Seven Principles of Man

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Seven Principles of Man

By Annie Besant

Principle Five - Manas, The Thinker, Or Mind

WE have reached the most complicated part of our study, and some thought and attention are necessary from the reader to gain even an elementary idea of the relation held by the fifth principle to the other principles in man.

The word Manas comes from the Sanskrit word man, the root of the verb to think; it is the Thinker in us, spoken of vaguely in the West as mind. I will ask the reader to regard Manas as Thinker rather than as mind, because the word Thinker suggests someone who thinks, i.e., an individual, an entity. And this is exactly the Theosophical idea of Manas, for Manas is the immortal individual, the real “I” that clothes itself over and over again in transient personalities, and itself endures forever. It is described in the Voice of the Silence in the exhortation addressed to the candidate for initiation: 

Have perseverance as one who doth for evermore endure. Thy shadows [personalities] live and vanish; that which in thee shall live forever, that which in thee knows, for it is knowledge, is not of fleeting life; it is the man that was, that is, and will be, for whom the hour shall never strike.

H.P. Blavatsky has described it very clearly in the Key to Theosophy: 

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 so purify its nature as finally to gain that goal. It can do so only be 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 (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 [that is, not matter as we know it, on the plane of the objective universe] — and such entities are the incarnating Egos that inform the bundle of animal matter called mankind, and whose names are Manasa or minds.

This idea may be rendered yet clearer perhaps by a hurried glance cast backward over man’s evolution in the past. When the quaternary had been slowly built up, it was a fair house without a tenant, and stood empty awaiting the coming of the one who was to dwell therein. The name Mânasaputra (the sons of mind) covers many grades of intelligence, ranging from the mighty “Sons of the Flame” whose human evolution lies far behind them, down to those entities who gained individualization in the cycle preceding our own, and were ready to incarnate on this earth in order to accomplish their human stage of evolution. Some superhuman intelligences incarnated as guides and teachers of our infant humanity and became founders and divine rulers of the ancient civilizations. Large numbers of the entities spoken of above, who had already evolved some mental faculties, took up their abode in the human quaternary, in the mindless men. 

These are the reincarnating Mânasaputra, who became the tenants of the human frames as then evolved on earth, and these same Mânasaputra, reincarnating age after age, are the Reincarnating Egos, the Manas in us, the persistent individual, the fifth principle in man. The remainder of mankind through successive ages received from the loftier Mânasaputra their first spark of mind, a ray which stimulated into growth the germ of mind latent within them, the human soul thus having its birth in time there. It is these differences of age, as we may call them, in the beginning of the individual life, of the specialization of the eternal Divine Spirit into a human soul, which explain the enormous differences in mental capacity found in our present humanity.

The multiplicity of names given to this fifth principle has probably tended to increase the confusion surrounding it in the minds of many who are beginning to study Theosophy. Mânasaputra is what we call the historical name, the name that suggests the entrance into humanity of a class of already individualized souls at a certain point of evolution; Manas is the ordinary name, descriptive of the intellectual nature of the principle; the Individual or the “I” or Ego recalls the fact that this principle is permanent, does not die, is the individualizing principle, separating itself in thought from all that is not itself, the Subject in Western terminology as opposed to the Object; the Higher Ego puts it into contrast with the Personal Ego of which something is to be presently said the Reincarnating Ego lays stress on the fact that it is the principle that reincarnates continually, and so unites in its own experience all the lives passed through on earth. 

There are various other names, but they will not be met with in elementary treatises. Those above are those most often encountered, and there is no real difficulty about them, but when they are used interchangeably, without explanation, the unhappy student is apt to tear his hair in anguish, wondering how many principles he has got hold of, and what relation they bear to each other.

We must now consider Manas during a single incarnation, which will serve as the type of all, and we will start when the Ego has been drawn – by causes set a-going in previous earth-lives — to the family in which is to be born the human being who is to serve as its next tabernacle. The Thinker, then, awaits the building of the “house of life” which he is to occupy; and now arises a difficulty; himself a spiritual entity living on the mental or third plane upwards, a plane far higher than that of the physical universe, he cannot influence the molecules of gross matter of which his dwelling is built by the direct play upon them of his own most subtle particles. 

So, he projects part of his own substance, which clothes itself with astral matter, and then with the help of etheric matter permeates the whole nervous system of the yet unborn child, to form, as the physical apparatus matures, the thinking principle in man. This projection from Manas, spoken of as its reflection, its shadow, its ray, and by many another descriptive and allegorical name, is the lower Manas, in contradistinction to the higher ManasManas, during every period of incarnation, being dual. On this, H.P. Blavatsky says: 

Once imprisoned, or incarnate, their (the Manas) essence becomes dual; that is to say the rays of the eternal divine Mind, considered as individual entities, assume a twofold 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 Kâma-tending or lower Manas.

We must now turn our attention to this lower Manas alone and see the part which it plays in the human constitution.

It is engulfed in the quaternary, and we may regard it as clasping Kâma with one hand, while with the other it retains its hold on its father, the higher Manas. Whether it will be dragged down by Kâma altogether and be torn away from the triad to which by its nature it belongs, or whether it will triumphantly carry back to its source the purified experiences of its earth-life – that is the life-problem set and solved in each successive incarnation. 

During earth-life, Kâma and the lower Manas are joined together, and are often spoken of conveniently as Kâma-Manas. Kâma supplies, as we have seen, the animal and passionate elements; the lower Manas rationalizes these and adds the intellectual faculties; and so, we have the brain-mind or brain-intelligence (i.e., Kâma-Manas functioning in the brain and nervous system) using the physical apparatus as its organ on the material plane. In man these two principles are interwoven during life, and rarely act separately, but the student must realize that “Kâma-Manas” is not a new principle, but the interweaving of the fourth with the lower part of the fifth.

As with a flame we may light a wick, and the color of the flame of the burning wick will depend on the nature of the wick and of the liquid in which it is soaked, so in each human being the flame of Manas set alight the brain and Kâmic wick, and the color of the light from that wick will depend on the Kâmic nature and the development of the brain-apparatus. If the Kâmic nature be strong and undisciplined, it will spoil the pure Mânasic light, lending it a lurid tinge and fouling it with noisome smoke. If the brain-apparatus be imperfect or undeveloped, it will dull the light and prevent it from shining forth to the outer world. As was clearly stated by H.P. Blavatsky in her article on “Genius”; 

What we call “the manifestations of genius” in a person are only the more or less successful efforts of that Ego to assert itself on the outward plane of its objective form — the man of clay — in the matter-of-fact daily life of the latter. The Egos of a Newton, an Aeschylus, or a Shakespeare are of the same essence and substance as the Egos of a yokel, an ignoramus, a fool, or even an idiot; and the self-assertion of their informing genii depends on the physiological and material construction of the physical man. No Ego differs from another Ego in its primordial or original essence and nature. That which makes of one mortal a great man and of another a vulgar silly person is, as said, the quality and make-up of the physical shell or casing, and the adequacy or inadequacy of brain and body to transmit and give expression to the light of the real inner man; and this aptness or inaptness is, in its turn, the result of Karma. 

Or, to use another simile, physical man is the musical instrument, and the Ego the performing artist. The potentiality of perfect melody of sound is in the former — the instrument — and no skill of the latter can awaken a faultless harmony out of a broken or badly made instrument. This harmony depends on the fidelity of transmission, by word and act, to the objective plane, of the unspoken divine thought in the very depths of man’s subjective or inner nature. Physical man may — to follow our simile — be a priceless Stradivarius, or a cheap and cracked fiddle, or again a mediocrity between the two, in the hands of the Paganini who ensouls him.

Bearing in mind these limitations and idiosyncrasies imposed on the manifestations of the thinking principle by the organ through which it has to function, we shall have little difficulty in following the workings of the lower Manas in man; mental ability, intellectual strength, acuteness, subtlety — all these are its manifestations; these may reach as far as what is often called genius, what H.P. Blavatsky speaks of as “artificial genius, the outcome of culture and of purely intellectual acuteness.” Its nature is often demonstrated by the presence of Kâmic elements in it, of passion, vanity and arrogance.

The higher Manas can but rarely manifest itself at the present stage of human evolution. Occasionally a flash from those loftier regions lightens the twilight in which we dwell, and such flashes alone are what the Theosophist calls true genius. “Behold in every manifestation of genius, when combined with virtue, the undeniable presence of the celestial exile, the divine Ego whose jailer thou art, O man of matter.” For theosophy teaches:

that the presence in man of various creative powers — called genius in their collectivity — is due to no blind chance, to no innate qualities through hereditary tendencies — though that which is known as atavism may often intensify these faculties — but to an accumulation of individual antecedent experiences of the Ego in its preceding life and lives. 

For, omniscient in its essence and nature, it still requires experience, through its personalities, of the things of earth, earthly on the objective plane, in order to apply the fruition of that abstract experience to them. And, adds our philosophy, the cultivation of certain aptitudes throughout a long series of past incarnations must finally culminate, in some one life, in a blooming forth as genius, in one or another direction.

For the manifestation of true genius, purity of life is an essential condition.

Kâma-Manas is the personal self of man; we have already seen that the quaternary, as a whole, is the personality, “the shadow” and the lower Manas gives the individualizing touch that makes the personality recognize itself as “I.“ It becomes intellectual, and it recognizes itself as separate from all other selves; deluded by the separateness it feels, it does not realize a unity beyond all that it is able to sense. And the lower Manas, attracted by the vividness of the material-life impressions, swayed by the rush of the Kâmic emotions, passions and desires, attracted to all material things blinded and deafened by the storm voices among which it is plunged — the lower Manas is apt to forget the pure and serene glory of its birthplace, and to throw itself into the turbulence which gives rapture in lieu of peace. And, be it remembered, it is this very lower Manas that yields the last touch of delight to the senses and to the animal nature; for what is passion that can neither anticipate nor remember, where is ecstasy without the subtle force of imagination, the delicate colors of fancy and of dream?

But there may be chains yet more strong and constraining, binding the lower Manas fast to the earth. They are forged of ambition, of desire for fame, be it for that of the statesman’s power, or of supreme intellectual achievement. So long as any work is wrought for sake of love, or praise, or even recognition that the work is “mine” and not another’s; so long as in the heart’s remotest chambers one subtlest yearning remains to be recognized as separate from all; so long, however grand the ambition, however far reaching the charity, however lofty the achievement, Manas is tainted with Kâma, and is not pure as its source.


We have already seen that the fifth principle is dual in its aspect during each period of earth-life, and that the lower Manas united to Kâma, spoken of conveniently as Kâma-Manas, functions in the brain and nervous system of man. We need to carry our investigation a little further in order to distinguish clearly between the activity of the higher and of the lower Manas, so that the working in the mind of man may become less obscure to us that it is at present to many.

Now the cells of the brain and nervous system (like all other cells) are composed of minute particles of matter, called molecules (literally, little heaps). These molecules do not touch each other but are held grouped together by that manifestation of the Eternal Life which we call attraction. Not being in contact with each other they are able to vibrate to and fro if set in motion, and, as a matter of fact, they are in a state of continual vibration. H.P. Blavatsky points out that molecular motion is the lowest and most material form of the One Eternal Life. Itself motion as the “Great Breath,” and the source of all motion on every plane of the universe. In the Sanskrit, the roots of the terms for spirit, breath, being and motion are essentially the same, and Râma Prâsad says that “all these roots have for their origin the sound produced by the breath of animals” — the sound of expiration and inspiration.

Now, the lower mind, or Kâma-Manas, acts on the molecules of the nervous cells by motion, and set them vibrating, so starting mind-consciousness on the physical plane. Manas itself could not affect these molecules; but its ray, the lower Manas, having clothed itself in astral matter and united itself to the Kâmic elements, is able to set the physical molecules in motion, and so give rise to “brain consciousness,” including the brain memory and all other functions of the human mind, as we know it in its ordinary activity. 

These manifestations, “like all other phenomena on the material plane ... must be related in their final analysis to the world of vibration,” says H.P. Blavatsky. But, she goes on to point out, “in their origin they belong to a different and higher world of harmony.” Their origin is in the Mânasic essence, in the ray; but on the material plane, acting on the molecules of the brain, they are translated into vibrations.

This action of the Kâma-Manas is spoken of by Theosophists as psychic. All mental and passionate activities are due to this psychic energy, and its manifestations are necessarily conditioned by the physical apparatus through which it acts. We have already seen this broadly stated, and the rationale of the statement will now be apparent. 

If the molecular constitution of the brain be fine, and if the working of the specifically Kâmic organs (liver, spleen, etc.) be healthy and pure — so as not to injure the molecular constitution of the nerves which put them into communication with the brain — then the psychic breath, as it sweeps through the instrument, awakens in this true Aeolian harp harmonious and exquisite melodies; whereas if the molecular constitution be gross or poor, if it be disordered by the emanations of alcohol, if the blood be poisoned by gross living or sexual excesses, the strings of the Aeolian harp become too loose or too tense, clogged with dirt or frayed with harsh usage, and when the psychic breath passes over them they remain dumb or give out harsh discordant notes, not because the breath is absent, but because the strings are in evil case.

It will now, I think, be clearly understood that what we call mind, or intellect, is in H.P. Blavatsky’s words, “a pale and too often distorted reflection” of Manas itself, or our fifth principle; Kâma-Manas is “the rational, but earthly or physical intellect of man, incased in, and bound by, matter, therefore subject to the influence of the latter”; it is the “lower self, or that which manifesting through our organic system, acting on this plane of illusion, imagines itself the Ego sum, and thus falls into what Buddhist philosophy brands as the ‘heresy of separateness.’ It is the human personality, from which proceeds “the psychic, i.e., ‘terrestrial wisdom’ at best, as it is influenced by all the chaotic stimuli of the human or rather animal passions of the living body.”

A clear understanding of the fact that Kâma-Manas belongs to the human personality, that it functions in and through the physical brain, that it acts on the molecules of the brain, setting them into vibration, will very much facilitate the comprehension by the student of the doctrine of reincarnation. That great subject will be dealt with in another volume of this series, and I do not propose to dwell upon it here, more than to remind the student to take careful note of the fact that the lower Manas is a ray from the immortal Thinker, illuminating a personality, and that all the functions which are brought into activity in the brain-consciousness are functions correlated to the particular brain, to the particular personality, in which they occur. 

The brain-molecules that are set vibrating are material organs in the man of flesh; they did not exist as brain molecules before his conception, nor do they persist as brain molecules after his disintegration. Their functional activity is limited by the limits of his personal life, the life of the body, the life of the transient personality.

Now the faulty of which we speak as memory on the physical plane depends on the response of these very brain-molecules to the impulse of the lower Manas, and there is no link between the brains of successive personalities except through the higher Manas, that sends out its ray to inform and enlighten them successively. It follows, then, inevitably, that unless the consciousness of man can rise from the physical and Kâma-Mânasic planes to the plane of the higher Manas, no memory of one personality can reach over to another. The memory of the personality belongs to the transitory part of man’s complex nature, and those only can recover the memory of their past lives who can raise their consciousness to the plane of the immortal Thinker, and can, so to speak, travel in consciousness up and down the ray which is the bridge between the personal man that perishes and the immortal man that endures. If, while we are cased in the human flesh, we can raise our consciousness along the ray that connects our lower with our true Self, and so reach the higher Manas, we find there stored in the memory of that eternal Ego the whole of our past lives on earth, and we can bring back those records to our brain-memory by way of that same ray, through which we can climb upwards to our “Father.”

But this is an achievement that belongs to a late stage of human evolution, and until this is reached the successive personalities informed by the Mânasic rays are separated from each other, and no memory bridges over the gulf between. The fact is obvious enough to anyone who thinks the matter out, but as the difference between the personality and the immortal individuality is somewhat unfamiliar in the West, it may be well to remove a possible stumbling block from the student’s path.

Now the lower Manas may do one of three things; It may rise towards its source, and by unremitting and strenuous efforts become one with its “Father in heaven,” or the higher ManasManas uncontaminated with earthly elements, unsoiled and pure. Or it may partially aspire and partially tend downwards, as indeed is mostly the case with the average man. Or saddest fate of all, it may become so clogged with the Kâmic elements as to become one with them and be finally wrenched away from its parent and perish. Before considering these three fates, there are a few more words to be said touching the activity of the lower Manas.

As the lower Manas frees itself from Kâma, it becomes the sovereign of the lower part of man, and manifests more and more of its true and essential nature. In Kâma is desire, moved by bodily needs, and Will, which is the outgoing energy of the Self in Manas, is often led captive by the turbulent physical impulses. But the lower Manas, “whenever it disconnects itself, for the time being, from Kâma, becomes the guide of the highest mental faculties, and is the organ of the free will in physical man.” 

But the condition of this freedom is that Kâma shall be subdued, shall lie prostrate beneath the feet of the conqueror; if the maiden Will is to be set free, the Mânasic St. George must slay the Kâmic dragon that holds her captive; for while Kâma is unconquered, Desire will be master of the Will.

Again, as the lower Manas frees itself from Kâma, it becomes more and more capable of transmitting to the human personality with which it is connected the impulses that reach it from its source. It is then, as we have seen, that genius flashes forth, the light from the higher Ego streaming through the lower Manas to the brain and manifesting itself to the world. So also, as H.P. Blavatsky points out, such action may raise a man above the normal level of human power. “The higher Ego,” she says: 

… cannot act directly on the body, as its consciousness belongs to quite another plane and planes of ideation; the lower self does; and its action and behavior depend on its freewill and choice as to whether it will gravitate more towards its parent (“the Father in heaven”) or the “animal” which it informs, the man of flesh. The higher Ego, as part of the essence of the Universal Mind, is unconditionally omniscient on its own plane, and only potentially so in our terrestrial sphere, as it has to act solely through its alter ego the personal self. Now… 

the former is the vehicle of all knowledge of the past, the present and the future, and …it is from this fountain head that its “double” catches occasional glimpses of that which is beyond the senses of man and transmits them to certain brain-cells (unknown to science in their functions), thus making of man a seer, a soothsayer and a prophet.

This is the real seership, and on it a few words must be said presently. It is, naturally, extremely rare, and precious as it is rare. A “faint and distorted reflection” of it is found in what is called mediumship, and of this H.P. Blavatsky says: 

Now what is a medium? The term medium, when not applied to things and objects, is supposed to be a person through whom the action of another person or being is either manifested or transmitted. Spiritualists believing in communications with disembodied spirits, and that these can manifest through, or impress sensitives to transmit messages from them, regard mediumship as a blessing and a great privilege. We Theosophists, on the other hand, who do not believe in the ‘communion of spirits’, as Spiritualists do, regard the gift as one of the most dangerous of abnormal nervous diseases. A medium is simply one in whose personal Ego, or terrestrial mind, the percentage of the astral light so preponderates as to impregnate with it his whole physical constitution. Every organ, and cell thereby, is attuned, so to speak, and subject to an enormous and abnormal tension.

To return to the three fates spoken of above, any one of which may befall the lower Manas

It may rise towards its source and become one with the Father in heaven. This triumph can only be gained by many successive incarnations, all consciously directed towards this end. As life succeeds life, the physical frame becomes more and more delicately attuned to vibrations responsive to the Mânasic impulses, so that gradually the Mânasic ray needs less and less of the coarser astral matter as its vehicle. 

It is part of the mission of the Mânasic ray to get gradually rid of the blind deceptive element which, though it makes of it an actual spiritual entity on this plane, still brings it into so close contact with matter as to entirely becloud its divine nature and stultify its intuitions.

Life after life it rids itself of this “blind deceptive element” until at least master of Kâma and with body responsive to mind, the ray becomes one with its radiant source, the lower nature is wholly attuned to the higher, and the Adept stands forth complete, the “Father and the Son,” having become one on all planes, as they have been always “one in heaven.” For him the wheel of incarnation is over, the cycle of necessity is trodden. Henceforth he can incarnate at will, to do any special service to mankind; or he can dwell in the planes round the earth without the physical body, helping in the further evolution of the globe and of the race.

It may partially aspire and partially tend downwards. This is the normal experience of the average man. All life is a battlefield, and the battle rages in the lower Mânasic region, where Manas wrestles with Kâma for empire over man. Anon aspiration conquers, the chains of sense are broken, and the lower Manas, with the radiance of its birthplace on it, soars upwards on strong wings, spurning the soil of earth. But alas! too soon the pinions tire, they flag, they flutter, they cease to beat the air; and downwards falls the royal bird whose true realm is that of the higher air, and he flutters heavily to the bog of earth once more, and Kâma chains him down.

When the period of incarnation is over, and the gateway of death closes the road of earthly life, what becomes of the lower Manas in the case we are considering?

Soon after the death of the physical body, Kâma-Manas is set free, and dwells for a while on the astral plane clothed with a body of astral matter. From this all of the Mânasic ray that is pure and unsoiled gradually disentangles itself, and, after a lengthy period spent on the lower levels of Devachan, it returns to its source, carrying with it such of its life-experiences as are of a nature fit for assimilation with the Higher Ego. Manas thus again becomes one during the latter part of the period which intervenes between two incarnations. The Mânasic Ego, brooded over by Âtma-Buddhi — the two highest principles in the human constitution, not yet considered by us — passes into the devachanic state of consciousness, resting from the weariness of the life-struggle through which it has passed. The experiences of the earth-life just closed are carried into the Mânasic consciousness by the lower ray withdrawn into its source. They make the devachanic state a continuation of earth-life, shorn of its sorrows, a completion of the wishes and desires of earth-life, so far as those were pure and noble. 

The poetic phrase that “the mind creates its own heaven” is truer than many may have imagined, for everywhere man is what he thinks, and in the devachanic state the mind is unfettered by the gross physical matter through which it works on the objective plane. The devachanic period is the time for the assimilation of life experiences, the regaining of equilibrium, ere a new journey is commenced. It is the day that succeeds the night of earth-life, the alternative of the objective manifestation. Periodicity is here, as everywhere else in nature, ebb and flow, throb and rest, the rhythm of the Universal Life. This devachanic state of consciousness lasts for a period of varying length, proportioned to the stage reached in evolution, the Devachan of the average man being said to extend over some fifteen hundred years.

Meanwhile, that portion of the impure garment of the lower Manas which remains entangled with Kâma gives to the desire-body a somewhat confused consciousness, a broken memory of the events of the life just closed. If the emotions and passions were strong and the Mânasic element weak during the period of incarnation, the desire-body will be strongly energized, and will persist in its activity for a considerable length of time after the death of the physical body. 

It will also show a considerable amount of consciousness, as much of the Mânasic ray will have been overpowered by the vigorous Kâmic elements and will have remained entangled in them. If, on the other hand, the earth-life just closed was characterized my mentality and purity rather than by passion, the desire-body, being but poorly energized, will be a pale simulacrum of the person to whom it belonged, and will fade away, disintegrate and perish before any long period has elapsed.

The “spook” already mentioned will now be understood. It may show very considerable intelligence, if the Mânasic element be still largely present, and this will be the case with the desire-body of persons of strong animal nature and forcible though coarse intellect. For intelligence working in a very powerful Kâmic personality will be exceedingly strong and energetic, though not subtle or delicate, and the spook of such a person, still further vitalized by the magnetic currents of persons yet living in the body, may show much intellectual ability of a low type. 

But such a spook is conscienceless, devoid of good impulses, tending towards disintegration, and communications with it can work for evil only, whether we regard them as prolonging its vitality by the currents which it sucks up from the bodies and Kâmic elements of the living, or as exhausting the vitality of these living persons and polluting them with astral connections of an altogether undesirable kind.

Nor should it be forgotten that, without attending séance-rooms at all, living persons may come into objectionable contact with these Kâmic spooks. As already mentioned, they are attracted to places in which the animal part of man is chiefly catered for; drinking houses, gambling saloons, brothels – all these places are full of the vilest magnetism, are very whirlpools of magnetic currents of the foulest type. These attract the spooks magnetically, and they drift to such psychic maelstroms of all that is earthly and sensual. 

Vivified by currents so congenial to their own, the desire-bodies become more active and potent; impregnated with the emanations of passions and desires which they can no longer physically satisfy, their magnetic current reinforce the similar currents in the live persons, action and reaction continually going on, and the animal natures of the living become more potent and less controlled by the will as they are played on by these forces of the Kâmic world. Kâma-loka is a name often used to designate that plane of the astral world to which these spooks belong, and from this ray forth magnetic currents of poisonous character, as from a pest-house float out germs of disease which may take root and grow in the congenial soil of some poorly vitalized physical body.

It is very possible that many will say, on reading these statements, that Theosophy is a revival of mediaeval superstitions and will lead to imaginary terrors. Theosophy explains mediaeval superstitions and shows the natural facts on which they were founded and from which they drew their vitality. If there are planes in nature other than the physical, no amount of reasoning will get rid of them and belief in their existence will constantly reappear; but knowledge will give them their intelligible place in the universal order and will prevent superstition by an accurate understanding of their nature, and of the laws under which they function. And let it be remembered that persons whose consciousness is normally on the physical plane can protect themselves from undesirable influences by keeping their minds clean and their wills strong. 

We protect ourselves best against disease by maintaining our bodies in vigorous health; we cannot guard ourselves against invisible germs, but we can prevent our bodies from becoming suitable soil for the growth and development of the germs. Nor need we deliberately throw ourselves in the way infection. So, also, as regards these malign germs from the astral plane. We can prevent the formation of Kâma-Mânasic soil in which they can germinate and develop, and we need not go into evil places, nor deliberately encourage receptivity and mediumistic tendencies. A strong active will and a pure heart are our best protection.

There remains the third possibility for Kâma-Manas, to which we must now turn our attention, the fate spoken of earlier as “terrible in its consequences, which may befall the Kâmic principle.”

It may break away from its source made one with Kâma instead of with the higher Manas. This is fortunately, a rare event, as rare at one pole of human life as the complete reunion with the higher Manas is rare at the other. But still the possibility remains and must be stated.

The personality may be so strongly controlled by Kâma that, in the struggle between the Kâmic and Mânasic elements, the victory may remain wholly with the former. The lower Manas may become so enslaved that its essence may be frayed and thinner and thinner by the constant rub and strain, until at last persistent yielding to the promptings of desire bears its inevitable fruit, and the slender link which unites the higher to the lower Manas, the “silver thread that binds it to the Master” snaps in two. Then, during earth-life, the lower quaternary is wrenched away from the Triad to which it was linked, and the higher nature is severed wholly from the lower. 

The human being is rent in twain, the brute has broken itself free, and it goes forth unbridled, carrying with it the reflections of that Mânasic light which should have been its guide through the desert of life. A more dangerous brute it is than its fellows of the unevolved animal world, just because of these fragments in it of the higher mentality of man. Such a being, human in form but brute in nature, human in appearance but without human truth, or love or justice — such a one may now and then be met with in the haunts of men, putrescent while still living, a thing to shudder at with deepest, if hopeless compassion. What is its fate after the funeral knell has tolled?

Ultimately, there is the perishing of the personality that has thus broken away from the principles that can alone give it immortality. But a period of persistence lies before it. 

The desire-body of such a one is an entity of terrible potency, and it has this unique peculiarity, that it is able under certain rare circumstances to reincarnate in the world of men. It is not a mere “spook” on the way to disintegration; it has retained, entangled in its coils, too much of the Mânasic element to permit of such natural dissipation in space. 

It is sufficiently an independent entity, lurid instead of radiant, with Mânasic flame rendered foul instead of purifying, as to be able to take to itself a garment of flesh once more and dwell as man with men. Such a man — if the word may indeed be applied to the mere human shell with brute interior — passes through a period of earth-life the natural foe of all who are still normal in their humanity. 

With no instincts save those of the animal, driven only by passion, never even by emotion, with a cunning that no brute can rival, a deliberate wickedness that plans evil in fashion unknown to the mere frankly natural impulses of the animal world, the reincarnated entity touches ideal vileness. Such soil the page of human history as the monsters of iniquity that startle us now and again into a wondering cry, “Is this a human being?”

Sinking lower with each successive incarnation, the evil force gradually wears itself out, and such a personality perishes separated from the source of life. It finally disintegrates, to be worked up into other forms of living things, but as a separate existence, it is lost. 

It is a bead broken off the thread of life, and the immortal Ego that incarnated in that personality has lost the experience of that incarnation, has reaped no harvest from that life-sowing. Its ray has brought nothing back, its lifework for that birth has been a total and complete failure, whereof nothing remains to weave into the fabric of its own eternal Self. 


The student will already have fully realized that “an astral body” is a loose term that may cover a variety of different forms. It may be well at this stage to sum up the subtle types sometimes inaccurately called the astral that belong to the fourth and fifth principles.

During life, a true astral body may be projected — formed, as its name implies, of astral matter — but, unlike the etheric double, dowered with intelligence, and able to travel to a considerable distance from the physical body to which it belongs. This is the desire-body, and it is, as we have seen, a vehicle of consciousness. It is projected by mediums and sensitives unconsciously, and by trained students consciously.

It can travel with the speed of thought to a distant place, can there gather impressions from surrounding objects, can bring back those impressions to the physical body. In the case of a medium it can convey them to others by means of the physical body still entranced, but as a rule when the sensitive comes out of trance, the brain does not retain the impressions thus made upon it, and no trace is left in the memory of the experiences thus acquired. Sometimes, but this is rare, the desire-body is able sufficiently to affect the brain by the vibrations it set up, to leave a lasting impression thereon, and then the sensitive is able to recall the knowledge acquired during trance. The student learns to impress on his brain the knowledge gained in the desire-body, his will being active while that of the medium is passive.

This desire-body is the agent unconsciously used by clairvoyants when their vision is not merely the seeing in the astral light. This astral form does then really travel to distant places and may appear there to persons who are sensitive or who chance for the time to be in an abnormal nervous condition. 

Sometimes it appears to them — when very faintly informed by consciousness — as a vaguely outlined form, not noticing its surroundings. Such a body has appeared near the time of death at places distant from the dying person, to those who were closely united to the dying by ties of the blood, of affection, or of hatred. More highly energized, it will show intelligence and emotion, as in some cases on record, in which dying mothers have visited their children residing at a distance and have spoken in their last moments of what they had seen and done. The desire-body is also set free in many cases of disease — as is the etheric double — as well as in sleep and in trance. Inactivity of the physical body is a condition of such astral voyagings. 

The desire-body seems also occasionally to appear in séance-rooms, giving rise to some of the more intellectual phenomena that takes place. It must not be confounded with the “spook” already sufficiently familiar to the reader, the latter being always the Kâmic or Kâma-Mânasic remains of some dead person, whereas the body we are now dealing with is the projection of an astral double from a living person.

A higher form of subtle body, belonging to Manas, is that known as the Mâyâvi Rûpa, or “body of illusion.” The Mâyâvi Rûpa is a subtle body formed by the consciously directed will of the Adept or disciple; it may, or may not, resemble the physical body, the form given to it being suitable to the purpose for which it is projected. In this body the full consciousness dwells, for it is merely the mental body rearranged. 

The Adept or disciple can thus travel at will, without the burden of the physical body, in the full exercise of every faculty, in perfect self-consciousness. He makes the Mâyâvi Rûpa visible of invisible at will — on the physical plane — and the phrase often used by chelâs and others as to seeing an Adept “in his astral” means that he was visited by them in his Mâyâvi Rûpa. If he so chose, he can make it, indistinguishable from a physical body, warm and firm to the touch as well as visible, able to carry on a conversation, at all points like a physical human being. But the power thus to form the true Mâyâvi Rûpa is confined to Adepts and chelâs; it cannot be done by the untrained student, however psychic he may naturally be, for it is a Mânasic and not a psychic creation, and it is only under the instruction of his Guru that the chelâ learns to form and use the “body of illusion.”


The immortal Thinker itself, as will by this time have become clear to the reader, can manifest itself but little on the physical plane at the present stage of human evolution. Yet we are able to catch some glimpses of the powers resident in it, the more as in the lower Manas we find those powers “cribbed, cabined and confined” indeed, but yet existing. Thus, we have seen that the lower Manas “is the organ of the freewill in physical man.” Freewill resides in Manas itself, in Manas the representative of Mahat, the Universal Mind. 

From Manas comes the feeling of liberty, the knowledge that we can rule ourselves — really the knowledge that the higher nature in us can rule the lower, let that lower nature rebel and struggle as it may. Once let our consciousness identify itself with Manas instead of with Kâma, and the lower nature becomes the animal we bestride, it is no longer the “I.” All its plungings, its struggles, its fights for mastery, are then outside us, not within us, and we rein it in and hold it as we rein in a plunging steed and subdue it to our will.

On this question of freewill, I venture to quote from an article of my own that appeared in the Path:

Unconditioned will, alone can be absolutely free: the unconditioned and the absolute are one: all that is conditioned must, by virtue of that conditioning, be relative and therefore partially bound. As that will evolves the universe, it becomes conditioned by the laws of its own manifestation. The Mânasic entities are differentiations of that will, each conditioned by the nature of its manifesting potency, but, while conditioned without, it is free within its own sphere of activity, so being the image in its own world of the universal will in the universe. Now as this will, acting on each successive plane, crystalizes itself more and more densely as matter, the manifestation is conditioned by the material in which it works, while, relatively to the material, it is itself free. 

So, at each stage the inner freedom appears in consciousness, while yet investigation shows that, that freedom works within the limits of the plane of manifestation on which it is acting, free to work upon the lower, yet hindered as to manifestation by the unresponsiveness of the lower to its impulse. Thus, the higher Manas, in whom resides free will, so far as the lower quaternary is concerned — being the offspring of Mahat, the third Logos, the Word, i.e., the Will in manifestation — is limited in its manifestation in our lower nature by the sluggishness of the response of the personality to its impulses. In the lower Manas itself — as immersed in that personality — resides the will with which we are familiar, swayed by passions, by appetites, by desires, by impressions coming from without, yet able to assert itself among them all, by virtue of its essential nature, one with that higher Ego of which it is the ray.

 It is free, as regards all below it, able to act on Kâma and on the physical body, however much its full expression may be thwarted and hindered by the crudeness of the material in which it is working. Were the will the mere outcome of the physical body, of the desires and passions, whence could arise the sense of the “I” that can judge, can desire, can overcome? It acts from a higher plane, is royal as touching the lower whenever it claims the royalty of birthright, and the very struggle of its self-assertion is the best testimony to the fact that in its nature it is free. And so, passing to lower planes, we find in each grade this freedom of the higher as ruling the lower, yet, on the plane of the lower, hindered in manifestation. Reversing the process and starting from the lower, the same truth becomes manifest. 

Let a man’s limbs be loaded with fetters, and crude material iron will prevent the manifestation of the muscular and nervous force with which they are instinct: none the less is that force present, though hindered for the moment in its activity. Its strength may be shown in its very efforts to break the chains that bind it there, is no power in the iron to prevent the free giving out of the muscular energy, though the phenomena of motion may be hindered. But while this energy cannot be ruled by the physical nature below, its expenditure is determined by the Kâmic principle; passions and desires can set it going, can direct and control it. The muscular and nervous energy cannot rule the passions and desires, they are free as regards it, it is determined by their interposition. 

Yet again Kâma may be ruled, controlled, determined by the will; as touching the Mânasic principle it is bound, not free, and hence the sense of freedom in choosing which desire shall be gratified, which act performed. As the lower Manas rules Kâma, the lower quaternary takes its rightful position of subserviency to the higher triad and is determined by a will it recognizes as above itself and, as it regards itself, a will that is free. Here in many a mind will spring the question, ‘And what of the will of the higher Manas; is that in turn determined by what is above it, while it is free to all below? But we have reached a point where the intellect fails us, and where language may not easily utter that which the Spirit senses in those higher realms. 

Dimly only can we feel that there, as everywhere else, "the truest freedom must be in harmony with law, and that voluntary acceptance of the function of acting as channel of the Universal Will must unite into one perfect liberty and perfect obedience.

This is truly an obscure and difficult problem, but the student will find much light fall on it by following the lines of thought thus traced.

Another power resident in the higher Manas and manifested on the lower planes by those in whom the higher Manas is consciously master, is that of creation of forms by the will. The Secret Doctrine says: 

Kriyashakti, the mysterious power of thought which enables it to produce external, perceptible, phenomenal results by its own inherent energy. The ancient held that any idea will manifest itself externally if one’s attention is deeply concentrated upon it. Similarly, an intense volition will be followed by the desired results.

Here is the secret of true “magic,” and as the subject is an important one and as Western science is beginning to touch its fringe, a separate section is devoted to its consideration farther on, in order not to break the connected outline here given on principles.

Again, we have learned from H.P. Blavatsky that Manas, or the higher Ego, as “part of the essence of the Universal Mind, is unconditionally omniscient on its own plane,” when it has developed self-consciousness by its evolutionary experiences and “is the vehicle of all knowledge of the past and present, and the future.” When this immortal entity is able through its ray, the lower Manas, to impress the brain of a man, that man is one who manifests abnormal qualities, is a genius or seer. The conditions of seership are thus laid down:

The former can be obtained by one of two means: (a) on the condition of paralyzing at will the memory and the instinctual independent action of all the material organs and even cells in the body of flesh, an act which, when once the light of the higher Ego has consumed and subjected forever the passionate nature of the personal lower Ego, is easy, but requires an adept; (b) of being a reincarnation of one who, in a previous birth, had attained through extreme purity of life and efforts in the right direction almost to a Yogi-state of holiness and saint-ship. There is also a third possibility of reaching in mystic visions the plane of the higher Manas; but it is only occasional and does not depend on the will of the seer, but on the extreme weakness and exhaustion of the material body through illness and suffering. The Seeress of Prevorst was an instance of the latter case; and Jacob Boehme of our second category.

The reader will now be in a position to grasp the difference between the workings of the higher Ego and of its ray. Genius, which sees instead of arguing, is of the higher Ego; true intuition is one of its faculties. Reason, the weighing and balancing quality which arranges the facts gathered by observation, balances them one against the other, argues from them, draws conclusions from them — this is the exercise of the lower Manas through the brain apparatus; its instrument is ratiocination; by induction it ascends from the known to the unknown, building up a hypothesis; by deduction it descends again to the known, verifying its hypothesis by fresh experiment.

Intuition, as we see by its derivation, is simply insight — a process as direct and swift as bodily vision. It is the exercise of the eyes of the intelligence, the unerring recognition of a truth presented on the mental plane. It sees with certainty, its vision is unclouded, its report unfaltering. No proof can add to the certitude of its recognition, for it is beyond and above the reason. Often our instincts, blinded and confused by passions and desires, are miscalled intuitions, and a mere Kâmic impulse is accepted as the sublime voice of the higher Manas. Careful and prolonged self-training is necessary, ere the voice can be recognized with certainty, but of one thing we may feel very sure: so long as we are in the vortex of the personality, so long as the storms of desires and appetites howl around us, so long as the waves of emotion toss us to and fro, so long the voice of the higher Manas cannot reach our ears. 

Not in the fire or the whirlwind, not in the thunderclap of the storm, comes the mandate of the higher Ego: only when there has fallen the stillness of a silence that can be felt, only when the very air is motionless and the calm is profound, only when the man wraps his face in a mantle which closes his ears even to the silence that is of earth, then only sounds the voice that is stiller than the silence, the voice of his true Self.

On this H. P. Blavatsky has written in Isis Unveiled

Allied to the physical half of man’s nature is reason, which enables him to maintain his supremacy over the lower animals, and to subjugate nature to his uses. Allied to his spiritual part is his conscience, which will serve as his unerring guide through the besetment of the senses; for conscience is that instantaneous perception between right and wrong which can only be exercised by the spirit, which, being a portion of the divine wisdom and purity, is absolutely pure and wise. Its promptings are independent of reason, and it can only manifest itself clearly when unhampered by the baser attractions of our dual nature. Reason being a faculty of our physical brain, one which is justly defined as that of deducing inferences from premises and, being wholly dependent on the evidence of other senses, cannot be a quality pertaining directly to our divine spirit. 

The latter knows — hence all reasoning, which implies discussion and argument, would be useless. So, an entity which, if it must be considered as a direct emanation from the eternal Spirit of wisdom, has to be vied as possessed of the same attributes as the essence of the whole of which it is part. Therefore, it is with a certain degree of logic that the ancient Theurgists maintained that the rational part of a man’s soul (spirit) never entered wholly into the man’s body, but only overshadowed him more or less through the irrational or astral soul, which serves as an intermediary agent, or a medium between spirit and body. The man who has conquered matter sufficiently to receive the direct light from his shining Augoeides, feels truth intuitionally; he could not err in his judgement, notwithstanding all the sophisms suggested by cold reason, for he is illuminated. Hence, prophesy, vaticination, and the so-called divine inspiration, are simply the effects of this illumination from above by our own immortal spirit.

This Augoeides, according to the belief of the Neo-Platonists, as according to the Theosophical teachings, “sheds more or less its radiance on the inner man, the astral soul” (i.e., in the now accepted terminology) on the Kâma-Mânasic personality or lower Ego. Only as this lower Ego becomes pure from all breath of passion, as the lower Manas frees itself from Kâma, can the “shining one” impress it; H.P. Blavatsky tells how initiates meet this higher Ego face to face. Having spoken of the trinity in man, Âtma-Buddhi-Manas, she goes on: 

It is when this trinity, in anticipation of the final triumphant reunion beyond the gates of corporeal death, became for a few seconds a unity, that the candidate is allowed, at the moment of the initiation, to behold his future self. Thus, we read in the Persian Desatir of the “resplendent one”; in the Greek philosopher-initiates of the Augoeides — the self-shining “blessed vision resident in the pure light”; in Porphyry, that Plotinus was united to his “god” six times during his lifetime, and so on.

This trinity made into unity, again, is the “Christ” of all mystics. When in the final initiation, the candidate has been outstretched on the floor or altar stone and has thus typified the crucifixion of the flesh, or lower nature, and when from this “death” he has “risen again” as the triumphant conqueror over sin and death, he then, in the supreme moment, sees before him the glorious presence and becomes “one with Christ,” is himself the Christ. Thenceforth he may live in the body, but it has become his obedient instrument; he is united with his true Self, Manas made one with Âtma-Buddhi, and through the personality which he inhabits he wields his full powers as an immortal spiritual intelligence. While he was still struggling in the toils of the lower nature, Christ, the spiritual Ego, was daily crucified in him; but in the full Adept Christ has arisen triumphant, lord of himself and of nature. The long pilgrimage of Manas is over, the cycle of necessity is trodden, the wheel of rebirth ceases to turn, the Son of man has been made perfect by suffering.

So long as this point has not been reached, “the Christ” is the object of aspiration. The ray is ever struggling to return to its source, the lower Manas ever aspiring to re-become one with the higher. While this duality persists, the continual yearning towards reunion felt by the noblest and purest natures is one of the most salient facts of the inner life, and it is this which clothes itself as prayer, as inspiration, as “seeking after God,” as the longing for union with the divine. 

“My soul is a thirst for God, for the living God,” cries the eager Christian, and to tell him that this intense longing is a fancy and is futile to make him turn aside from you as one who cannot understand, but whose insensibility does not alter the fact. The Occultist recognizes in this cry the inextinguishable impulse upwards of the lower Self to the higher from which it is separated, but the attraction of which it vividly feels. Whether the person pray to the Buddha, to Vishnu, to Christ, to the Virgin, to the Father, it matters not at all; these are questions of mere dialect, not of essential fact. 

In all the Manas united to Âtma-Buddhi is the real object, veiled under what name the changing time or race may give; at once the ideal humanity and the “personal God,” the “God Man” found in all religions, “God incarnate,” the “Word made flesh,” “the Christ who must be born in each" with whom the believer must be made one.

And this leads us on to the last planes with which we are concerned, the planes of Spirit, using that much abused word merely as the opposite pole to matter; here only very general ideas can be grasped by us, but it is necessary none the less to try to grasp these ideas if we are to complete, however poorly our conception of man.



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