[Note: page numbers cited for The Esoteric Tradition are to the 2-vol. Second Edition and do not correspond to the 1-vol. 3rd & Revised Edition.]
Manas, the Thinker" — what is the true meaning of this expression? What we call a brilliant thinker is one who draws original thoughts from the material of observation and experience. But these ideas, while of course stimulating to other men are not necessarily true. For the ordinary thinker, no matter how original or brilliant, is a good deal of a speculator. He has no authentic clue to the laws of that life about which he thinks.
A genuine occultist on the other hand is not in that sense a thinker. He does not speculate. He is a scientist who has the key. He works from known facts. He is a verifier, one who for the purposes of his own evolution in consciousness applies the keys he has been given by advanced Adepts in the Sacred Science. These keys he applies to his own life and thinking processes, and if he is sincere and selfless he will reach the correct conclusions. He is like a mathematician who works in experiences rather than with formulas and figures and who is thus able to arrive at relatively perfect solutions. And he does not do this by merely "thinking," but, so to say, by laboratory experiment and research, first within himself and then in the world about him.
A genuine spiritual Teacher usually gives his pupils to begin with a few key-facts and leaves the pupil to apply and verify them. But the pupil must not stop there. He must go on from such application and verification to new discoveries about himself and his environment reached by the further use of his keys. This is self-directed evolution. And not till he has reached a point where he has more or less exhausted the range of discovery made possible by the use of the keys he holds is he given others. An interesting example of this method is seen in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, where, however, the two pupils were not true chelas and therefore the method in its full implications was not used.
In illustration of the above definition one who knows will not refer to H. P. Blavatsky as a great thinker. She was a great Adept who recorded for us the basic propositions, and their implications in almost every department of human activity, of the Archaic Wisdom-Science, with its traces and records in the ancient and modern world. Brilliant and powerful, intuitive and sublimely original, she was yet not an originator of ideas, as she herself was the first to insist in the "Proem" to her great work The Secret Doctrine. A grand example of her type of intellectual brilliance and originality is found in her definition of time. We quote this below as it is a striking illustration of her wonderful power of abstract imagination, one of the highest of the intellectual faculties.
(a) Time is only an illusion produced by the succession of our states of consciousness as we travel through eternal duration, and it does not exist where no consciousness exists in which the illusion can be produced; but "lies asleep." The present is only a mathematical line which divides that part of eternal duration which we call the future, from that part which we call the past. Nothing on earth has real duration, for nothing remains without change — or the same — for the billionth part of a second; and the sensation we have of the actuality of the division of "time" known as the present, comes from the blurring of that momentary glimpse, or succession of glimpses, of things that our senses give us, as those things pass from the region of ideals which we call the future, to the region of memories which we name the past. In the same way we experience a sensation of duration in the case of the instantaneous electric spark, by reason of the blurred and continuing impression on the retina. . . . — Op. cit., I, 37, et seq. (The whole magnificent passage should be read.)
In view of the above what then is meant by calling Manas a Thinker? Thought as we know it is kama-manasic, an activity of the brain-mind. If it is truly creative thought it employs the spiritual faculties of imagination and intuition. But when it does this it reaches, not original individual conclusions but ideas which are at best new statements of ancient and universal truths. As when the reader exclaims, "Just what I have always thought but never could put into words!" He will indeed express the grand old truths in a new way but the originality will lie in the manner of saying them and not in the truths themselves. The great poets and philosophers clothe the old universal ideas in the morning radiance of their genius and to us they come like divine revelations.
Does this not suggest to us what thought really is? At least it gives us an inkling of what the true intellectual activities of Manas are. Manas is a child of Buddhi. Mahat, the Universal Mind is an abstract name for the Buddhic "principle" of the Universe which becomes active through the great host of Manasaputras which are the source of Egoship anywhere in our Cosmos. But this host of Manasaputras — what is it really? It is an emanation of Adi-Buddhi, the Cosmic Soul. The manasic host is Adi-Buddhi in individualized self-realization — such individual self-realization being the primary object of evolution. And our Manas is an emanation of individuals in this manasaputric host.
So we see that thought, regarded as a function of Manas, must be quite a different form of activity of consciousness from the speculative reasoning of the ordinary thinker. This suggestion seems to be confirmed by The Voice of the Silence which instructs that at the very beginning of the chela-path we must —
. . . seek out the Raja of the senses, the Thought-Producer, he who awakes illusion.
The Mind is the great slayer of the Real.
Let the Disciple slay the Slayer. — Fragment One
Here we see that not only thought (as we know it) but mind itself is the enemy of the higher manasic activity. Again, in the same occult work we are told that in order to reach perfection —
. . . thou hast to feel thyself ALL THOUGHT and yet exile all thoughts from out thy mind. — Op. cit., Fragment Three
Here lies the key: Thought, as an attribute of the perfected man — Manas-Taijasi, the Bodhisattva — is not a psychological activity. It has nothing to do with what we call mind. It is the achievement of a state of being. Thought, in this sense — of a state of being — means oneness with Alaya, which is Adi-Buddhi, "the root or essence of Mahat. . . Cosmic Aether" (The Esoteric Tradition, 952). Thus Manas when active on its own plane breathes in and is permeated with the Soul of the Cosmos. There flow then through its being knowledge of things as they are, as Adi-Buddha (the individualization of Adi-Buddhi) is the Hierarch and source of all knowledge of things as they are in that hierarchy. Hence the "Thought" of Manas is knowledge, and in particular, self-realization of that knowledge.