The Theosophical Forum – July 1943

OUR MYSTERY-SELVES — Irene R. Ponsonby

[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.]

The world today is full of men and women who, often in the midst of starvation and ruin, endure the maximum sorrow and suffering. How do they endure it? Have they tapped some little understood source of strength and comfort in themselves? Are they conscious of a presence, protective and guiding, and ever near? Or do they in bewilderment and despair wonder Why? What? How? At such times, being bereft of all else, we come face to face with ourselves and the realities of our humanhood. It is then that we become aware of the forces at work in us, of the wonder that is man!

It is, generally speaking, the temptations and delinquencies of our natures that claim our attention most; nevertheless, that there is a source of protection, of guidance, active in our lives, most people are ready to admit. The case-records are too numerous to be refuted. These show that in moments of crisis or extreme danger, individual men and women have been influenced, aroused, and even instructed so that they have been able to save not only themselves but entire groups. Premonitory warnings so powerful that they cause the cancellation of carefully made plans and arrangements, such as railway journeys, are quite ordinary incidents. For every group destined for violent death in an outbreak of panic, there is a plain man or woman who, guided by some inspired inner direction, proves himself or herself heroic. There is no denying that we are all — some more than others — influenced either by a Guardian Angel or an Evil Genius: and what do we really know about either?

Psychology has told us much about the effect of mind upon body and body upon mind; of inhibitions that are as varied as they are numerous; of behaviorism, in short. But this science of the soul of man is based almost entirely on a study of the ailing, the mentally unbalanced, and the physically subnormal individual. Hence even psychology's description of man's evil genius is distorted, and lacks the subtilty to tempt any but the unhappy. The study of psychology is valuable to the extent that it treats of the intermediate nature of man, that part which is the pilgrim-soul of Earth, learning and developing through active existence here. It tells us somewhat of the personalized and localized expression of spirit in the psycho-vital-physical realms. But that is far from being the entire picture.

Modern psychology will take its rightful place when it recognizes the Soul of man as a potentially divine offspring of his Spirit that, wandering far from its divine source, has become chilled — the actual meaning of the Greek root from which the word psyche derives — chilled by attraction to and eventual absorption in the relatively unevolved matter of the astral and physical planes. (1) Psychology will become a vital force when it teaches that stronger than the thraldom of the psycho-physical is the nostalgia of the soul for its spiritual home, and that the majority of psychological ills arise in the conflict between the two. The conflict has been diagnosed by psychoanalysts, but only the most advanced men recognise its cause and few even of these have the requisite knowledge to help their patients make the necessary adjustment.

Today members of the Christian ministry are adding psychological healing to their work. This would seem a step in the right direction, the direction that logically should lead to pneumatology or the study of the whole man — the sevenfold expression of divinity in the healthy, happy, intelligent human being. And this is where the Theosophical teachings are of supreme importance.

Man, according to the age-old teachings promulgated by Theosophy, is a composite being. He is a ray of divinity seeking self-conscious expression in the material worlds. The divine ray accomplishes this by focusing or stepping down its force through seven principles on four planes of manifestation, i. e., the divine-spiritual, mental, vital-astral, and physical, or that of Atman-Buddhi, Manas-Kama, Prana- Linga-sarira, and Sthula-sarira. The seven principles are conjoined, in the paradigm on the following page, to correspond to the more familiar threefold division of St. Paul.

This tabulation of the constitution of man is adapted from the one used by G. de Purucker in The Esoteric Tradition, (pp. 958-9), and deserves thoughtful consideration.

     Higher Duad  
Atman The Self Spirit
Buddhi The Spiritual Ego
   Intermediate Duad
Manas Mind Soul
Kama Desire
   Lower Triad
Prana Vitality Body
Linga-sarira Astral Body
Sthula-sarira Physical Body

The Higher Duad is the divine-spiritual man. It consists of Atman, the indivisible divine flame or spark, the focus of universal consciousness for man, which manifests through its vehicle, Buddhi. Buddhi is the discriminating principle, the seat of inspired judgment, of intuitive understanding and compassion. It is inseparable from and the radiant vehicle of The Self, and it becomes the source of that spiritualized individuality which association with aspiring mind brings to it.

Without mind, desire, vitality, and some form of body, there can be no manifested being: in the case of man, no vital-physical entity or pilgrim-soul evolving in an Earth-cycle of life. So the radiance of the Higher Duad projects itself in manifestation through the Intermediate Duad to the Lower Triad.

The mental plane is the realm of marked duality, for mind either turns toward the spiritual to become aspiring mind or Buddhi-Manas, or contrariwise, lured by the lower psychic forces, and the attraction of the material, the Intermediate Duad sinks to the state of a desire-deluded human animal. This condition is that of Kama-Manas. Thus we have another division, viz.:

Atman The Self The Guardian Angel
Buddhi-Manas Aspiring Mind
Kama-Manas Deluded Mind The Evil Genius
Prana-Linga-sarira Vital Astral Body

The physical body is the container of the five-principled man and the relatively responsive instrument through which either the angel or the evil genius expresses itself. Furthermore, this division is interesting because the line separating aspiring mind from its deluded counterpart marks the distinction between good and evil for the human kingdom. Good, for man, is all that measures up to the standard of our aspiring intellect, our impersonal interests and yearnings, our creative dreams, our dignity as citizens of the world and sons of the Divine. On the other hand, all that is tinged with personality, self-seeking, and self-centeredness, all that isolates and demeans our status is evil for man. One way leads to inspiration, nobility, kinship with the gods; the other, to degradation of consciousness and misery.

As we continue our consideration of composite man, our perspective of the seven principles takes on breadth when we realize that each of the principles is itself a seven, composed of all the other elements with its own element dominantly and ascendantly active.

Desire and Vitality can readily be perceived as active in every principle, for we are just as conscious of distinctly spiritual, mental, psychic, and physical desires as we are of energy as it works through our entire constitution. It is a little more difficult, however, to cognise body as other than physical, and yet all manifested things must possess a body of some kind. Is not a star the luminous body of a spiritual entity? And how about ideas and thoughts? Surely they find imbodiment in the words that grouped together form a sentence. These are examples of divine-spiritual and intellectual bodies. Then there are the psychic imbodiments of desire, the Kama-rupa, and that of the degraded mind combining with intense physical craving to form the spook, or elementary. If we acknowledge them, are we not also prepared to accept the presence within our very selves of an angelic Being?

Buddhi-Manas, radiant with the glow of Atman, is just such an angelic presence, the Spiritual Self of us. It is also the Reincarnating Ego, the carrier of Karman, and the storehouse of all individualized knowledge possible to us. Dr. de Purucker calls this Guardian Angel within us, Chitkara — a Sanskrit word meaning Thought-Worker. He classified it as a Dhyani-Chohan, one of the host of Lords of Meditation, a denizen of the mystic chidagnikunda or hearth-fire of thought lying neglected within us.

The consciousness of Buddhi-Manas, and therefore the scope of its activity in us, ranges from the inspiration of the great poets, philosophers, and men of genius and the intuitions of fine men and women, to the selfless compassion of those who form the Guardian Wall protecting humanity from cosmic evils, and beyond.

The Guardian Angel in our constitution is a mystery-self only because for ages its presence has been ignored or repudiated. In very truth it is closer than clumsy hands, untrained minds, and unruly tongues. Its voice is the soundless inner direction deserving of our wholehearted allegiance; and yet, often it is only when we know the pangs of conscience for some thoughtless act that we realize one part of us was wiser and stronger and knew better — or else, were there no higher standard inherent in us, why the remorse?

Therefore the problem for all earnest men and women is how to know the Spiritual Self within them, how to associate themselves with it so that hourly and daily they may know its intimacy and feel its beneficent influence. How can this be achieved?

To begin with we should try to cultivate the attitude of perfect confidence in the law of our own being as it flows forth from the Universal Heart of Being through the Spiritual Self of us into our every-day existence. In this way we attune our understanding to the impersonal center of choice in us, the center that decrees its destiny for the human soul. This is the way of self-fulfilment. It is also the way to peace and health, for to such understanding there can be no sense of frustration, or conflict, no inexplainable antagonisms. By it we have the vision that explains the suffering we feel to be unmerited, and discriminates between the wrong done and the one involved in the doing.This attitude can be brought about when we believe that whatever is in our lives, from greatest to least event, is best for us. Then we are associating our human judgment with the illumined discrimination of Buddhi-Manas as it partakes of the omniscience of the Divine Self. Thus we shall be ready to meet with eager anticipation all the experiences of our lives; we shall have cleared our vision and prepared ourselves to accept the challenge or to benefit by the opportunity destiny holds out to us.

Vanity, discouragement, despair, exile us from guidance and protection just as much as pride, a sense of superiority, and all the other forms of selfishness. The vaunted sophistication of our age must give place to recognition of and adherence to the unerring laws of the Universe. This is no negative state of acquiescence or line of least resistance, but a determined effort toward self-improvement which W. Q. Judge expressed so well when he wrote:

"Be what you love. Strive after what you find beautiful and high, and let the rest go! Harmony, sacrifice, devotion; take these as keynotes. Express them everywhere and in the highest possible way."


1. See The Esoteric Tradition by G. de Purucker, p. 964, footnote. (return to text)

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