In our analysis of man's nature we have so far considered only the perishable elements which make up the lower man, and have arrived at the fourth principle or plane — that of desire — without having touched upon the question of Mind. But even so far as we have gone it must be evident that there is a wide difference between the ordinary ideas about Mind and those found in Theosophy. Ordinarily the Mind is thought to be immaterial, or to be merely the name for the action of the brain in evolving thought, a process wholly unknown other than by inference, or that if there be no brain there can be no mind. A good deal of attention has been paid to cataloging some mental functions and attributes, but the terms are altogether absent from the language to describe actual metaphysical and spiritual facts about man. This confusion and poverty of words for these uses are due almost entirely, first, to dogmatic religion, which has asserted and enforced for many centuries dogmas and doctrines which reason could not accept, and secondly to the natural war which grew up between science and religion just as soon as the fetters placed by religion upon science were removed and the latter was permitted to deal with facts in nature. The reaction against religion naturally prevented science from taking any but a materialistic view of man and nature. So from neither of these two have we yet gained the words needed for describing the fifth, sixth, and seventh principles, those which make up the Trinity, the real man, the immortal pilgrim.
The fifth principle is Manas, in the classification adopted by Mr. Sinnett, and is usually translated Mind. Other names have been given to it, but it is the knower, the perceiver, the thinker. The sixth is Buddhi, or spiritual discernment; the seventh is Atma, or Spirit, the ray from the Absolute Being. The English language will suffice to describe in part what Manas is, but not Buddhi, or Atma, and will leave many things relating to Manas undescribed.
The course of evolution developed the lower principles and produced at last the form of man with a brain of better and deeper capacity than that of any other animal. But this man in form was not man in mind, and needed the fifth principle, the thinking, perceiving one, to differentiate him from the animal kingdom and to confer the power of becoming self-conscious. The monad was imprisoned in these forms, and that monad is composed of Atma and Buddhi; for without the presence of the monad evolution could not go forward. Going back for a moment to the time when the races were devoid of mind, the question arises, "who gave the mind, where did it come from, and what is it?" It is the link between the Spirit of God above and the personal below; it was given to the mindless monads by others who had gone all through this process ages upon ages before in other worlds and systems of worlds, and it therefore came from other evolutionary periods which were carried out and completed long before the solar system had begun. This is the theory, strange and unacceptable today, but which must be stated if we are to tell the truth about theosophy; and this is only handing on what others have said before.
The manner in which this light of mind was given to the Mindless Men can be understood from the illustration of one candle lighting many. Given one lighted candle and numerous unlighted ones, it follows that from one light the others may also be set aflame. So in the case of Manas. It is the candle of flame. The mindless men having four elementary principles of Body, Astral Body, Life and Desire, are the unlighted candles that cannot light themselves. The Sons of Wisdom, who are the Elder Brothers of every family of men on any globe, have the light, derived by them from others who reach back, and yet farther back, in endless procession with no beginning or end. They set fire to the combined lower principles and the Monad, thus lighting up Manas in the new men and preparing another great race for final initiation. This lighting up of the fire of Manas is symbolized in all great religions and Freemasonry. In the east one priest appears holding a candle lighted at the altar, and thousands of others light their candles from this one. The Parsees also have their sacred fire which is lighted from some other sacred flame.
Manas, or the Thinker, is the reincarnating being, the immortal who carries the results and values of all the different lives lived on earth or elsewhere. Its nature becomes dual as soon as it is attached to a body. For the human brain is a superior organism and Manas uses it to reason from premises to conclusions. This also differentiates man from animal, for the animal acts from automatic and so-called instinctual impulses, whereas the man can use reason. This is the lower aspect of the Thinker or Manas, and not, as some have supposed, the highest and best gift belonging to man. Its other, and in theosophy higher, aspect is the intuitional, which knows, and does not depend on reason. The lower, and purely intellectual, is nearest to the principle of Desire, and is thus distinguished from its other side which has affinity for the spiritual principles above. If the Thinker, then, becomes wholly intellectual, the entire nature begins to tend downward; for intellect alone is cold, heartless, selfish, because it is not lighted up by the two other principles of Buddhi and Atma.
In Manas the thoughts of all lives are stored. That is to say: in any one life, the sum total of thoughts underlying all the acts of the life-time will be of one character in general, but may be placed in one or more classes. That is, the business man of today is a single type; his entire life thoughts represent but one single thread of thought. The artist is another. The man who has engaged in business, but also thought much upon fame and power which he never attained, is still another. The great mass of self-sacrificing, courageous, and strong poor people who have but little time to think, constitute another distinct class. In all these the total quantity of life thoughts makes up the stream or thread of a life's meditation — "that upon which the heart was set" — and is stored in Manas, to be brought out again at any time in whatever life the brain and bodily environments are similar to those used in engendering that class of thoughts. It is Manas which sees the objects presented to it by the bodily organs and the actual organs within. When the open eye receives a picture on the retina, the whole scene is turned into vibrations in the optic nerves which disappear into the brain, where Manas is enabled to perceive them as idea. And so with every other organ or sense. If the connection between Manas and the brain be broken, intelligence will not be manifested unless Manas has by training found out how to project the astral body from the physical and thereby keep up communication with fellowmen. That the organs and senses do not cognize objects, hypnotism, mesmerism, and spiritualism have now proved. For, as we see in mesmeric and hypnotic experiments, the object seen or felt, and from which all the effects of solid objects may be sensed, is often only an idea existing in the operator's brain. In the same way Manas, using the astral body, has only to impress an idea upon the other person to make the latter see the idea and translate it into a visible body from which the usual effects of density and weight seem to follow. And in hypnotism there are many experiments, all of which go to show that so called matter is not per se solid or dense; that sight does not always depend on the eye and rays of light proceeding from an object; that the intangible for one normal brain and organs may be perfectly tangible for another; and that physical effects in the body may be produced from an idea solely. The well-known experiments of producing a blister by a simple piece of paper, or preventing a real blistering plaster from making a blister, by force of the idea conveyed to a subject, either that there was to be or not to be a blister, conclusively prove the power of effecting an impulse on matter by the use of that which is called Manas. But all these phenomena are the exhibition of the powers of lower Manas acting in the astral Body and the fourth principle — Desire, using the physical body as the field for the exhibition of the forces.
It is this lower Manas which retains all the impressions of a life-time and sometimes strangely exhibits them in trances or dreams, delirium, induced states, here and there in normal conditions, and very often at the time of physical death. But it is so occupied with the brain, with memory and with sensation, that it usually presents but few recollections out of the mass of events that years have brought before it. It interferes with the action of Higher Manas because just at the present point of evolution, Desire and all corresponding powers, faculties, and senses are the most highly developed, thus obscuring, as it were, the white light of the spiritual side of Manas. It is tinted by each object presented to it, whether it be a thought-object or a material one. That is to say, Lower Manas operating through the brain is at once altered into the shape and other characteristics of any object, mental or otherwise. This causes it to have four peculiarities.
The first is due to memory and the natural motion of Manas; the second and third are due to memory alone; the fourth signifies sleep when not abnormal, and when abnormal is going toward insanity. These mental characteristics all belonging to Lower Manas, are those which the Higher Manas, aided by Buddhi and Atma, has to fight and conquer. Higher Manas, if able to act, becomes what we sometimes call Genius; if completely master, then one may become a god. But memory continually presents pictures to Lower Manas, and the result is that the Higher is obscured. Sometimes, however, along the pathway of life we do see here and there men who are geniuses or great seers and prophets. In these the Higher powers of Manas are active and the person illuminated. Such were the great Sages of the past, men like Buddha, Jesus, Confucius, Zoroaster, and others. Poets, too, such as Tennyson, Longfellow, and others, are men in whom Higher Manas now and then sheds a bright ray on the man below, to be soon obscured, however, by the effect of dogmatic religious education which has given memory certain pictures that always prevent Manas from gaining full activity.
In this higher Trinity, we have the God above each one; this is Atma, and may be called the Higher Self.
Next is the spiritual part of the soul called Buddhi; when thoroughly united with Manas this may be called the Divine Ego.
The inner Ego, who reincarnates, taking on body after body, storing up the impressions of life after life, gaining experience and adding it to the divine Ego, suffering and enjoying through an immense period of years, is the fifth principle — Manas — not united to Buddhi. This is the permanent individuality which gives to every man the feeling of being himself and not some other; that which through all the changes of the days and nights from youth to the end of life makes us feel one identity through all the period; it bridges the gap made by sleep; in like manner it bridges the gap made by the sleep of death. It is this, and not our brain, that lifts us above the animal. The depth and variety of the brain convolutions in man are caused by the presence of Manas, and are not the cause of mind. And when we either wholly or now and then become consciously united with Buddhi, the Spiritual Soul, we behold God, as it were. This is what the ancients all desired to see, but what the moderns do not believe in, the latter preferring rather to throw away their own right to be great in nature, and to worship an imaginary god made up solely of their own fancies and not very different from weak human nature.
This permanent individuality in the present race has therefore been through every sort of experience, for Theosophy insists on its permanence and in the necessity for its continuing to take part in evolution. It has a duty to perform, consisting in raising up to a higher state all the matter concerned in the chain of globes to which the earth belongs. We have all lived and taken part in civilization after civilization, race after race, on earth, and will so continue throughout all the rounds and races until the seventh is complete. At the same time it should be remembered that the matter of this globe and that connected with it has also been through every kind of form, with possibly some exceptions in very low planes of mineral formation. But in general all the matter visible, or held in space still unprecipitated, has been molded at one time or another into forms of all varieties, many of these being such as we now have no idea of. The processes of evolution, therefore, in some departments, now go forward with greater rapidity than in former ages because both Manas and matter have acquired facility of action. Especially is this so in regard to man, who is the farthest ahead of all things or beings in this evolution. He is now incarnated and projected into life more quickly than in earlier periods when it consumed many years to obtain a "coat of skin." This coming into life over and over again cannot be avoided by the ordinary man because Lower Manas is still bound by Desire, which is the preponderating principle at the present period. Being so influenced by Desire Manas is continually deluded while in the body, and being thus deluded is unable to prevent the action upon it of the forces set up in the life time. These forces are generated by Manas, that is, by the thinking of the life time. Each thought makes a physical as well as mental link with the desire in which it is rooted. All life is filled with such thoughts, and when the period of rest after death is ended Manas is bound by innumerable electrical magnetic threads to earth by reason of the thoughts of the last life, and therefore by desire, for it was desire that caused so many thoughts and ignorance of the true nature of things. An understanding of this doctrine of man being really a thinker and made of thought will make clear all the rest in relation to incarnation and reincarnation. The body of the inner man is made of thought, and this being so it must follow that if the thoughts have more affinity for earth-life than for life elsewhere a return to life here is inevitable. At the present day Manas is not fully active in the race, as Desire still is uppermost. In the next cycle of the human period Manas will be fully active and developed in the entire race. Hence the people of the earth have not yet come to the point of making a conscious choice as to the path they will take; but when in the cycle referred to, Manas is active, all will then be compelled to consciously make the choice to right or left, the one leading to complete and conscious union with Atma, the other to the annihilation of those beings who prefer that path.