The Theosophical Forum — November 1943

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The sevenfold seven principles

We have not yet fully understood the idea of there being a sevenfold nature for each of the seven principles. For example we find it difficult to define Buddhi-Sthula-sarira, Kama-Prana, etc. Again, is Atman-Sthula-sarira the same as Atman-Linga-sarira, i.e., is the Atmic division of each principle the same for all? Perhaps you could give us some references on this difficulty. — F. W. and J. E. L.

H. T. Edge — I think the difficulty arises from taking too mechanical a view, and in forgetting that diagrams are symbolic — not pictorial. The septenary principle runs throughout nature. A supreme Logos emits seven rays, and each ray, penetrating a particular plane of substantiality, becomes itself a logos and emits its own seven rays. We must not think of the seven principles and their subdivisions as if they were seven strings of beads with seven beads on each string. This is a purely physical conception. If we speak of Buddhi as having a seventh principle corresponding to the seventh principle in man — the physical body, this does not mean that Buddhi has anything like a physical body. It means that Buddhi has its rupa aspect, its lowest vehicle, which is analogous to our physical body, but not similar to it. Everyone of the seven principles has its own quintessence — its Atma; and its outermost vehicle — its body, so to say; and so on with the other members of the septenate. Thus we might speak of the Kama aspect of Atma as being that aspect which causes it to desire to infuse its essence into things. Again, the Kamic principle is neither good nor bad; it is in its highest aspect Divine Love; its grossest aspect is physical desire; and so we can say that it has seven aspects. It is like taking the seven colors of the rainbow and dividing each into seven shades, so as to enumerate a red red, a yellow red, a green red, and so on.

It is important to try to find out the meaning of this teaching by relating it to your own experience, rather than by memorizing it out of a text-book. I heard a member say that she had found this teaching of the compound nature of the seven principles to be one of the most illuminating keys to the understanding of character that she had ever found. The physical body has various centers, such as heart, brain, navel, etc., which correspond to the seven principles; so we can see for ourselves that the physical body is septenary. It must be the same with the linga-sarira. The mayavi-rupa in which a nirmanakaya moves, is a sort of body, but yet it is not a physical body.

Definition of Truth

Some time ago I read Generation of Vipers, which is a terrific indictment of pretty nearly everybody and everything. The writer states, with some logic I think, that there are plenty of good people and good things in the world, but that the bad people and bad things should be pulled out from under the covers and given a good going over — which he does.

He makes a point which interests me deeply. He has a definition of "Truth," and "Truth," as he understands it, is the one thing which will set the world free and establish among men that relationship which some would call "Brotherhood," and which is spoken of by Christ as "The Kingdom of Heaven."

Now, the "Truth," as he defines it, is not an abstract quality; it is a very real and concrete thing, dealing with man's knowledge of himself, and the man who has found that truth has found all that he needs to know to make his life complete, but until such knowledge becomes universal, there will be wars and other corruptions to plague the world.

Christ said it: "Know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free"; you people say it: "There is no religion higher than Truth." Have you a definition of that Truth? I should very much like to have it, for I see there something, not religious in the ordinary sense, but very practical and sensible and a guide to the proper technique of living. — E. N.

H. T. Edge — In common usage the word Truth denotes an abstraction; our reasoning powers can grasp it in no other way. Nevertheless Truth is a Reality; it is the ultimate Reality — that which is. But let us for the present leave abstract philosophy alone, and come to the practical point. This universal Essence lies at the inmost heart of every living being, and it is the essence of man himself. It seeks to manifest itself through man, and man in turn must continually pursue it until he finds it. He inevitably makes it the touchstone of all his values, his ultimate court of appeal.

But on the long road to the attainment of truth there are many stages, many goals of relative truth to be attained one by one; for man climbs step by step.

Truth cannot be had for the mere asking or bought over the counter by the average citizen, however proud he may be of himself. It is the ultimate reward of a long and arduous struggle. Per ardua ad astra. It is the goal of the disciple who has entered the Path that leads to wisdom and emancipation. Jesus, in the quotation given, says, "If ye continue in my word," then you shall find the truth which shall make you free. If we fail to find the truth, let us put the blame where it belongs — on our own incapacity. The exposing of shams is a worthy work and a necessary item in the business of enlightening mankind. Yet the warrior will find himself better equipped if he prepares himself by cleansing his own house. The Kingdom of God is within you. We must strive to achieve perfect sincerity in our own inside: clear out all delusions of vanity, self-love, egoism, self-justification, etc.; and be perfectly candid and honest with ourselves. To see straight, we must clean our spectacles. This will provide enough to occupy us for a considerable time. Then, with our vision cleared, we shall be enabled to see the good in other people, where formerly we saw only the faults. Thus we shall attain a sympathetic attitude, and be able to help others by bringing out the innate truth in them, rather than by running atilt at the shams.

There may be teachers, religions, societies, claiming to have the truth; but in every case the ultimate touchstone is our own innate sense of what is right. What other court of appeal can there be? Real Teachers never ask acceptance of a statement on their authority, but insist that the disciple shall verify it for himself; otherwise he has no knowledge, but only belief or faith. Yet any reasonable pupil will accept statements provisionally, through well-founded confidence in his Teacher and a conviction that he will later attain confirmation by his own experience. No specific prescription can be given, but we may advise that true self-reliance should be cultivated, which is a very different thing from self-importance.

We hope the questioner will not think that we are reflecting upon him, for this is far from being the case; as we are only trying to help him in the problem as to which he asks our assistance. And we believe that what has been said reflects his own ideas on the subject.

The Length of the Period between Earth-Lives

On first hearing of the doctrine of Reincarnation I was greatly attracted to it because it gives man an opportunity to work out on earth many phases of his character, and I was also taken with the thought that one could return to earth quickly in order to resume the thread of endeavor which had been snapped at death. But I was somewhat taken aback when I discovered that one does not return to earth quickly but only after a very long time: for if 1500 years is the average period for the Devachanic rest, that is certainly a long time. However, could you tell me whether H. P. Blavatsky has written anything definite on this latter theme? — A. E. I.

G. A. Barborka — Yes, 1500 years is certainly a long time, but the teaching is consistent throughout our literature. In The Key to Theosophy there is a definite question and answer on this subject: The inquirer asks: "How long does the incarnating Ego remain in the Devachanic state?" To this question the reply is given: "This, we are taught, depends on the degree of spirituality and the merit or demerit of the last incarnation. The average time is from ten to fifteen centuries, as I already told you." (p. 145) In common speech it is customary to regard the number "ten" or "fifteen" as a few centuries, so that it is often said that the period between earth lives is of a few centuries in duration.

Let us place beside this statement another made by H. P. Blavatsky, in The Secret Doctrine, as follows: "Save in the case of young children, and of individuals whose lives were violently cut off by some accident, no Spiritual Entity can re-incarnate before a period of many centuries has elapsed." (Vol. II, p. 303)

In this connexion it would be well to bear in mind the following passage from The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, which was given in reply to a question dealing with the length of the period between earth-lives: "The individual units of mankind remain 100 times longer in the transitory spheres of effects than on the globes"; (p. 177). By other passages in this book it is quite clear that the phrase "spheres of effects" refers to the after-death states of man, while the "sphere of causes" pertains to our globe (Globe D). Therefore it would be logical to assume that if a man's life on earth endured for a period of sixty years, his after-death states would require a period of sixty hundred years. This tallies with the "many centuries" written by H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine.

From the Known to the Unknown

How can you get over to the lay mind the truth of the divinity of man?

Abbott Clark — The same way that you would convince the lay mind of any unfamiliar or profound truth. By appealing to him through something which he already knows and then expanding the idea from the known to the unknown. Every man knows that he has an inherent moral sense and a conscience. Show him that these are, so far as they go, of a spiritual or divine nature. Practically every man has some experience of an intuitional nature in which the consciousness or mind grasps a truth or an idea in a second of time, like a flash of light in the mind. He can hardly deny that this is far beyond any ordinary mental process. You can affirm, what our Teachers say, that this is a spiritual faculty. Then it is simply a matter of logic, of good sense, that these faculties have a divine source, and that like all other faculties of man, they can be cultivated, extended, developed. If he is still skeptical challenge him to think it over on that line and leave him to the thought. Experience proves that proceeding on this line — from the known to the unknown, i. e., from what the inquirer knows to the larger, more reasonable and nobler concepts of Theosophy, will bring success in almost any field of Theosophical teaching, especially if accompanied by the spirit of non-dogmatic and fraternal sympathy of the kindly understanding heart.


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