Seven Principles of Man

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Seven Principles of Man

By Annie Besant

Principle Three - Prana, The Life

ALL universes, all worlds, all men, all brutes, all vegetables, all minerals, all molecules and atoms, all that is, are plunged in a great ocean of life, life eternal, life infinite, life incapable of increase or diminution. The universe is only life in manifestation, life made objective, life differentiated. Now each organism, whether minute as a molecule or vast as a universe, may be thought of as appropriating to itself somewhat of life, of embodying, in itself as its own life some of this universal life. Figure a living sponge, stretching itself out in the water which bathes it, envelops it, permeates it; there is water, still the ocean, circulating in every passage, filling every pore; but we may think of the ocean outside the sponge, or of part of the ocean, appropriated by the sponge, distinguishing them in thought if we want to make statements about each severally. So, each organism is a sponge bathed in the ocean of life universal and containing within itself some of that ocean as its own breath of life. In Theosophy, we distinguish this appropriated life under the name Prâna, breath, and call it the third principle in man’s constitution. 

To speak quite accurately, the “breath of life” — that which the Hebrews termed Nephesh, or the breath of life breathed into the nostrils of Adam — is not Prâna only, but Prâna and the fourth principle conjoined. It is these two together that make the “vital spark,” and that are the “breath of life in man, as in beast or insect, or physical, material life.” It is “the breath of animal life in man – the breath of life instinctual in the animal.” But just now we are concerned with Prâna only, with vitality as the animating principle in all animal and human bodies. Of this life, the etheric double is the vehicle, acting, so to say, as means of communication, as bridge, between Prâna and the dense body.

Prâna is explained in The Secret Doctrine as having for its lowest subdivision the microbes of science; these are the “invisible lives” that build up the physical cells; these are the “countless myriads of lives” that build the “tabernacle of clay,” the physical bodies. 

Science, dimly perceiving the truth, may find bacteria and other infinitesimals in the human body, and see in them only, occasional and abnormal visitors to which diseases are attributed. Occultism — which discerns a life in every atom and molecule, whether in a mineral or human body, in air, fire, or water — affirms that our whole body is built of such lives; the smallest bacterium under the microscope being to them a comparative size like an elephant to the tiniest infusoria.

The “fiery lives” are the controllers and directors of these microbes, these invisible lives, and “indirectly” build, i.e., build by controlling and directing the microbes, the immediate builders, supplying the latter with what is necessary, acting as the life of these lives; the “fiery lives” the synthesis, the essence, of Prâna, are the “vital constructive energy” that enables the microbes to build the physical cells. One of the archaic commentaries sums up the matter in stately and luminous phrases: 

The worlds, to the profane, are built up of the known elements. To the conception of an Arhat, these elements are themselves collectively a divine life; distributively, on the plane of manifestations, the numberless and countless crores — (a crore is ten million) — of lives. Fire alone is One, on the plane of the One Reality; on that of manifested, hence illusive, being, its particles are fiery lives which live and have their being at the expense of every other life that they consume. Therefore, they are named the Devourers…. Every visible thing in this universe was built by such lives, from conscious and divine primordial man, down to the unconscious agents that construct matter…. From the One Life, formless and uncreated, proceeds the universe of lives. As in the universe, so in man, and all these countless lives, all this constructive vitality, all this is summed up by the Theosophist as Prâna.



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