Man is a trinity of spirit, soul, and body, a division which is enlarged by Theosophy into seven principles. The teaching regarding man as a triad has remained with the peoples of the West since the organization of dogmatic Christianity. As the Christian teachings have been passed down through the ages, they have gradually become veiled with deepening shades of materialism which were not part of the original Wisdom-Religion, their Mother. Today almost one-sixth of the world's population are adherents of Christianity.
What do men learn from the Sacred Book, the Bible, about their inner Natures, their destination, their purpose on Earth, and of their relationship with their Divinity?
It is not strange in this twentieth century that men meet with discouragement in the search for their "souls." Science speaks not of it, and with the churches there remains but a dim shadow of the original sublime teachings concerning the nature of the soul. Because it is a difficult task many have resigned from the search for the "soul." These have created their own barrier to Wisdom by seeking that which is within, externally. Blinded in the delusion of separateness, these people can only consider "soul" as something apart from themselves — as they do God. It is not that the soul must be found, but rather that we must become aware, self-consciously, that we are souls.
Among the defeated we hear: "It is not for us to know"; others dabble in psychology, spiritualism, mysticism, and the "subconscious" mind. The search among external objects takes the explorer down many a road and side-trail.
Locked within the allegories and parables of the Bible, albeit distorted almost beyond recognition, are verities regarding the inner nature of man, and much may he learn who can follow the labyrinth of teaching aided by the "golden thread" of Theosophy.
Analysing the Bible teaching of soul on its own merits and weaknesses, we note in Genesis, ii, 7: "the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." This is Adam, the "first man" of the earth, as commonly considered, created by the Lord. God created both matter and life, teach the Christians; Matter He created when He fashioned the Universe; Life He created when he "breathed" Life into man and all the living kingdoms of earth. Could God have "made" Adam of those elements, life and matter, thus separating Himself from the Design of Matter and the Consciousness which is Life? Can any God, however high, separate himself from matter and life?
Man must be more than dead substance imbued with life, for he manifests intelligence and spirituality. The word for soul in the original Hebrew was "nephesh," and meant "animal soul." The "living soul" which Adam was created to be, is "nephesh," and, according to Theosophy, the physical soul refers to the lowest and most transitory principles of man's septenary constitution. Therefore, according to this exoteric picture, we cannot attribute to the Adam of Genesis immortality, self-conscious responsibility, or the spirit principle, Adam being but a vital soul. He was created sinless without knowledge of right or wrong, and not having entered upon material experience, was without power of discrimination. Adam became more than a "vital soul" when he ate of the "Tree of Knowledge," or when, according to Theosophy, his latent intellectual principles were awakened by the "sons of Mind."
The intelligent Adam became aware of himself and his actions, and could see the good and could see the evil. He became aware that his desires were not holy, realizing that he had "sinned." Through mind he became able to hear the voice of pleasure and the voice of the spirit or duty. Because intelligence linked his higher and lower nature, he became aware of both, and thus the director of his own actions.
Thus we build upon the picture of Genesis, and ask: If man is able to know the "good" or the Harmony of Divinity, must not that Divinity be inherent in his own Nature? Not one man is exempt from the struggle between the higher and lower nature. Knowledge of good and evil is not enough, for there must be the voice of the Spirit that seeks to return the Pilgrim of experience to his Spiritual Home. Mere intelligence without material and spiritual desire is non-evolving and purposeless. It is through Mind that we are ever choosing; it was through Mind, plus the intuition of the Divine radiating from his own inner Spiritual Self, that Adam knew that he had "sinned."
If we return to the Christian picture depicting man as a wandering "soul," a created product, we can ask with what justice can God hold man to account for his life on Earth? The soul of man which God creates can appear from its description to be only a static thing, living but not self-conscious, intelligent but not responsible, non-evolving and with but a limited destiny which God has planned beforehand. If the soul represents the responsible part of man's nature — and it must be so since it is this soul that God judges for heaven or hell, and has created with all its virtues and weaknesses — there is no reason to expect man to assume the responsibility for living a noble life with a fated creation and environment. What kind of God is it that will judge all men alike, although he has tempted some and others not, placed some in a favorable environment, others in a poor one? Where is the equality of opportunity to gain justice?
We may justly wonder at the Divine Wisdom of God who separates from Eternity a few thousand years to express his planning. It is only human vanity that could conceive of the creation of endless universes so that the humanities of one small planet could be afforded with an environment for His purpose. Eternity cannot extend in one direction only, and we can ask: Had God done nothing before He brought the Universe into being? Did he fashion this great Structure merely so that after the Day of Judgment He might spend the remainder of Eternity watching his children suffer in hell or partake of the bliss of heaven, realizing his responsibility for their creation? No law-court of our times would mete out the same cruelty to a breaker of human law that the Most Holy has ordained.
In Theosophy is presented a magnificent vista of Design, Harmony, Purpose, and Justice which we have every right to expect of a Universe governed by Law — the result of Divine Intelligence and Planning. Here we see no Man-God like the Jewish Jehovah creating something out of nothing, and making a mockery of His Planning by omitting the Purpose of it. The immaterial "soul" of the Bible is not tried in a material hell. Theosophy shows that every man, like every entity in the Universe, is "self-directed" and "self-responsible" for every act and deed. There is no predestination or fate; there is no chance. Evolution is carried out in obedience to Natural Law and free will allowing for perfect justice in Karman for acts performed and causes created. Theosophy does not separate the Universe from Deity, but shows that every manifestation arises out of the One Spiritual Essence or Divinity, the Fountain-Source from which All has emanated and differentiated. This Divinity is eternal and regular in its manifestations.
Because we as human beings have emanated from the Spiritual Heart of the Universe, we manifest aspects of Its Desire, Its Intelligence, Its Harmony, Its Life. The very root of our Being is the Spiritual, and by consciously striving to attain the Reality of our Inmost we become the Imperishable, the Spiritually Glorified. This attainment is only possible by evolving to the Reality in many forms, bodies, or vehicles, in many worlds and environments, through many lives. It is by means of individual forms or vestures that the Enduring Self is linked with each realm of experiencing, but the Inmost Self needs these not when their purpose of gathering experience has ended; and they are therefore transitory.
To us, Universal Nature reveals the structure of its Scheme in seven Universally diffused principles of which all manifestation is made up. We as human beings are similarly composed of seven principles, our Immortality preserved in the three highest spiritual principles which include the Reincarnating Ego. The seven principles which compose Man may be broadly summarized by the Christian trinity of body, soul, and spirit. As "spirit," man's imperishable nature consists of: Atman, the formless Divine Essence; Buddhi, the irrational soul or vehicle of the Atmic principle; and Higher Manas, the intellectual principle, born of Mahat, or Universal Mind, that adds rationality to Buddhi from below. Atman cannot be cognized, nor can it be possessed singly. It is the Universally diffused Central Kosmic Spiritual Fire which all share as their highest Principle. Buddhi, the Divine Soul, is irrational, because, being the pure emanation of Atman from which Reality and Truth flow as a stream, it can have no individual reason of its own on this plane, nor for us any attributes. In Buddhi is reflected the Wisdom from Atman; rationality is from Manas. It is the spiritually attracted part of Mind or Manas that survives the lower principles, and by assimilating this Higher Manas, Atman-Buddhi becomes consciously aware of its Divinity. These eternal three principles are known in Man as the Reincarnating Ego or Causal Body, and comprise his enduring individuality as contrasted with his personality, and assimilate all experience in the process of evolution and the living of many lives.
The soul of the Christians, as usually interpreted, is best compared to the Theosophical personal or human soul, the Ego in which resides the idea of "I," and which is preserved by the Spiritual Self, or the Reincarnating Ego, from one incarnation to the next. This soul is the agent for the transference of material experience into Spiritual Self-Consciousness, the intermediate link between Spirit and Body. Theosophy teaches that it is the two principles, Lower Manas or Intellectuality, and Kama or the principle of desire, that make up the intermediate nature. The personal soul is the personality, and is therefore perishable.
The most transitory of the souls of man is the terrestrial or animal soul, the "body" of the Christian trinity, the "nephesh" of Genesis before commented upon. The Sthula-sarira, man's physical body, and the Linga-sarira, the astral model body upon which the physical is shaped, imbued by Kama, the desire principle and Prana, the life principle, are the elements of man's constitution that are terrestrially attracted. Being of the earth they return to it at death, separating each from each, and from the principles comprising the personality and Reincarnating Ego. At the "second death," the personality is severed from the Individuality, the immortal, and the Reincarnating Ego attains the "heaven-world" or Devachan.
Theosophy but reiterates the key-thought of all the Great Teachers of mankind: "Seek not in externals for that which is eternal, but look always within. You are your own Pathway to the highest God, for you are part of All that is."