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 exist and 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 through Buddhi, 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.
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 difference?
Q. Yes; but this specialization has been in all ages the stumbling-block of metaphysicians.
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 Soul of 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 unalloyed essence 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 human Spirit (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 the anima 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 Ego-matter?
A. Not matter, but substance assuredly; 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 from meta-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 man?
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 Light.
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 Genesis especially, 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 word nephesh was indifferently applied to immortal man and to mortal beast. "And surely your blood of your nepheshim (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. "Nephesh for 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 kill that 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.