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?
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 lower mind, 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 instinctual element 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 Spiritual Soul, Buddhi. Now the latter conceals a mystery, which is never given to any one, with the exception of irrevocably pledged Chelas, 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, rather?
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 other aspect, 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 have four 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 divine man, 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 aspects of 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 unsoiled survives, while the third in addition to being immortal becomes consciously divine, by the assimilation of the higher Manas. But to make it clear, we have to say a few words first of all about Reincarnation.
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 child!