The Path – March 1891


"The Karana Sarira may become so contaminated and so unfit to reflect the light of the Logos as to render any further individual existence impossible; and then the result is annihilation, which is simply the most terrible fate that can befall a human being." — Notes on the Bhagavat Gita by T. Subba Row.

The Secret Doctrine, Ancient Philosophy, and the Christian Scriptures all advance the idea of the possible destruction of the human soul as the penalty for certain transgressions. This is indeed a very old doctrine. In the Christian Scriptures it is referred to as "the sin against the Holy Ghost", "the unpardonable sin"; and devout and bigoted Christians have been driven to insanity by the belief that they had committed this "unpardonable sin". While it is far from the present purpose to revive such a degrading superstition on the one hand, on the other hand there is a law of retribution following perversions of the human will, altogether obscured and rendered of no account by the conflicting wrangles of the Christian theology. That one should go insane in seeking to reconcile freedom of the will with predestination and the idea of the sin against the Holy Ghost creates very little surprise today; but as the result is to obscure the principle of Eternal Justice as applicable to human conduct and the results of human action, and, as a further result, many individuals seem unconsciously embarking on the journey that must inevitably lead to destruction unless arrested, the real philosophy and rationality of the subject need pointing out.

If a swift and sure destruction could be predicated of the voyagers on this Stygean sea, if painless death were immediate annihilation, further comment would be unnecessary, for that would indeed be an easy way of balancing accounts. But Karma as the Law of Retributive justice provides otherwise. The road through selfishness, cruelty, vice, and crime is long before one reaches the dividing line and plunges down the steep descent. Step by step "the Spirit" — the Higher Self — strives with man, and when at last he has "sinned away the day of grace" and his conscience has ceased to struggle against his animal self, a prey to Karma-Nemesis, every evil thought and deed returning to him who sent it out, the demons of his own creation seize upon his soul and slowly devour him. Man rises or falls by his own act. This is often stated, but seldom logically applied. Karma is the necessary and invariable condition of individual existence. Individual conscious existence without action is inconceivable. This action tends always in one of two directions. It is either consonant with the Creative Will and Intelligence of Nature, or it runs counter to Nature and is personal and selfish. The evil and selfish will of man creating a world of his own begetting, becomes himself the center of that world, Thus "good Karma" runs along nature's lines and is beneficent, while evil Karma is a debt due unto nature for which she exacts the last farthing by the necessary conditions of the law of action. The selfish and vicious are therefore at war with nature because they build to themselves, looking to results, while the unselfish, seeking no reward, but doing the good and following the right because it is right, presently destroy Karma altogether by at-one-ment with nature.

"* * * Differentiated conscious existence is evolved out of the one current of life which sets the evolutionary machine in motion." * * * this very current of life gradually gives rise to individual organisms as it proceeds on its mission. Furthermore it begins to manifest what we call conscious life, and, when we come to man, we find that his conscious individuality is clearly and completely defined by the operation of this force. In producing this result, several subsidiary forces which are generated by the peculiar conditions of time, space, and environment cooperate with this one life. What is generally called Karana Sarira is but the natural product of the action of these very forces that have operated to bring about this result. When once the plane of consciousness is reached in the path of progress that includes the voluntary actions of man, it will be seen that those voluntary actions not only preserve the individuality of the Karana Sarira, but render it more and more definite, as, birth after birth, further progress is attained, and thus keep up the continued existence of the Jiva as an individual monad." — Notes by T. Subba Row, p. 26-7.

"* * It is only through a vehicle (Upadhi) of matter that consciousness wells up in us as 'I am I ', a physical basis being necessary to focus a ray of the Universal Mind at a certain stage of complexity." — S. D.

Now these Upadhis, or vehicles in which the one life focalizes and consciousness wells up, may be in one case the physical body, in another the astral body, and again it may be the Karana Sarira. It is in the last named that the higher individuality of man exists. To illustrate these Upadhis and their relations to the Logos and to each other, Mr. Subba Row makes use of the following. "Suppose, for instance, we compare the Logos itself to the sun; suppose I take a clear mirror in my hand, catch a reflection of the sun, make the rays reflect from the surface of the mirror — say upon a polished metallic plate — and make the rays which are reflected in their turn from the plate fall upon a wall. Now we have three images, one being clearer than the other, and one being more resplendent than the other. I can compare the clear mirror to Karana Sarira; the metallic plate to the astral body; and the wall to the physical body." (Ibid.)

It must be remembered that it is the Light of the Logos that shines upon the clear mirror. The Logos itself is unmanifested. We see not the Logos, but its manifested light. Furthermore, it is the same light that is manifested or reflected from the mirror, from the metallic plate, and from the wall. The increasing dullness or feebleness of the light is due solely to the character of the reflecting surface, and not to any change in the light itself.

Applying this illustration to the complex and composite nature of man we find it has exceeding force. But first we must get a starting point in the nature of man, some point within the range of universal experience in order to make our subject practical and apprehensible. This basis is very clearly given in the quotation from the Secret Doctrine already made. Consciousness is the basis of all personality, and of all individual life. It is the continuity of consciousness in some form that constitutes the thread of existence running through all personalities. Whenever the Upadhi (Vehicle of matter) which directly receives the light of the Logos or divine ray, viz. the Karana Sarira, has reached the plane of self-consciousness — "I am I" — it has then started on the line of evolution from which there is no escape, and all subsequent experience along the evolutionary chain involves personal responsibility. The light of the Logos "welling up in us" having evoked individual self-consciousness, must eventually emerge again in its original source, bearing with it the self-consciousness of its immediate vehicle, the higher ego, or it must finally separate from the vehicle and return alone. Contaminated and degraded it can never be. No principle of Atavism can ever apply to it. Just here lies the great fallacy of the doctrine of Metempsychosis. The light of the Logos never evokes self-consciousness below the human plane, and having evoked it on that plane it can never be carried lower, or dragged down to the animal plane.

Whenever man descends to the animal plane and loses his human birthright, he does so at the sacrifice of his higher ego, or the vehicle of self-consciousness. This descent is never a matter of accident or misfortune, but of conscious will. Nature is patient and beneficent. The journey is long and painful in either direction, because it concerns the progressive evolution of full and complete self-consciousness through the whole range of human experience, culminating in at-one-ment of individual consciousness with universal divine consciousness. This is the meaning of human life and the responsibility of self-consciousness, and never until man has stifled the voice of the Higher Self, the divinity within him, by his own deliberate acts can he encounter this "second death", or "sin against the Holy Ghost".

How, it may be asked, can man retain consciousness and suffer throughout his long descent, if he has alienated the vehicle of consciousness, the Karana Sarira? The Karana Sarira being the immediate vehicle of the light of the Logos, consciousness is reflected from one vehicle to another, as shown in the illustration of the mirror, till it reaches even the physical body and manifests in its lowest form as physical sensation through the "body of desire" (Kama rupa). The consciousness in these lower vehicles has never any permanency of its own, and is only renewed and retained by continual renewal from the primary vehicle. When, therefore, that becomes alienated and finally separated, it can no longer be renewed.

It may now be seen that the word "Soul", as ordinarily used, has a vague and very indefinite meaning, and it would be well that it should become entirely obsolete. Western people are, however, so unfamiliar with the philosophy lying back of all the world's great religions, not excepting the Christian religion, that the word "soul" is likely still to be retained, together with all its confusion and obscurity.

To all students of Eastern Metaphysics, and certainly this must include at least all members of the T. S., this term Karana Sarira, the vehicle that directly receives the light of the Logos, and in and through which self-consciousness "wells up in us", becomes a matter of great interest. Bearing in mind the seven-fold division of the composite human being, as given in the Key to Theosophy and the Secret Doctrine, it may be said that the Logos proper (unmanifested) corresponds to Atman. The light of the Logos — -its immediate vehicle — corresponds with Buddhi: while those endowed with self-consciousness in man at the dawn of his evolution receive the endowment of Manas. The "Higher Self" would be the Atman-Buddhi. The Higher Ego, Atma-Buddhi-Manas. Here the use of the terms "Self" and "Ego" has led to confusion in the minds of students, though this is unnecessary if they will carefully consider the bearings and relations of consciousness and its vehicle. Karana Sarrra, then, is a generic term, meaning vehicle of the immediate light of the Logos, or Atman; generic, because it may be either separated from or conducted with manas, its next vehicle, and thus be the basis of self-consciousness in man. Atman as related to man corresponds with Parabrahm as related to Cosmos; Buddhi as related to man corresponds to Mulaprakrita as related to Parabrahm, its "veil", from which matter and force endowed with intelligence, Akas-Fohat-Mahat, emanate.

It may thus be seen that a substantial basis lies back of every manifestation in nature, and that what we term matter and force on every plane of nature are inseparable from intelligence, thus giving the raison d'etre of Law. In all manifestations of life it is the light of the Logos welling up in and manifesting through its vehicle or Upadhi, that constitutes the main-spring or fountain of life.

On every plane of nature where life takes form and consciousness manifests, such manifestation occurs through a vehicle. In man these vehicles are several because his life is not confined to a single plane. These vehicles are related in concrete degrees, and while the physical body is the lowest vehicle, the life force manifesting in each interpenetrates all. The more compact or the grosser the physical body through its appetites and passions, the weaker the life current in all the other vehicles. In other words, the more man lives on the animal plane, the less he manifests the human and the divine. These are self-evident propositions, axiomatic, drawn from common experience in every-day life.

The germ of self-consciousness residing in the Higher Ego progressively expands and unfolds with the varied experience of life. This germ furnishes the light of reason and the guiding principle of conscience. Each successive embodiment in matter furnishes its fund of experience, and thus progressively unfolds Manas. Manas is thus the adjustment of experience to the laws and processes of Eternal Nature, the incomplete and imperfect personal Kingdom of man. The basis of consciousness in man is Mahat — cosmic intelligence — "welling up in man" through its immediate vehicle, Karana Sarira. The expansion and range of unfolding of consciousness in man occurs through Manas, the active aspect of consciousness; while its passive aspect is conscience, the "Voice" of the higher self. Most persons get confused in regard to memory, the steps of man's progress, the details of his varied experience; and these can never be fully retained even for a single day except as a precipitate or general result of experience. In this regard nothing is ever lost, or lived in vain.We may now deduce some idea of the "Soul", or what is meant by the immortal part of man, and its permanent possession by the individual or its final loss. The problem turns on the point of consciousness, and its expansion through experience. The battle ground is the central factor in man's composite life, viz. Manas: and by the Higher and the Lower Manas is meant the direction in which man's experience tends under guidance of his will. He may crown his life experience by leading it up through the higher manas till he anchors it in its immortal vehicle, Karana Sarira, and thus merge his life in the Higher Self; or he may lead it downward, toward the animal plane, till at a certain point he cuts the slender thread and thus alienates his Higher Self, when his lower "vehicles", drawn originally from the physical and animal planes, gradually descend, consciousness slowly fading out, till at last his being dissolves. This is the "second death". 'Tis not the fact of annihilation, but its horrible details, its blank despair, its terrible retribution, that appall us: the Karmic details of Eternal Justice, the opportunity and the rewards or penalties of Human Self-consciousness. No one need fear being tripped unconsciously into this "eighth Sphere" this hopeless doom. Neither is it to be incurred from impossible intellectual belief of irrational dogmas. It is as far removed from priestly anathema as is any Higher Self from an anathematizing priest. It is the penalty for all uncleanness; for wilful sacrifice of all other interests to the animal self; and finally, to the love of evil for its own sake. Many pitiable degraded human beings are on their way to it, and yet not beyond hope. Hypnotism, Necromancy, and other forms of "black magic" lead directly towards it. One may be unconscious that such practices are black magic, but no one can be unconscious of their own utter disregard of the rights and the best interests of others, and when they consciously and deliberately disregard these and seek an imagined good for themselves regardless of the pain and degradation of others, they should be reminded that sure destruction lies that way, by a law that has no variableness or shadow of turning, a law that never forgets and never forgives till the last jot and tittle be fulfilled. The materialism of the age tends in this direction, with its vivisection and hypnotism, with its selfish haste to get rich, and its disregard of the great hungering, toiling, suffering mass of humanity. And it is not the toiling millions that tend toward destruction, but the selfish, favored, greedy few, whose broader intelligence and larger opportunities serve only to increase the unhappiness of others now, and make sure their own destruction hereafter. Step by step in future incarnations must these retrace their way: measure for measure will it be meted to them again, Dante's Inferno, and Margrave and Mr. Hyde are no idle dreams of depraved imaginations, but tragedies of self-destruction, being enacted all around us by the intrinsic selfishness of man. The sacrifice of all to self leads inevitably to self destruction.

(To be continued.)

The Path