The fundamental Law in that system, the central point from which all emerged, around and toward which all gravitates, and upon which is hung the philosophy of the rest, is the One homogeneous divine SUBSTANCE-PRINCIPLE, the one radical cause.
. . . "Some few, whose lamps shone brighter, have been led
From cause to cause to nature's secret head,
And found that one first Principle must be. . . ."
It is called "Substance-Principle," for it becomes "substance" on the plane of the manifested Universe, an illusion, while it remains a "principle" in the beginningless and endless abstract, visible and invisible SPACE. It is the omnipresent Reality: impersonal, because it contains all and everything. Its impersonality is the fundamental conception of the System. It is latent in every atom in the Universe, and is the Universe itself. — The Secret Doctrine, I, 273
It is the True. It is the Self, and thou art it. — Chhandogya-Upanishad, 6, 14, 3
The Tao which can be expressed in words is not the eternal Tao; the name which can be uttered is not its eternal name. Without a name, it is the Beginning of Heaven and Earth; with a name, it is the Mother of all things. Only one who is eternally free from earthly passions can apprehend its spiritual essence; he who is ever clogged by passions can see no more than its outer form. These two things, the spiritual and the material, though we call them by different names, in their origin are one and the same. This sameness is a mystery — the mystery of mysteries. It is the gate of all spirituality. — The Sayings of Lao Tzu (Lionel Giles, trans.)
WE OPEN volume I of H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine at page 13, to the second paragraph, which is as follows:
The reader has to bear in mind that the Stanzas given treat only of the Cosmogony of our own planetary System and what is visible around it, after a Solar Pralaya. The secret teachings with regard to the Evolution of the Universal Kosmos cannot be given, since they could not be understood by the highest minds in this age, and there seem to be very few Initiates, even among the greatest, who are allowed to speculate upon this subject. Moreover the Teachers say openly that not even the highest Dhyani-Chohans have ever penetrated the mysteries beyond those boundaries that separate the milliards of Solar systems from the "Central Sun," as it is called. Therefore, that which is given relates only to our visible Kosmos, after a "Night of Brahma."
We choose this as the general text of our study this evening, as it seems not only appropriate but necessary to open our study of the more secret matters of which The Secret Doctrine treats, by asking in what manner or by what method do we obtain an understanding and a realization of these doctrines? Do they come to us as dogmatic teachings, or are they derived, following the definition that Webster gives of theosophy in his dictionary, by inner spiritual communion with "God"? There is something in Webster's definition which is true. The theosophist does believe that man has within himself the faculty of approaching divine things, of raising the inner man so that he can thereby obtain a more accurate mental representation of things as they are, or of reality.
On the other hand, if everyone did this, without proper and capable guidance and leading and teaching, extreme vanity and human conceit as well as many other forces in the human economy would inevitably lead to an immense diversity of opinions and teachings and doctrines, each man believing that he had the truth and he only, and hence that those who followed him and preached his views should form with him a special "church" or "sect" of their own. The words themselves would probably be avoided, but it would amount to that.
Therefore, here we find the use, the benefit, the appositeness, of the theosophical doctrines, to the effect that these teachings have come down to us from immemorial antiquity — transmitted from one Teacher to another — and that originally they were communicated to the nascent human race, when once it became self-conscious, by beings from a higher sphere, beings who themselves were of divine origin; and further, that this communication or emanation of their spiritual and higher intellectual selves into us, gave us our own higher principles. For the Teachers have told us that these doctrines have been checked or proved age after age, generation after generation, by innumerable spiritual seers, to use H. P. Blavatsky's own words — checked in every respect, checked as to fact, as to origin, checked as to operation on the human mind.
Now then, the faculties by which man can attain a knowledge of truth, of the real, can be called upon or evoked at any moment in any place, provided the right conditions are made, so that the striving soul may thus reach successfully upward or inward, and know. Sometimes in the most simple teachings are found the most divine truths. And why? Because the simple teachings are the fundamental ones.
Consider for a moment, therefore, the seven principles of man in their connection with the seven principles of the universe. The seven principles of man are a likeness or copy of the seven cosmic principles. They are actually the offspring of the seven cosmic principles, limited in their action in us by the workings of the law of karma, but running in their origin back into That which is beyond, into that which is the essence of the universe or the universal; in, beyond, within, to the Unmanifest, to the Unmanifestable, to that first Principle which H. P. Blavatsky enunciates as the leading thought of the wisdom-philosophy of The Secret Doctrine.
These principles of man are reckoned as seven in the philosophy by which the human, spiritual, and psychical economy has been explained to us in the present age. In other ages these principles or parts of man were differently reckoned — the Christian reckons them as body, soul, and spirit, and does not know the difference between the soul and the spirit; and many say that the soul and spirit are the same.
Some of the Indian thinkers divided man into a basic fourfold entity others into a fivefold. The Jewish philosophy as found in the Qabbalah teaches that man is divided into four parts:
The highest and most spiritual of all, that principle or part which is to us a mere breath of being, they called neshamah.
The second principle was called ruahh or spiritual soul, spelled sometimes ruach according to another method of transliteration.
The astral soul (or vital soul) was called nephesh, the third next lower, which man has in common with the brutes.
Then comes the guph or physical vehicle, the house in which all these others dwell.
Over all, and higher than all, higher than the neshamah — which is not an emanation of this Highest, not a creation, not an evolution, but of which it was the production in a sense which we shall later have to explain — there is the Ineffable, the Boundless, called Eyn (or Ain) Soph.
The Sanskrit terms which have been given to the seven principles of man in the theosophical philosophy are as follows, and we can get much help from explaining the original Sanskrit meanings of them, and illustrating the sense in which those words were used, and why they were chosen.
The first principle is called the sthula-sarira. Sthula means "coarse," "gross," not refined, heavy, bulky, fat in the sense of bigness. Sarira comes from a root which can best be translated by saying that it is that which is "easily dissolved," "easily worn away"; the idea being something transitory, foamlike, full of holes, as it were. Note the meaning hid in this: it is very important.
The second principle let us call the linga-sarira. Linga is a Sanskrit word which means "characteristic mark"; hence model, pattern. It forms the model or pattern on which the physical body is built — this physical body, composed mostly of porosity, if the expression be pardoned; the most unreal thing we know, full of holes, foamy, as it were. We will revert to this thought later.
The third principle, commonly called the life-principle, is prana. Now this word is used here in a general sense. There are, as a matter of fact, a number of life-currents, vital fluids. They have several names. One system gives the number as three; another as five, which is the commonly accepted number; another as seven; another twelve, as is found in some Upanishads; and one old writer even gives them as thirteen.
Then there is the kama principle; the word kama means "desire." It is the driving or impelling force in the human economy; colorless, neither good nor bad, only such as the mind and soul direct its use.
Then comes manas; the Sanskrit root of this word means "to think," "to cogitate," "to reflect" — mental activity, in short.
Then comes buddhi, or the spiritual soul, the vehicle or carrier of the highest principle of all, the atman. Now buddhi comes from a Sanskrit root budh. This root is commonly translated "to enlighten," but a better translation is "to awaken" and, hence, "to understand"; buddha, the past participle of this root is applied to one who is spiritually "awakened," no longer living a living death, but awakened to the spiritual influence from within or from "above." Buddhi is the principle in us which gives us spiritual consciousness, and is the vehicle of the most high part of man. This highest part is the atman.
This principle (atman) is a universal one; but during incarnations its lowest parts, if we can so express it, take on attributes, because it is linked with the buddhi as the buddhi is linked with the manas, as the manas is linked to the kama, and so on down the scale.
Atman is also sometimes used of the universal self or spirit which is called in the Sanskrit writings Brahman (neuter), and the Brahman or universal spirit is also called the Paramatman, a compound Sanskrit term meaning the "highest" or most universal atman. The root of atman is hardly known. Its origin is uncertain, but the general meaning is that of "self."
Beyond Brahman is the Parabrahman: para is a Sanskrit word meaning "beyond." Note the deep philosophical meaning of this: there is no attempt here to limit the Illimitable, the Ineffable, by adjectives; it simply means "beyond the Brahman." In the Sanskrit Vedas and in the works deriving therefrom and belonging to the Vedic literary cycle, this beyond is called That, as this world of manifestation is called This. Other expressive Sanskrit terms are sat, the "real"; and asat, the "unreal" or the manifested universe; in another sense asat means "not sat," i.e., even beyond (higher than) sat.
This Parabrahman is intimately connected with Mulaprakriti, "root-nature." Their interaction and intermingling cause the first nebulous thrilling, if the words will pass, of the universal life when spiritual desire first arose in It in the beginnings of things. Such is the old teaching, employing of necessity the old anthropocentric tropes, clearly understood to be only human similes; for the conceptions of the seers of ancient times, their teachings, their doctrines, had to be told in human language to the human mind.
Now then, a man can reach inward, going "upward" step by step, climbing higher as his spiritual force and power wax greater and more subtil, until he reaches beyond his normal faculties, and steps beyond the Ring-pass-not, as H. P. Blavatsky calls it in her Secret Doctrine. Where and what is this Ring-pass-not? It is, at any period of man's consciousness, the utmost reach that his spirit can attain. There he stops, and looks into the Beyond — into the Unmanifested from which we came. The Unmanifest is in us; it is the Inmost of the Inmost in our souls, in our spirits, in our essential beings. We can reach towards it. We can actually reach it never.
Now where is reality? Is the real, is the true, to be found in these lower vestures of materiality? Or is it to be found in the state of being from which everything came?
The ancient Stoics in their wonderful philosophy taught, and the same teaching originated in the esoteric philosophy of Hellas or Greece — as found later in the Neoplatonic teachings — these ancient Stoics taught that truth can be known; that the most real thing, the greatest thing, was to be found in ever-receding vistas, as the spirit of man strived inward and beyond, veil after veil falling away as the "wise man" (their technical term) advances in the evolution of his soul. They taught that the material universe was illusory precisely as the Hindu speaks of maya; and the Stoic understood that this apparently dense, gross, heavy, material universe is phenomenally unreal, mostly built up of holes, so to say — a teaching which is reechoed today in the writings and thoughts of the more intuitional of our scientists.
The Stoics taught that the ether was denser than the most dense material thing, fuller than the most full material thing — using human words, of course. To us, with our human eyes, trained only to see objects of illusion, it appears to be the most diaphanous, the thinnest, the most ethereal. What was the reality, the real, behind this All? The real thing? They said it was God, life of life, truth of truth, root of matter, root of soul, root of spirit. When the Stoic was asked: What is God? he nobly answered: What is God not?
Turning now to the ancient wisdom of Hindustan, to the Upanishads — going back far beyond the time when the ancient Brahmanic teachings and the Brahmanas became what they are today, to the time when real men taught real things — let us take from the Chhandogya-Upanishad,mainly in the sixth lecture, a conversation between a father and his son. The son asks:
"If a man who has slept in his own house, rises and goes to another village, he knows that he has come from his own house. Why then do people not know that they have come from the Sat?" [A Sanskrit word meaning the Real, the Ineffable, of which we have spoken.]
And the father teaches his son as follows:
"These rivers, my son, run, the eastern toward the east, the western toward the west. They go from sea to sea. They become indeed sea. And as those rivers, when they are in the sea, do not know, I am this or that river,
"In the same manner, my son, all these creatures, when they have come from the True [that is, the Real] know not that they have come from the True [on account of the maya]. Whatever these creatures are here, whether a lion, or a wolf, or a boar, or a worm, or a midge, or a gnat, or a mosquito, that they become again and again."
"That which is that subtile essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it." "Please, Sir, inform me still more," said the son. "Be it so, my child," the father replied.
Now the son is supposed to ask, "How is it that living beings, when in sleep or death they are merged again in the Sat, are not destroyed? Waves, foam, and bubbles arise from the water, and when they merge again in the water, they are gone."
"If someone were to strike at the root of this large tree here," says the father, "it would bleed, but live. If he were to strike at its stem, it would bleed, but live. If he were to strike at its top, it would bleed, but live. Pervaded by the living Self that tree stands firm, drinking in its nourishment and rejoicing;
"But if the life (the living Self) leaves one of its branches, that branch withers; if it leaves a second, that branch withers; if it leaves a third, that branch withers. If it leaves the whole tree, the whole tree withers. In exactly the same manner, my son, know this." Thus he spoke:
"This (body) indeed withers and dies when the living Self has left it; the living Self dies not. That which is that subtile essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it."
"Please, Sir, inform me still more," said the son. "Be it so, my child," the father replied.
"Fetch me from thence a fruit of the Nyagrodha tree." "Here is one, Sir." "Break it." "It is broken, Sir." "What do you see there?" "These seeds, almost infinitesimal." "Break one of them." "It is broken, Sir." "What do you see there?" "Not anything, Sir."
The father said: "My son, that subtile essence which you do not perceive there, of that very essence this great Nyagrodha tree exists. Believe it, my son. That which is the subtile essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it." "Please, Sir, inform me still more," said the son. "Be it so, my child," the father replied.
"Place this salt in water, and then wait on me in the morning." The son did as he was commanded. The father said to him: "Bring me the salt, which you placed in the water last night." The son having looked for it, found it not, for, of course, it was melted. The father said: "Taste it from the surface of the water. How is it?" The son replied: "It is salt." "Taste it from the middle. How is it?" The son replied: "It is salt." "Taste it from the bottom. How is it?" The son replied: "It is salt." The father said: "Throw it away and then wait on me." He did so; but salt exists for ever. Then the father said: "Here also, in this body, forsooth, you do not perceive the True (Sat), my son; but there indeed it is.
"That which is the subtile essence [that is, the saltiness of the salt], in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it." "Please, Sir, inform me still more," said the son. "Be it so, my child," the father replied. — 6, 10-13 (Max Muller trans.)
Let us turn to another part of this Upanishad, to the eighth lecture. And we read as follows: "Harih, Om." Hari is the name of several deities — of Siva and Vishnu — but here, apparently, it is used for Siva, which is preeminently the divine protector of the mystic occultist. Om is a word considered very holy in the Brahmanical literature. It is a syllable of invocation, and its general usage — as elucidated in the literature treating of it, which is rather voluminous for this word Om has attained to almost divinity — is that it should never be uttered aloud, or in the presence of an outsider, a foreigner, or a non-initiate, but it should be uttered in the silence of one's heart. We also have reason to believe, however, that it was uttered, and uttered aloud in a monotone by the disciples in the presence of their teacher. This word is always placed at the beginning of any scripture that is considered of unusual sanctity.
The teaching is, that prolonging the uttering of this word, both of the O and the M, with the mouth closed, it reechoes in and arouses vibration in the skull, and affects, if the aspirations be pure, the different nervous centers of the body for great good.
The Brahmanas say that it is an unholy thing to utter this word in any place which is unholy. I now read:
There is this city of Brahman [that is, the heart and the body], and in it the palace, the small lotus (of the heart), and in it that small ether.
The Sanskrit word which Muller, the translator, has not given here for "small ether," doubtless because he knew not how to translate it, is antarakasa, a compound Sanskrit word meaning "within the akasa." I read again:
Now what exists within that small ether, that is to be sought for, that is to be understood. And if they should say to him: "Now with regard to that city of Brahman, and the palace in it, i.e. the small lotus of the heart, and the small ether within the heart, what is there within it that deserves to be sought for, or that is to be understood?"
Then he should say: "As large as this ether (all space) is, so large is that ether within the heart. Both heaven and earth are contained within it, both fire and air, both sun and moon, both lightning and stars; and whatever there is of him (the Self) here in the world, and whatever is not (i.e. whatever has been or will be), all that is contained within it."
And if they should say to him: "If everything that exists is contained in that city of Brahman, all beings and all desires (whatever can be imagined or desired), then what is left of it, when old age reaches it and scatters it, or when it falls to pieces?"
Then he should say: "By the old age of the body, that (the ether, or Brahman within it) does not age; by the death of the body, that (the ether, or Brahman within it) is not killed. That (the Brahman) is the true Brahma-city (not the body). In it all [true] desires are contained. It is the Self, free from sin, free from old age, from death and grief, from hunger and thirst, which desires nothing but what it ought to desire, and imagines nothing but what it ought to imagine. Now as here on earth people follow as they are commanded, and depend on the object which they are attached to, be it a country or a piece of land,
"And as here on earth, whatever has been acquired by exertion, perishes, so perishes whatever is acquired for the next world by sacrifices and other good actions performed on earth. Those who depart from hence without having discovered the Self and those true desires, for them there is no freedom in all the worlds. But those who depart from hence, after having discovered the Self and those true desires, for them there is freedom in all the worlds." — Ibid., 8, 1