardice, hope, or compulsion, it matters not-be forgiven by believing that the spilling of one blood washes out the other blood spilt-this is preposterous!


Can the resultsof a crime be obliterated even though the crime itself should be pardoned? The effects of a cause are never limited to the boundaries of the cause, nor can the results of crime be confined to the offender and his victim.


Every good as well as evil action has its effects, as palpably as the stone flung into calm water. The simile is trite, but it is the best ever conceived, so let us use it. The eddying circles are greater and swifter as the disturbing object is greater or smaller, but the smallest pebble, nay, the tiniest speck, makes its ripples. And this disturbance is not alone visible and on the surface. Below, unseen, in every direction-outward and downward-drop pushes drop until the sides and bottom are touched by the force. More, the air above the water is agitated, and this

disturbance passes, as the physicists tell us, from stratum to stratum out into

space forever and ever; an impulse has been given to matter, and that is never

lost, can never be recalled! …


So with crime, and so with its opposite. The action may be instantaneous, the

effects are eternal. When, after the stone is once flung into the pond, we can

recall it to the hand, roll back the ripples, obliterate the force expended,

restore the etheric waves to their previous state of non-being, and wipe out

every trace of the act of throwing the missile, so that Time's record shall not

show that it ever happened, then, thenwe may patiently hear Christians argue for

the efficacy of this Atonement,-and cease to believe in Karmic Law. As it now stands, we call upon the whole world to decide, which of our two doctrines is the most appreciative of deific justice, and which is more reasonable, even on simple human evidence and logic.


Q. Yet millions believe in the Christian dogma and are happy.

A. Pure sentimentalism overpowering their thinking faculties, which no true

philanthropist or Altruist will ever accept. It is not even a dream of

selfishness, but a nightmare of the human intellect. Look where it leads to, and

tell me the name of that pagan country where crimes are more easily committed or more numerous than in Christian lands. Look at the long and ghastly annual

records of crimes committed in European countries; and behold Protestant and

Biblical America. There, conversions effected in prisons are more numerous than those made by public revivals and preaching. See how the ledger-balance of

Christian justice (!) stands: Red-handed murderers, urged on by the demons of

lust, revenge, cupidity, fanaticism, or mere brutal thirst for blood, who kill

their victims, in most cases, without giving them time to repent or call on

Jesus. These, perhaps, died sinful, and, of course-consistently with theological

logic-met the reward of their greater or lesser of fences. But the murderer,

overtaken by human justice, is imprisoned, wept over by sentimentalists, prayed

with and at, pronounces the charmed words of conversion, and goes to the

scaffold a redeemed child of Jesus! Except for the murder, he would not have

been prayed with, redeemed, pardoned. Clearly this man did well to murder, for

thus he gained eternal happiness! And how about the victim, and his, or her

family, relatives, dependents, social relations; has justice no recompense for

them? Must they suffer in this world and the next, while he who wronged them

sits beside the "holy thief" of Calvary, and is forever blessed? On this

question the clergy keep a prudent silence. (Isis Unveiled) And now you know why Theosophists-whose fundamental belief and hope is justice for all, in Heaven as on earth, and in Karma-reject this dogma.


Q. The ultimate destiny of man, then, is not a Heaven presided over by God, but

the gradual transformation of matter into its primordial element, Spirit?

A. It is to that final goal to which all tends in nature.


Q. Do not some of you regard this association or "fall of spirit into matter" as

evil, and rebirth as a sorrow?

A. Some do, and therefore strive to shorten their period of probation on earth.

It is not an unmixed evil, however, since it ensures the experience upon which

we mount to knowledge and wisdom. I mean that experience which teaches that the needs of our spiritual nature can never be met by other than spiritual

happiness. As long as we are in the body, we are subjected to pain, suffering

and all the disappointing incidents occurring during life. Therefore, and to

palliate this, we finally acquire knowledge which alone can afford us relief and

hope of a better future.



What is Practical Theosophy?




Q. Why, then, the need for rebirths, since all alike fail to secure a permanent


A. Because the final goal cannot be reached in any way but through life

experiences, and because the bulk of these consist in pain and suffering. It is

only through the latter that we can learn. Joys and pleasures teach us nothing;

they are evanescent, and can only bring in the long run satiety. Moreover, our

constant failure to find any permanent satisfaction in life which would meet the

wants of our higher nature, shows us plainly that those wants can be met only on

their own plane, to wit-the spiritual.


Q. Is the natural result of this a desire to quit life by one means or another?

A. If you mean by such desire "suicide," then I say, most decidedly not. Such a

result can never be a "natural" one, but is ever due to a morbid brain disease,

or to most decided and strong materialistic views. It is the worst of crimes and

dire in its results. But if by desire, you mean simply aspiration to reach

spiritual existence, not a wish to quit the earth, then I would call it a very

natural desire indeed. Otherwise voluntary death would be an abandonment of our present post and of the duties incumbent on us, as well as an attempt to shirk Karmic responsibilities, and thus involve the creation of new Karma.


Q. But if actions on the material plane are unsatisfying, why should duties,

which are such actions, be imperative?

A. First of all, because our philosophy teaches us that the object of doing our

duties to all men and to ourselves the last, is not the attainment of personal

happiness, but of the happiness of others; the fulfillment of right for the sake

of right, not for what it may bring us. Happiness, or rather contentment, may

indeed follow the performance of duty, but is not and must not be the motive for



Q. What do you understand precisely by "duty" in Theosophy? It cannot be the

Christian duties preached by Jesus and his Apostles, since you recognize


A. You are once more mistaken. What you call "Christian duties" were inculcated by every great moral and religious Reformer ages before the Christian era. All that was great, generous, heroic, was, in days of old, not only talked about and preached from pulpits as in our own time, but acted upon sometimes by whole nations. The history of the Buddhist reform is full of the most noble and most heroically unselfish acts.


Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another; love as brethren, be

pitiful, be courteous; not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing; but

contrariwise, blessing …

-was practically carried out by the followers of Buddha, several centuries

before Peter. The Ethics of Christianity are grand, no doubt; but as undeniably

they are not new, and have originated as "Pagan" duties.


Q. And how would you define these duties, or "duty," in general, as you

understand the term?

A. Duty is that whichis due to Humanity, to our fellowmen, neighbors, family,

and especially that which we owe to all those who are poorer and more helpless

than we are ourselves. This is a debt which, if left unpaid during life, leaves

us spiritually insolvent and morally bankrupt in our next incarnation. Theosophy

is the quintessence of duty.


Q. So is Christianity when rightly understood and carried out.

A. No doubt it is; but then, were it not a lip-religion in practice, Theosophy

would have little to do amidst Christians. Unfortunately it is but such

lip-ethics. Those who practice their duty towards all, and for duty's own sake,

are few; and fewer still are those who perform that duty, remaining content with

the satisfaction of their own secret consciousness. It is- … the public voice

Of praise that honors virtue and rewards it, -which is ever uppermost in the

minds of the "world renowned" philanthropists. Modern ethics are beautiful to

read about and hear discussed; but what are words unless converted into actions?


Finally: if you ask me how we understand Theosophical duty practically and in

view of Karma, I may answer you that our duty is to drink without a murmur to

the last drop, whatever contents the cup of life may have in store for us, to

pluck the roses of life only for the fragrance they may shed on others, and to

be ourselves content but with the thorns, if that fragrance cannot be enjoyed

without depriving someone else of it.


Q. All this is very vague. What do you do more than Christians do?

A. It is not what we members of the Theosophical Society do-though some of us try our best-but how much farther Theosophy leads to good than modern

Christianity does. I say-action, enforced action, instead of mere intention and

talk. A man may be what he likes, the most worldly, selfish and hard-hearted of

men, even a deep-dyed rascal, and it will not prevent him from calling himself a

Christian, or others from so regarding him. But no Theosophist has the right to

this name, unless he is thoroughly imbued with the correctness of Carlyle's

truism: "The end of man is an action and not a thought,though it were the

noblest"-and unless he sets and models his daily life upon this truth. The

profession of a truth is not yet the enactment of it; and the more beautiful and

grand it sounds, the more loudly virtue or duty is talked about instead of being

acted upon, the more forcibly it will always remind one of the Dead Sea fruit.

Cant is the most loathsome of all vices; and cant is the most prominent feature

of the greatest Protestant country of this century-England.


Q. What do you consider as due to humanity at large?

A. Full recognition of equal rights and privileges for all, and without

distinction of race, color, social position, or birth.


Q. When would you consider such due not given?

A. When there is the slightest invasion of another's right-be that other a man

or a nation; when there is any failure to show him the same justice, kindness,

consideration, or mercy which we desire for ourselves. The whole present system of politics is built on the oblivion of such rights, and the most fierce

assertion of national selfishness. The French say: "Like master, like man." They

ought to add, "Like national policy, like citizen."


Q. Do you take any part in politics?

A. As a Society, we carefully avoid them, for the reasons given below. To seek

to achieve political reforms before we have effected a reform in human nature,

is like putting new wine into old bottles. Make men feel and recognize in their

innermost hearts what is their real, true duty to all men, and every old abuse

of power, every iniquitous law in the national policy, based on human, social,

or political selfishness, will disappear of itself. Foolish is the gardener who

seeks to weed his flowerbed of poisonous plants by cutting them off from the

surface of the soil, instead of tearing them out by the roots. No lasting

political reform can be ever achieved with the same selfish men at the head of

affairs as of old.



The Relations of the T.S. to Political Reforms


Q. The Theosophical Society is not, then, a political organization?

A. Certainly not. It is international in the highest sense in that its members

comprise men and women of all races, creeds, and forms of thought, who work

together for one object, the improvement of humanity; but as a society it takes

absolutely no part in any national or party politics.


Q. Why is this?

A. Just for the reasons I have mentioned. Moreover, political action must

necessarily vary with the circumstances of the time and with the idiosyncrasies

of individuals. While from the very nature of their position as Theosophists the

members of the T.S. are agreed on the principles of Theosophy, or they would not belong to the society at all, it does not thereby follow that they agree on

every other subject. As a society they can only act together in matters which

are common to all-that is, in Theosophy itself; as individuals, each is left

perfectly free to follow out his or her particular line of political thought and

action, so long as this does not conflict with Theosophical principles or hurt

the Theosophical Society.


Q. But surely the T.S. does not stand altogether aloof from the social questions

which are now so fast coming to the front?

A. The very principles of the T.S. are a proof that it does not-or, rather, that

most of its members do not-so stand aloof. If humanity can only be developed

mentally and spiritually by the enforcement, first of all, of the soundest and

most scientific physiological laws, it is the bounden duty of all who strive for

this development to do their utmost to see that those laws shall be generally

carried out. All Theosophists are only too sadly aware that, in Occidental

countries especially, the social condition of large masses of the people renders

it impossible for either their bodies or their spirits to be properly trained,

so that the development of both is thereby arrested. As this training and

development is one of the express objects of Theosophy, the T.S. is in thorough sympathy and harmony with all true efforts in this direction.


Q. But what do you mean by "true efforts"? Each social reformer has his own

panacea, and each believes his to be the one and only thing which can improve

and save humanity?

A. Perfectly true, and this is the real reason why so little satisfactory social

work is accomplished. In most of these panaceas there is no really guiding

principle, and there is certainly no one principle which connects them all.

Valuable time and energy are thus wasted; for men, instead of cooperating,

strive one against the other, often, it is to be feared, for the sake of fame

and reward rather than for the great cause which they profess to have at heart,

and which should be supreme in their lives.


Q. How, then, should Theosophical principles be applied so that social

cooperation may be promoted and true efforts for social amelioration be carried


A. Let me briefly remind you what these principles are-universal Unity and

Causation; Human Solidarity; the Law of Karma; Reincarnation. These are the four links of the golden chain which should bind humanity into one family, one

universal Brotherhood.


Q. How?

A. In the present state of society, especially in so-called civilized countries,

we are continually brought face to face with the fact that large numbers of

people are suffering from misery, poverty, and disease. Their physical condition

is wretched, and their mental and spiritual faculties are often almost dormant.

On the other hand, many persons at the opposite end of the social scale are

leading lives of careless indifference, material luxury, and selfish indulgence.

Neither of these forms of existence is mere chance. Both are the effects of the

conditions which surround those who are subject to them, and the neglect of

social duty on the one side is most closely connected with the stunted and

arrested development on the other. In sociology, as in all branches of true

science, the law of universal causation holds good. But this causation

necessarily implies, as its logical outcome, that human solidarity on which

Theosophy so strongly insists. If the action of one reacts on the lives of all,

and this is the true scientific idea, then it is only by all men becoming

brothers and all women sisters, and by all practicing in their daily lives true

brotherhood and true sisterhood, that the real human solidarity, which lies at

the root of the elevation of the race, can ever be attained. It is this action

and interaction, this true brotherhood and sisterhood, in which each shall live

for all and all for each, which is one of the fundamental Theosophical

principles that every Theosophist should be bound, not only to teach, but to

carry out in his or her individual life.


Q. All this is very well as a general principle, but how would you apply it in a

concrete way?

A. Look for a moment at what you would call the concrete facts of human society.


Contrast the lives not only of the masses of the people, but of many of those

who are called the middle and upper classes, with what they might be under

healthier and nobler conditions, where justice, kindness, and love were

paramount, instead of the selfishness, indifference, and brutality which now too

often seem to reign supreme. All good and evil things in humanity have their

roots in human character, and this character is, and has been, conditioned by

the endless chain of cause and effect. But this conditioning applies to the

future as well as to the present and the past. Selfishness, indifference, and

brutality can never be the normal state of the race-to believe so would be to

despair of humanity-and that no Theosophist can do. Progress can be attained,

and only attained, by the development of the nobler qualities. Now, true

evolution teaches us that by altering the surroundings of the organism we can

alter and improve the organism; and in the strictest sense this is true with

regard to man. Every Theosophist, therefore, is bound to do his utmost to help

on, by all the means in his power, every wise and well-considered social effort

which has for its object the amelioration of the condition of the poor. Such

efforts should be made with a view to their ultimate social emancipation, or the

development of the sense of duty in those who now so often neglect it in nearly

every relation of life.


Q. Agreed. But who is to decide whether social efforts are wise or unwise?

A. No one person and no society can lay down a hard-and-fast rule in this

respect. Much must necessarily be left to the individual judgment. One general

test may, however, be given. Will the proposed action tend to promote that true

brotherhood which it is the aim of Theosophy to bring about? No real Theosophist will have much difficulty in applying such a test; once he is satisfied of this, his duty will lie in the direction of forming public opinion. And this can be attained only by inculcating those higher and nobler conceptions of public and private duties which lie at the root of all spiritual and material improvement.


In every conceivable case he himself must be a center of spiritual action, and

from him and his own daily individual life must radiate those higher spiritual

forces which alone can regenerate his fellowmen.


Q. But why should he do this? Are not he and all, as you teach, conditioned by

their Karma, and must not Karma necessarily work itself out on certain lines?

A. It is this very law of Karma which gives strength to all that I have said.

The individual cannot separate himself from the race, nor the race from the

individual. The law of Karma applies equally to all, although all are not

equally developed. In helping on the development of others, the Theosophist

believes that he is not only helping them to fulfill their Karma, but that he is

also, in the strictest sense, fulfilling his own. It is the development of

humanity, of which both he and they are integral parts, that he has always in

view, and he knows that any failure on his part to respond to the highest within

him retards not only himself but all, in their progressive march. By his

actions, he can make it either more difficult or more easy for humanity to

attain the next higher plane of being.


Q. How does this bear on the fourth of the principles you mentioned, viz.,


A. The connection is most intimate. If our present lives depend upon the

development of certain principles which are a growth from the germs left by a

previous existence, the law holds good as regards the future. Once grasp the

idea that universal causation is not merely present, but past, present, and

future, and every action on our present plane falls naturally and easily into

its true place, and is seen in its true relation to ourselves and to others.

Every mean and selfish action sends us backward and not forward, while every

noble thought and every unselfish deed are stepping-stones to the higher and

more glorious planes of being. If this life were all, then in many respects it

would indeed be poor and mean; but regarded as a preparation for the next sphere of existence, it may be used as the golden gate through which we may pass, not selfishly and alone, but in company with our fellows, to the palaces which lie




On Self-Sacrifice


Q. Is equal justice to all and love to every creature the highest standard of


A. No; there is an even far higher one.


Q. What can it be?

A. The giving to othersmore than to oneself-self-sacrifice. Such was the

standard and abounding measure which marked so preeminently the greatest

Teachers and Masters of Humanity-e.g., Gautama Buddha in History, and Jesus of Nazareth as in the Gospels. This trait alone was enough to secure to them the

perpetual reverence and gratitude of the generations of men that come after

them. We say, however, that self-sacrifice has to be performed with

discrimination; and such a self-abandonment, if made without justice, or

blindly, regardless of subsequent results, may often prove not only made in

vain, but harmful. One of the fundamental rules of Theosophy is, justice to

oneself-viewed as a unit of collective humanity, not as a personal self-justice,

not more but not less than to others; unless, indeed, by the sacrifice of the

oneself we can benefit the many.


Q. Could you make your idea clearer by giving an instance?

A. There are many instances to illustrate it in history. Self-sacrifice for

practical good to save many, or several people, Theosophy holds as far higher

than self-abnegation for a sectarian idea, such as that of "saving the heathen

from damnation," for instance. In our opinion, Father Damien, the young man of

thirty who offered his whole life in sacrifice for the benefit and alleviation

of the sufferings of the lepers at Molokai, and who went to live for eighteen

years alone with them, to finally catch the loathsome disease and die, has not

died in vain. He has given relief and relative happiness to thousands of

miserable wretches. He has brought to them consolation, mental and physical.


He threw a streak of light into the black and dreary night of an existence, the

hopelessness of which is unparalleled in the records of human suffering. He was

a true Theosophist, and his memory will live forever in our annals. In our sight

this poor Belgian priest stands immeasurably higher than-for instance-all those

sincere but vain-glorious fools, the Missionaries who have sacrificed their

lives in the South Sea Islands or China. What good have they done? They went in one case to those who are not yet ripe for any truth; and in the other to a

nation whose systems of religious philosophy are as grand as any, if only the

men who have them would live up to the standard of Confucius and their other

sages. And they died victims of irresponsible cannibals and savages, and of

popular fanaticism and hatred. Whereas, by going to the slums of Whitechapel or some other such locality of those that stagnate right under the blazing sun of

our civilization, full of Christian savages and mental leprosy, they might have

done real good, and preserved their lives for a better and worthier cause.


Q. But the Christians do not think so?

A. Of course not, because they act on an erroneous belief. They think that by

baptizing the body of an irresponsible savage they save his soul from damnation.

One church forgets her martyrs, the other beatifies and raises statues to such

men as Labro, who sacrificed his body for forty years only to benefit the vermin

which it bred. Had we the means to do so, we would raise a statue to Father

Damien, the true, practical saint, and perpetuate his memory forever as a living

exemplar of Theosophical heroism and of Buddha- and Christ-like mercy and



Q. Then you regard self-sacrifice as a duty?

A. We do; and explain it by showing that altruism is an integral part of

self-development. But we have to discriminate. A man has no right to starve

himselfto death that another man may have food, unless the life of that man is

obviously more useful to the many than is his own life. But it is his duty to

sacrifice his own comfort, and to work for others if they are unable to work for

themselves. It is his duty to give all that which is wholly his own and can

benefit no one but himself if he selfishly keeps it from others. Theosophy

teaches self-abnegation, but does not teach rash and useless self-sacrifice, nor

does it justify fanaticism.


Q. But how are we to reach such an elevated status?

A. By the enlightened application of our precepts to practice. By the use of our

higher reason, spiritual intuition, and moral sense, and by following the

dictates of what we call "the still small voice" of our conscience, which is

that of our Ego, and which speaks louder in us than the earthquakes and the

thunders of Jehovah, wherein "the Lord is not."


Q. If such are our duties to humanity at large, what do you understand by our

duties to our immediate surroundings?

A. Just the same, plusthose that arise from special obligations with regard to

family ties.


Q. Then it is not true, as it is said, that no sooner does a man enter into the

Theosophical Society than he begins to be gradually severed from his wife,

children, and family duties?

A. It is a groundless slander, like so many others. The first of the

Theosophical duties is to do one's duty by all men, and especially by those to

whom one's specific responsibilities are due, because one has either voluntarily

undertaken them, such as marriage ties, or because one's destiny has allied one

to them; I mean those we owe to parents or next of kin.


Q. And what may be the duty of a Theosophist to himself?

A. To control and conquer,through the Higher, the lower self. To purify himself

inwardly and morally; to fear no one, and nought, save the tribunal of his own

conscience. Never to do a thing by halves; i.e.,if he thinks it the right thing

to do, let him do it openly and boldly, and if wrong, never touch it at all. It

is the duty of a Theosophist to lighten his burden by thinking of the wise

aphorism of Epictetus, who says:Be not diverted from your duty by any idle reflection the silly world may make upon you, for their censures are not in your power, and consequently should not be any part of your concern.


Q. But suppose a member of your Society should plead inability to practice

altruism by other people, on the ground that "charity begins at home," urging

that he is too busy, or too poor, to benefit mankind or even any of its

units-what are your rules in such a case?

A. No man has a right to say that he can do nothing for others, on any pretext

whatever. "By doing the proper duty in the proper place, a man may make the

world his debtor," says an English writer. A cup of cold water given in time to

a thirsty wayfarer is a nobler duty and more worth, than a dozen of dinners

given away, out of season, to men who can afford to pay for them. No man who has not got it in him will ever become a Theosophist; but he may remain a member of our Society all the same. We have no rules by which we could force any man to become a practical Theosophist, if he does not desire to be one.


Q. Then why does he enter the Society at all?

A. That is best known to him who does so. For, here again, we have no right to

prejudge a person, not even if the voice of a whole community should be against

him, and I may tell you why. In our day, vox populi(so far as regards the voice

of the educated, at any rate) is no longer vox dei, but ever that of prejudice,

of selfish motives, and often simply that of unpopularity. Our duty is to sow

seeds broadcast for the future, and see they are good; not to stop to enquire

why we should do so, and how and wherefore we are obliged to lose our time,

since those who will reap the harvest in days to come will never be ourselves.



On Charity


Q. How do you Theosophists regard the Christian duty of charity?

A. What charity do you mean? Charity of mind, or practical charity in the

physical plane?


Q. I mean practical charity, as your idea of Universal brotherhood would

include, of course, charity of mind.

A. Then you have in your mind the practical carrying out of the commandments

given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount?


Q. Precisely so.

A. Then why call them "Christian"? Because, although your Savior preached and

practiced them, the last thing the Christians of today think of is to carry them

out in their lives.


Q. And yet many are those who pass their lives in dispensing charity?

A. Yes, out of the surplus of their great fortunes. But point out to me that

Christian, among the most philanthropic, who would give to the shivering and

starving thief, who would steal his coat, his cloak also; or offer his right

cheek to him who smote him on the left, and never think of resenting it?


Q. Ah, but you must remember that these precepts have not to be taken literally.

Times and circumstances have changed since Christ's day. Moreover, He spoke in Parables.

A. Then why don't your Churches teach that the doctrine of damnation and

hellfire is to be understood as a parable too? Why do some of your most popular preachers, while virtually allowing these "parables" to be understood as you take them, insist on the literal meaning of the fires of Hell and the physical

tortures of an "Asbestos-like" soul? If one is a "parable," then the other is.

If Hellfire is a literal truth, then Christ's commandments in the Sermon on the

Mount have to be obeyed to the very letter. And I tell you that many who do not

believe in the Divinity of Christ-like Count Leo Tolstoi and more than one

Theosophist-do carry out these noble, because universal, precepts literally; and

many more good men and women would do so, were they not more than certain that such a walk in life would very probably land them in a lunatic asylum-so Christian are your laws!


Q. But surely everyone knows that millions and millions are spent annually on

private and public charities?

A. Oh, yes; half of which sticks to the hands it passes through before getting

to the needy; while a good portion or remainder gets into the hands of

professional beggars, those who are too lazy to work, thus doing no good

whatever to those who are really in misery and suffering. Haven't you heard that

the first result of the great outflow of charity towards the East-end of London

was to raise the rents in Whitechapel by some twenty percent?


Q. What would you do, then?

A. Act individually and not collectively; follow the Northern Buddhist precepts:

Never put food into the mouth of the hungry by the hand of another.

Never let the shadow of thy neighbor (a third person) come between thyself and

the object of thy bounty.


Never give to the Sun time to dry a tear before thou hast wiped it.

Again Never give money to the needy, or food to the priest, who begs at thy door, through thy servants, lest thy money should diminish gratitude, and thy food turn to gall.


Q. But how can this be applied practically?

A. The Theosophical ideas of charity mean personal exertion for others;

personalmercy and kindness; personal interest in the welfare of those who

suffer; personal sympathy, forethought and assistance in their troubles or

needs. It is important to note that we Theosophists do not believe in giving

money, if we had it, through other people's hands or organizations. We believe

in giving to the money a thousandfold greater power and effectiveness by our

personal contact and sympathy with those who need it. We believe in relieving

the starvation of the soul, as much if not more than the emptiness of the

stomach; for gratitude does more good to the man who feels it, than to him for

whom it is felt. Where's the gratitude which your "millions of pounds" should

have called forth, or the good feelings provoked by them? Is it shown in the

hatred of the East-End poor for the rich? In the growth of the party of anarchy

and disorder? Or by those thousands of unfortunate working girls, victims to the

"sweating" system, driven daily to eke out a living by going on the streets? Do

your helpless old men and women thank you for the workhouses; or your poor for the poisonously unhealthy dwellings in which they are allowed to breed new

generations of diseased, and rickety children, only to put money into the

pockets of the insatiable Shylocks who own houses? Therefore it is that every

sovereign of all those "millions," contributed by good and would-be charitable

people, falls like a burning curse instead of a blessing on the poor whom it

should relieve. We call this generating national Karma, and terrible will be its

results on the day of reckoning.



Theosophy for the Masses


Q. And you think that Theosophy would, by stepping in, help to remove these

evils, under the practical and adverse conditions of our modern life?

A. Had we more money, and had not most of the Theosophists to work for their

daily bread, I firmly believe we could.


Q. How? Do you expect that your doctrines could ever take hold of the uneducated

masses, when they are so abstruse and difficult that well-educated people can

hardly understand them?

A. You forget one thing, which is that your much-boasted modern education is

precisely that which makes it difficult for you to understand Theosophy. Your

mind is so full of intellectual subtleties and preconceptions that your natural

intuition and perception of the truth cannot act. It does not require metaphysics or education to make a man understand the broad truths of Karma and Reincarnation. Look at the millions of poor and uneducated Buddhists and Hindus, to whom Karma and reincarnation are solid realities, simply because their minds have never been cramped and distorted by being forced into an unnatural groove.


They have never had the innate human sense of justice perverted in them by being told to believe that their sins would be forgiven because another man had been put to death for their sakes. And the Buddhists, note well, live up to their

beliefs without a murmur against Karma, or what they regard as a just

punishment; whereas the Christian populace neither lives up to its moral ideal,

nor accepts its lot contentedly. Hence murmuring and dissatisfaction, and the

intensity of the struggle for existence in Western lands.


Q. But this contentedness, which you praise so much, would do away with all

motive for exertion and bring progress to a stand-still.

A. And we, Theosophists, say that your vaunted progress and civilization are no

better than a host of will-o'-the-wisps, flickering over a marsh which exhales a

poisonous and deadly miasma. This, because we see selfishness, crime,

immorality, and all the evils imaginable, pouncing upon unfortunate mankind from this Pandora's box which you call an age of progress, and increasing pari passu with the growth of your material civilization. At such a price, better the

inertia and inactivity of Buddhist countries, which have arisen only as a

consequence of ages of political slavery.


Q. Then is all this metaphysics and mysticism with which you occupy yourself so much, of no importance?

A. To the masses, who need only practical guidance and support, they are not of much consequence; but for the educated, the natural leaders of the masses, those whose modes of thought and action will sooner or later be adopted by those masses, they are of the greatest importance. It is only by means of the

philosophy that an intelligent and educated man can avoid the intellectual

suicide of believing on blind faith; and it is only by assimilating the strict

continuity and logical coherence of the Eastern, if not esoteric, doctrines,

that he can realize their truth. Conviction breeds enthusiasm, and "Enthusiasm,"

says Bulwer Lytton, "is the genius of sincerity, and truth accomplishes no

victories without it;" while Emerson most truly remarks that "every great and

commanding movement in the annals of the world is the triumph of enthusiasm."

And what is more calculated to produce such a feeling than a philosophy so

grand, so consistent, so logical, and so all-embracing as our Eastern Doctrines?


Q. And yet its enemies are very numerous, and every day Theosophy acquires new opponents.

A. And this is precisely that which proves its intrinsic excellence and value.

People hate only the things they fear, and no one goes out of his way to

overthrow that which neither threatens nor rises beyond mediocrity.


Q. Do you hope to impart this enthusiasm, one day, to the masses?

A. Why not? Since history tells us that the masses adopted Buddhism with

enthusiasm, while, as said before, the practical effect upon them of this

philosophy of ethics is still shown by the smallness of the percentage of crime

amongst Buddhist populations as compared with every other religion. The chief

point is, to uproot that most fertile source of all crime and immortality-the

belief that it is possible for them to escape the consequences of their own

actions. Once teach them that greatest of all laws, Karma and Reincarnation, and

besides feeling in themselves the true dignity of human nature, they will turn

from evil and eschew it as they would a physical danger.



How Members Can Help the Society


Q. How do you expect the Fellows of your Society to help in the work?

A. First by studying and comprehending the theosophical doctrines, so that they

may teach others, especially the young people. Secondly, by taking every

opportunity of talking to others and explaining to them what Theosophy is, and

what it is not; by removing misconceptions and spreading an interest in the

subject. Thirdly, by assisting in circulating our literature, by buying books

when they have the means, by lending and giving them and by inducing their

friends to do so. Fourthly, by defending the Society from the unjust aspersions

cast upon it, by every legitimate device in their power. Fifth, and most

important of all, by the example of their own lives.


Q. But all this literature, to the spread of which you attach so much importance, does not seem to me of much practical use in helping mankind. This is not practical charity.

A. We think otherwise. We hold that a good book which gives people food for

thought, which strengthens and clears their minds, and enables them to grasp

truths which they have dimly felt but could not formulate-we hold that such a

book does a real, substantial good. As to what you call practical deeds of

charity, to benefit the bodies of our fellowmen, we do what little we can; but,

as I have already told you, most of us are poor, whilst the Society itself has

not even the money to pay a staff of workers. All of us who toil for it, give

our labor gratis, and in most cases money as well. The few who have the means of doing what are usually called charitable actions, follow the Buddhist precepts

and do their work themselves, not by proxy or by subscribing publicly to

charitable funds. What the Theosophist has to do above all is to forget his




What a Theosophist Ought Not to Do



Q. Have you any prohibitory laws or clauses for Theosophists in your Society?

A. Many, but-alas!-none of them are enforced. They express the ideal of our

organization, but the practical application of such things we are compelled to

leave to the discretion of the Fellows themselves. Unfortunately, the state of

men's minds in the present century is such that, unless we allow these clauses

to remain, so to speak, obsolete, no man or woman would dare to risk joining the Theosophical Society. This is precisely why I feel forced to lay such a stress

on the difference between true Theosophy and its hard-struggling and

well-intentioned, but still unworthy vehicle, the Theosophical Society.


Q. May I be told what are these perilous reefs in the open sea of Theosophy?

A. Well may you call them reefs, as more than one otherwise sincere and

well-meaning F.T.S. has had his Theosophical canoe shattered into splinters on

them! And yet to avoid certain things seems the easiest thing in the world to

do. For instance, here is a series of such negatives, screening positive

Theosophical duties:


No Theosophist should be silent when he hears evil reports or slanders spread

about the Society, or innocent persons, whether they be his colleagues or



Q. But suppose what one hears is the truth, or may be true without one knowing


A. Then you must demand good proofs of the assertion, and hear both sides

impartially before you permit the accusation to go uncontradicted. You have no

right to believe in evil, until you get undeniable proof of the correctness of

the statement.


Q. And what should you do then?

A. Pity and forbearance, charity and long-suffering, ought to be always there to

prompt us to excuse our sinning brethren, and to pass the gentlest sentence

possible upon those who err. A Theosophist ought never to forget what is due to the shortcomings and infirmities of human nature.


Q. Ought he to forgive entirely in such cases?

A. In every case, especially he who is sinned against.


Q. But if by so doing, he risks to injure, or allow others to be injured? What

ought he to do then?

A. His duty; that which his conscience and higher nature suggests to him; but

only after mature deliberation. Justice consists in doing no injury to any

living being; but justice commands us also never to allow injury to be done to

the many, or even to one innocent person, by allowing the guilty one to go



Q. What are the other negative clauses?

A. No Theosophist ought to be contented with an idle or frivolous life, doing no

real good to himself and still less to others. He should work for the benefit of

the few who need his help if he is unable to toil for Humanity, and thus work

for the advancement of the Theosophical cause.


Q. This demands an exceptional nature, and would come rather hard upon some


A. Then they had better remain outside the T.S. instead of sailing under false

colors. No one is asked to give more t