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 unselfish nature 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 vision continues 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 immaterial breath 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:
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 by Soul and its functions, they would be as unable to do so as to show us any shadow of logic in the orthodox belief!