The Theosophical Forum – November 1941


Individuality and Personality

Does Theosophy teach that we always retain our individuality in all states of consciousness?

G. de P. — Yes it does indeed, provided that we use "individuality" in the technical Theosophical sense. Remember that the individuality is a very different thing from the personality. The individuality is the deathless part of us, the individuum, that which cannot be divided. Otherwise stated, it is the Monadic Essence, it is the inner God, the spark of divinity within us, that spark of the Cosmic Fire of consciousness-life-substance which is our inmost essence. This in its root is Atman, the indivisible self, deathless, stainless, and in its own essence beginningless and endless; for it is of the very substance-consciousness of the Universe.

The personality is a vastly different thing, it is a reflection merely of the individuality; the personality is like the moonshine, reflected light from the sun; and this personality is mortal always — and how fortunate it is that it is so! Fancy what it would be like, living in eternity in our present personalities: imperfect, undeveloped, feeble, inept, incapable of any great advancement, a poor understander, a very poor follower of noble things, incapable of receiving and retaining for any length of time the best that is in us.

Yet the personality is a wonderful instrument or vehicle through which the individuality works. I think we may say generally that the individuality is the spirit, and the personality is the mortal brain-mind of us; changing with each birth.

Thus it is clear why the individuality is the same, and that "we retain" it in all states of consciousness, for these various states of consciousness, in all their manifold and often bewildering phases and shifting qualities and attributes, when traced to their ultimate or original source, are light-stuff from the Atman. Consciousness contains many mysteries; and the real part of us is conscious even in those phases of consciousness wherein the personality is unconscious — a curious play upon words, yet containing a profound truth, and pointing to the same thought contained in the Sanskrit aphorism: Atmanam Atmana pasya, "Know the self by the Self."

On "Multiple Personality"

Does the teaching of the Seven Principles in man explain "multiple personality'?

Emma D. Wilcox — The teaching of the Seven Principles explains it indirectly as it shows man to be composite in nature. The term "multiple personality" is used mostly by psychologists and physicians to denote certain morbid mental states occurring in disease-neuroses or when a person is under hypnosis or in trance. The psychologist explains self-consciousness as the recognition of oneself as distinct from others, expressed through a definite and sustained group of characteristics called the personality.

It has been observed that under hypnosis a subject may show an entirely different group of characteristics, often opposite to those of his normal self, and in a second hypnosis enact still another group or even return to the first. In victims of hysteria the same phenomena have occurred. What gave rise to the belief that this proved the existence of more than one personality was the fact that when one group returned, it renewed its phases of action just where it had left them previously.

Various explanations of these phenomena of multiple personality have been made, such as subconscious mental states, clairvoyance, astral obsession, etc., but none of them has consistently responded to tests. Our best answer comes when we analyze what the term means.

Each individual shows in his daily life certain traits of character in his conduct towards others which, grouped together, are called his personality. What is termed a many-sided person will show different groupings in differing circumstances or towards different people, yet with them all may be traced an underlying uniformity of character consistent with himself. How is one individual able to do this when most people show only a single group of personal traits? The answer is in what lies behind the personality. We are what we think, and most of us have an entirely different thought-world from that expressed by our everyday actions, a world which we guard closely from even our best friends. Normally, our thoughts dwell within the limits of three planes, that of the sensations, that of the emotions, and the purely mental plane, while between them is the will, which chooses the field of our thought-activity. Let the restraining power of the will be removed, and the owner is at the mercy of any outside influence which he may meet, or he may enact the varied and often chaotic pictures that in his thought-world he has lived and framed in the gallery of his mind.

Each act and thought is a life-force, an entity, held and registered within the aura of its creator, and in aggregate it makes that aura. Think what it may mean, then, to have the mind exposed to the vision of such an aura without the choice and control of the will! If the pictures are those which are registered by the acts of the lower principles alone, then, indeed, will one be like a rudderless ship swept hither and yon by wind and wave, a victim to whomever may board it. On the other hand, let the pictures be those from the higher mind and soul, then there can be no multiplicity of form or color, in other words, no multiple personality, because all imagery on the spiritual plane is selfless, free from physical sensation and desire, and therefore devoid of personality. Man is then SELF, not selves.

Four Questions on Centaurs and Satyrs

What is the Theosophical explanation of the Centaurs?

G. K. — According to Dr. de Purucker, Centaurs, beings of an intermediate type, half man, half beast, did at one time exist. They were one of Nature's experiments during an early period of evolution, aeons before there were beasts even faintly resembling those of today, or anything resembling our mankind. This period is described in the archaic Stanzas or Book of Dzyan, the description (quoted in The Secret Doctrine, II, 16) stating that all were finally destroyed. "Mother Earth remained bare" — to receive higher forms.

H. P. Blavatsky also quotes Berosus as author of a creation-account which mentions:

the hideous beings born from the two-fold principle (Earth and Water) in the Abyss of primordial creation: Naras (Centaurs, men with the limbs of horses and human bodies), and Kinnaras (men with the heads of horses) created by Brahma [Nature] in the commencement of the Kalpa [manvantara]. — The Secret Doctrine, II, 65, footnote

Obviously they could not have resembled the conception of the Centaur of modern art, which depicts the body as that of a highly evolved Fourth-Round animal with head and attitude intended to suggest indwelling, self-conscious Mind.

Why was Cheiron, the wise teacher of the Heroes who later became the Argonauts, depicted as a Centaur?

G. K. — Probably because Dual Man has been symbolized as half divine-human and half beast since Atlantean days and earlier. A familiar example is the Egyptian Sphinx. Cheiron, the Wise Man, the Sage and Teacher, who has conquered the beast-nature and functions in the divine or higher manasic, is still dual, and the intelligence and beauty which artists express in their portrayals of "Cheiron the Centaur" doubtless come from a sense of the relative perfection to which he had attained. A favorite subject in Greek art was the famous battle between the Centaurs and the Lapithae, a legendary people of Thessaly, upon the occasion of the marriage of Hippodamia, a Lapith maid. Here, though still handsome and intelligent, they are shown in their more brutal, or physical, aspect. The theme is purely symbolic, though the teaching connected with it has been lost.

What is the Theosophical explanation of the Satyrs?

G. K. — H. P. Blavatsky says in The Secret Doctrine:

The numberless traditions about Satyrs are no fables, but represent an extinct race of animal men. The animal "Eves" were their foremothers, and the human "Adams" their forefathers. . . . — II, 262

But who were the Nephilim of Genesis, vi, 4? There were Palaeolithic and Neolithic men in Palestine ages before the events recorded in the book of the Beginnings. The theological tradition identifies these Nephilim with hairy men or Satyrs, the latter being mythical in the Fifth Race and the former historical in both the Fourth and Fifth Races. . . . But Esoteric records show these hairy creatures to be the last descendants of those Lemuro-Atlantean races, which begot children on female animals, of species long extinct. . . . — Op. cit., II, 775

Why was Pan, the God of forests, pastures, and flocks, depicted as a Satyr?

G. K. — Because Nature is dual, half physical or material, half divine, well symbolized by the dual form of the Satyr with its higher aspect as God of Nature, friend of birds and beasts and flowers, and of children.

In THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, May, 1941, a question is asked and answered on pages 342-3, which is too long to write out in full. The heading "Avoid the Over-Anxious Attitude," emboldens me to ask, after saying "All fine, true": Suppose one whom you love deeply knows his Theosophy as well as you do, accepts it and relies on it, yet at times lives — or so it seems — diametrically opposite to all he believes, knows, accepts, clings to? Is my, our, responsibility at an end?

It seems to me Theosophists are rather prone to waive, as in the last paragraph of this article, ties, duties, unless they fit in with their, the Theosophists', idea. — H. F. S.

L. L. W. — I agree with this questioner that the "Pass on" attitude is not a satisfactory one. Probably what H. P. L. really meant was that unasked for advice or suggestions to such a negligent Theosophist might do more harm than good. Anyone however would be quite justified in offering a tactful and kindly reminder — as when one hears a Theosophist spreading gossip or indulging in unkindly criticism. Perhaps in a case where a Theosophist has neglected some obvious duty, like Lodge work assigned and left undone, one might do the work himself without comment, and thus use the silent but always effective force of example. But in family or strictly personal matters what could an outsider suitably do? It all depends upon the particular case, the temperaments involved, and more than all upon the sympathy, tact and wisdom of the one who observes the failure. Few of us are perfect Theosophists. The more reason for using the understanding heart and wise impersonal love in dealing with what we believe to be the failings of others.

The Theosophical Forum