by Geoffrey Farthing

Chapter III The Occult Constitution of Cosmos and Man

Original EditionDeity Cosmos and Man Centenary Edition


In this chapter we take up the themes outlined in the third paragraph of Chapter II, beginning with the Hermetic axiom, "as above, so below." Like every science, Esoteric Science has its special terminology, and much of this chapter will serve as an expanded glossary of the terms used in Occultism in the study of man and the universe.

Man is a microcosm reflecting in miniature the composition and processes of the macrocosm, the total universe. What we find in the one is to be found in the other, and consequently, by studying the 'one we may learn, by analogy, the corresponding picture of the other.

A familiar division of the human constitution describes man as threefold-body, soul, and spirit. Esotericism makes use of the same division (found also in Plato and Paul), but shows the complex nature of each of the three parts. The body itself is regarded as threefold, consisting-in addition to the gross physical part-of a subtle or ethereal counterpart-the astral double or Linga-sharira-and of a vital principle or life-force, prana. Soul is composed of two elements recognized in experience as the feeling and thinking aspects of ourselves. Body and soul together constitute the human personality. The spiritual nature of man is also threefold and is the true individuality which, during incarnation, becomes associated with, or focused in, the personality. English has no precise term for the three aspects of Spirit, hence the use in theosophical literature of the Sanskrit terms atma, buddhi, and manas, which are explained in the paragraphs, that follow. The distinction between personality, the ordinary man, and individuality, the spiritual man, should
be particularly noted.

In The Key to Theosophy (Chapter VI) this information is set out clearly in a table describing each of the seven aspects, usually referred to as principles, and giving their Sanskrit names. Further information is given in


Chapters VIII and IX. In this chapter the relevant statements from all three chapters have been gathered together, but students are recommended to refer to the.passages in the Key itself in order to build up their own picture of the occult constitution of man.

According to Esoteric Science, there are then in man seven principles or aspects:

1. The physical body: the vehicle of all the other principles or aspects during life.

Skt. rupa, or Sthula-sharira (rupa: a visible form; sthula: bulky, thick, gross; sharira: that which easily molders or is dissolved, the outward aspect, suggesting impermanence).

2 The subtle or ethereal counterpart of the physical body. It has been variously termed the astral body or double, the phantom body, the model body. The Secret Doctrine affirms "the birth of the astral; before the physical body, the former being a model for the latter." Secret Doctrine (II 1, II 1, III 15)

Skt. Linga-sharira (linga: a characteristic mark, hence "model" or "pattern").

3 The vital principle or life-force that permeates and animates the physical body. It is necessary only to the aspects numbered I, 3, and 4 in this table, and to the mental functions that operate through the physical brain.

Skt. prana (breath, spirit, vital air).

4 The vehicle of the grosser desires and passions. As no precise term exists in English, the Sanskrit term Kama-rupa is generally translated as the "desire-body." This does not become a distinct body until after death. It is said to be "The seat of animal desires and passions." This fourth principle, being the middle one of the seven, is further described


as "the centre of the animal man, where lies the line of demarcation which separates the mortal man from the immortal entity" Key to Theosophy, 91 but see paragraph 5 below.

Skt. Kama-rupa (Kama: desire).

These four together form the lower quaternary or the fourfold personality, the mortal man, conditioned by the previous life, but formed anew according to karmic law for each incarnation.

Clearly distinguished from the mortal quaternary is the immortal spiritual entity, the individuality, termed "the upper imperishable triad." Its three aspects are:

5 The principle of mind which links the higher with the lower, the individuality with the personality. It is taught that formed anew, manas, the mind-principle, is "dual in its functions." During life, it may "gravitate downward to kama-rupa," that is, it may become so identified with the lower or passional nature that it must finally disintegrate with it; or it may "gravitate upward" towards the spiritual consciousness, the true Ego (see below), and so win its immortality. Manas, the mental faculty, "makes of man an intelligent and moral being, and distinguishes him from the mere animal" Theosophical Glossary, Manas

Skt. manas (the mind, from a root meaning to think).

6-7. The Monad, the essential unit of active, universal life Which, together with manas, becomes the conscious reincarnating Ego, the spiritual entity overshadowing every personal man. The Monad is the combination of atma; pure spirit (ineffective by itself) and its vehicle buddhi, termed "the Spiritual Soul" As the Monad is one and indivisible, it is not an individual entity, it is the One Universal Life. Atma is regarded as "one with the Absolute, as its radiation." It can act in the lower planes only when in combination with its vehicle, buddhi, and can then only be regarded as a unit component of man's Ego when

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in association with Manas, man's individual mind, i.e. Ego is Monad plus Manas.

In an attempt to clarify these difficult concepts Mme Blavatsky writes:

I Atma, the "Higher Self," is neither your Spirit nor mine, but like sunlight shines on all. It is the universally diffused "divine principle," and is inseparable from its one and absolute Meta-Spirit, as the sunbeam is inseparable from sunlight.

II Buddhi (the spiritual soul) is only its vehicle. Neither each separately, nor the two collectively, are of any more use to the body of man, than sunlight and its beams are for a mass of granite buried in the earth, unless the divine Duad is assimilated by, and reflected in, some consciousness .... This consciousness or mind is,

Ill. Manas ... It is, therefore, when inseparably united to the first two, called the SPIRITUAL EGO ... This is the real Individuality, or the divine man ... It is that Ego, that "Causal Body," which overshadows every personality Karma forces it to incarnate into Key to Theosophy, 135

Each of the seven principles in man, the microcosm, is related to corresponding principles in the macrocosm. In the case of the physical body, this is seen at once; its constituent materials are the materials of the world around us, the physical plane, the plane of objective materiality. Prana, the vital principle in man, is shared by all the kingdoms of Nature, for "Prana or Life permeates the whole being of the objective Universe. Key to Theosophy, 176 The subtle or ethereal counterpart of the physical body finds its correspondence in the invisible region that surrounds the globe and all objects in it, the Astral Light (see Chapter Il). Similarly, the energy that expresses itself in the instinctive life of the individual and in his desire-nature is drawn from an inner plane of subtle matter imperceptible to the physical senses. Further, Esoteric Science teaches that there is a Mind-principle in Nature; it is termed Mahat, Universal Mind, of which Manas,


the individual mind, is a derivative. Buddhi is that universal, passive principle that makes possible any manifestation of Atma, the limitless, active, indefinable, indivisible Reality, the dynamism of the Universe.

Diagram I - Cosmic Planes and Human Principles

Auric Envelope

Kosmic Planes as Six With Auric Egg as Seventh Secret Doctrine Addendum(555, 528, 658, 436)
The Auric Envelope is dealt with fully in Part II, Chapter III, and Alaya and Prakriti are explained later (also see the Glossary].

A word of caution is appropriate here. In the everyday world of physical phenomena perceptible by the senses, we easily classify Objects into their various categories. Such an approach is inappropriate when we are considering realms of being that are entirely out of the reach of the senses and remain, for the most part, beyond our experience. When, in the 1880's, Mme Blavatsky's Teachers began to give out information about the esoteric system - for the first time in English - they had first to find an appropriate vocabulary to refer to phenomena of the hidden worlds completely unknown to western philosophy. Our ordinary vocabulary is


adequate for dealing with experience in a three- dimensional world and in serial time (past, present, and future). The literature of Esoteric Science must of necessity use this same vocabulary to describe the realities of a totally different order of existence. It would be unwise therefore to treat the information given as though it applied to concrete phenomena similar to those of the objective world of daily experience. Our universe is one integrated whole and functions as such, not as a magnified layer cake with a sponge base, a filling of cream and jam and a topping of chocolate and nuts. Similarly a human being is a single entity, the various principles being but "aspects and states of consciousness ... [Man, the] one real man, [is an] embodied Consciousness ... enduring through the cycle of life and immortal in essence, if not in form" Key to Theosophy, 100 Such was the warning given by Mme Blavatsky to her London students when she explained to them that the mode of thinking required in the study of The Secret Doctrine was

... what the Indians call Jnana Yoga. As one progresses in Jnana Yoga, one finds conceptions arising which, though one is conscious of them, one cannot express nor yet formulate into any sort of mental picture. ... This is a time to be on guard and refuse to be deluded with the idea that the newfound and wonderful picture must represent reality. It does not. As one works on, one finds the once admired picture growing dull and unsatisfying, and finally fading out or being thrown away. This is another danger point, because for the moment one is left in a void without any conception to support one, and one may be tempted to revive the cast-off picture for want of a better to cling to. The true student will, however, work on unconcerned, and presently further formless gleams come, which again in time give rise to a larger and more beautiful picture than the last. But the learner will now know that no picture will ever represent the TRUTH. This last splendid picture will grow dull and fade like the others. And so the process goes on, until at last the mind and its pictures are transcended and the learner enters and dwells in the World of NO FORM, but of which all forms are narrowed reflections. Bowen Notes, 10


A further word of explanation may also be necessary. Buddhi has been referred to as the vehicle of Atma. The word vehicle perhaps conveys its own meaning, but why is a vehicle for Atma necessary? Similar questions can be asked: for example, what exactly is a principle of man, and what is a plane of Nature?

The Unity of Cosmos has been stressed. There is One Life, the root and origin of everything. All is living and every being a life expressing some aspects of the One Life. A further furidamental concept in Esoteric Science is that of a basic duality - a polarity inherent in everything.

In metaphysical terms the One Life manifests the duality of Spirit and Matter (discussed more fully in Chapter V). They are inseparable. Spirit is regarded as active and positive, and Matter as passive and negative. This polarity reflects into the duality, energy-matter, at the physical level; the energy being that which is locked up in-but under certain circumstances interchangeable With-matter, the material of all things at our ordinary level of objective existence. The positive-negative combination might be thought of as life-matter. As we have seen, everything in its own way is living. It derives its being, in all respects, from Life.

"As it is below so it is above - as is the outer so is the inner." In the different levels of being which constitute the inner planes of Cosmos there cannot be activity or function without active beings, that is, someone or something doing something, for which it is fitted. Each such being must have what we may call its life side and its matter side. This duality is often thought of as life and form. It is the matter or form side which is referred to as the vehicle giving a means of expression to the life side. But both life and form are aspects of life. They are living.

The matter of the seven planes of Cosmos and the principles in man must be seen in this light. They consist of lives, each with its two aspects.

Rudimentary units of life are referred to as life-atoms. Living beings. are composed of hierarchies of constituent life-atoms, little lives. Planes are' made up of such lives. Man and his principles are made up of such lives. There is no matter, as such, of planes, even though this expression is often used, for matter is composed of lives. Similarly man's principles can only be thought of as having a base of matter, i.e., matter of the corresponding


plane, if it is remembered that the matter is in fact living. All is composed of living beings. A being in this sense is as a drop of water to an ocean: there is only water.

Sometimes the matter of the inner (i.e., non-physical) planes is referred to as substance, that which underlies matter. The planes are, in this sense, substantial, but the substance of the planes becomes more and more tenuous as the condition of pure spirit is approached; Another way of regarding this is to say that the component life atoms and the beings composed of them become,as the planes are ascended, smaller and. more rarified. This is the language of the physical plane where the concept of three dimensions rules. The inner planes are dimensionless. Inner space has no extension. This, however, is an abstruse complication that needs only to be mentioned here.

A principle is then the living vehicle of a human faculty, a particular mode of function. It is an enabling agent giving effect to what would otherwise be abstract, that is, thinking or feeling as mere ideas. Spirit as such, by itself, is also regarded as a mere abstraction. A plane, like a principle is also a mode of cosmic function which can only operate through lives developed and conditioned to work in a particular way.

Deity Cosmos and Man >Next page Chapter 4 The Hierarchies of Beings


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