The Key to Theosophy
H. P. Blavatsky
THEOSOPHICAL TEACHINGS AS TO NATURE AND MAN
UNITY OF ALL IN ALL
ENQUIRER. Having told me what God, the Soul and Man are not, in
your views, can you inform me what they are, according to your
THEOSOPHIST. In their origin and in eternity the three, like the
universe and all therein, are one with the absolute Unity, the unknowable deific
essence I spoke about some time back. We believe in no creation,
but in the periodical and consecutive appearances of the universe from the
subjective on to the objective plane of being, at regular intervals of time,
covering periods of immense duration.
ENQUIRER. Can you elaborate the subject?
THEOSOPHIST. Take as a first comparison and a help towards a more
correct conception, the solar year, and as a second, the two halves of that
year, producing each a day and a night of six months’ duration at the North
Pole. Now imagine, if you can, instead of a Solar year of 365 days, ETERNITY.
Let the sun represent the universe, and the polar days and nights of 6 months
each—days and nights lasting each 182 trillions and
quadrillions of years, instead
of 182 days each. As the sun arises every morning on our objective horizon
out of its (to us) subjective and antipodal space, so does the Universe
emerge periodically on the plane of objectivity, issuing from that of
subjectivity—the antipodes of the former. This is the “Cycle of Life.” And
as the sun disappears from our horizon, so does the Universe disappear at
regular periods, when the “Universal night” sets in. The Hindoos call such
alternations the “Days and Nights of Brahma,” or the time of Manvantara and
that of Pralaya (dissolution). The Westerns may call them Universal
Days and Nights if they prefer. During the latter (the nights) All is in All;
every atom is resolved into one Homogeneity.
ENQUIRER. But who is it that creates each time the Universe?
THEOSOPHIST. No one creates it. Science would call the process
evolution; the pre-Christian philosophers and the Orientalists called it
emanation: we, Occultists and Theosophists, see in it the only universal and
eternal reality casting a periodical reflection of itself on
the infinite Spatial depths. This reflection, which you regard as the objective material
universe, we consider as a temporary illusion and nothing else.
That alone which is eternal is real.
ENQUIRER. At that rate, you and I are also illusions.
THEOSOPHIST. As flitting personalities, to-day one person,
to-morrow another—we are. Would you call the sudden flashes of the Aurora
borealis, the Northern lights, a
“reality,” though it is as real as can be while you look at it? Certainly
not; it is the cause that produces it, if permanent and eternal, which is the
only reality, while the other is but a passing, illusion.
ENQUIRER. All this does not explain to me how this illusion called
the universe originates; how the conscious to be, proceeds to manifest
itself from the unconsciousness that is.
THEOSOPHIST. It is unconsciousness only to our finite
consciousness. Verily may we paraphrase verse v, in the 1st chapter of St. John,
and say “and (Absolute) light (which is darkness) shineth in darkness (which
is illusionary material light); and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” This
absolute light is also absolute and immutable law. Whether by radiation or
emanation—we need not quarrel over terms—the universe passes out of its
homogeneous subjectivity on to the first plane of manifestation, of which planes
there are seven, we are taught. With each plane it becomes more dense and
material until it reaches this, our plane, on which the only world approximately
known and understood in its physical composition by Science, is the planetary or
Solar system—one sui generis, we
ENQUIRER. What do you mean by sui generis?
THEOSOPHIST. I mean that, though the fundamental law and the
universal working of laws of Nature are uniform, still our Solar system (like
every other such system in the millions of others in Cosmos) and even our Earth,
has its own programme of manifestations differing from the respective programmes
of all others. We speak of the inhabitants of other planets and imagine that if
they are men, i. e.,
thinking entities, they must be as we are. The fancy of poets and painters
and sculptors never fails to represent even the angels as a beautiful copy of
man—plus wings. We say that all this is an error and a delusion;
because, if on this little earth alone one finds such a diversity in its flora,
fauna and mankind—from the sea-weed to the cedar of Lebanon, from the
jelly-fish to the elephant, from the Bushman and negro to the Apollo
Belvedere—alter the conditions cosmic and planetary, and there must be as a
result quite a different flora, fauna and mankind. The same laws will fashion
quite a different set of things and beings even on this our plane, including in
it all our planets. How much more different then must be external nature
in other Solar systems, and how foolish is it to judge of other stars and
worlds and human beings by our own, as physical science does!
ENQUIRER. But what are your data for this assertion?
THEOSOPHIST. What science in general will never accept as
proof—the cumulative testimony of an endless series of Seers who have
testified to this fact. Their spiritual visions, real explorations by, and
through, physical and spiritual senses untrammelled by blind flesh, were
systematically checked and compared one with the other, and their nature sifted.
All that was not corroborated by unanimous and collective experience was
rejected, while that only was recorded as established truth, which, in various
ages, under different climes, and throughout an untold series of incessant
observations, was found to agree and receive constantly further corroboration.
The methods used by our scholars and students of the psycho-spiritual sciences
do not differ from those of students of the natural and physical sciences, as
you may see. Only our fields of research are on two different planes, and our
instruments are made by no human hands, for which reason perchance they are only
the more reliable. The retorts, accumulators, and microscopes of the chemist and
naturalist may get out of order; the telescope and the astronomer’s
horological instruments may get spoiled; our recording instruments are beyond
the influence of weather or the elements.
ENQUIRER. And therefore you have implicit faith in them?
THEOSOPHIST. Faith is a word not to be found in theosophical
dictionaries: we say knowledge based, on observation and experience.
There is this difference, however, that while the observation and
experience of physical science lead the Scientists to about as many
“working” hypotheses as there are minds to evolve them, our knowledge consents
to add to its lore only those facts which have become undeniable, and which are
fully and absolutely demonstrated. We have no two beliefs or hypotheses on the
ENQUIRER. Is it on such data that you came to accept the strange
theories we find in Esoteric Buddhism?
THEOSOPHIST. Just so. These theories may be slightly incorrect in
their minor details, and even faulty in their exposition by lay students; they
are facts in nature, nevertheless, and come nearer the truth than any
THE SEPTENARY CONSTITUTION OF OUR PLANET
ENQUIRER. I understand that you describe our earth as forming part
of a chain of earths?
THEOSOPHIST. We do. But the other six “earths” or globes, are
not on the same plane of objectivity as our earth is; therefore we cannot see
ENQUIRER. Is that on account of the great distance?
THEOSOPHIST. Not at all, for we see with our naked eye planets and
even stars at immeasurably greater distances; but it is owing to those six
globes being outside our physical means of perception, or plane of being. It is
not only that their material density, weight, or fabric are entirely different
from those of our earth and the other known planets; but they are (to us) on an
entirely different layer of space, so to speak; a layer not to be
perceived or felt by our physical senses. And when I say “layer,” please do
not allow your fancy to suggest to you layers like strata or beds laid one over
the other, for this would only lead to another absurd misconception. What I mean
by “layer” is that plane of infinite space which by its nature cannot fall
under our ordinary waking perceptions, whether mental or physical; but which
exists in nature outside of our normal mentality or consciousness, outside of
our three dimensional space, and outside of our division of time. Each of the
seven fundamental planes (or layers) in space—of course as a whole, as the
pure space of Locke’s definition, not as our finite space—has its own
objectivity and subjectivity, its own space and time, its own consciousness and
set of senses. But all this will be hardly comprehensible to one trained in the
modern ways of thought.
What do you mean by a different set of senses? Is there anything on our
human plane that you could bring as an illustration of what you say, just to
give a clearer idea of what you may mean by this variety of senses, spaces, and
THEOSOPHIST. None; except, perhaps, that which for Science would
be rather a handy peg on which to hang a counter-argument. We have a different
set of senses in dream-life, have we not? We feel, talk, hear, see, taste and
function in general on a different plane; the change of state of our
consciousness being evidenced by the fact that a series of acts and events
embracing years, as we think, pass ideally through our mind in one instant.
Well, that extreme rapidity of our mental operations in dreams, and the perfect
naturalness, for the time being, of all the other functions, show us that we are
on quite another plane. Our philosophy teaches us that, as there are seven
fundamental forces in nature, and seven planes of being, so there are seven
states of consciousness in which man can live, think, remember and have his
being. To enumerate these here is impossible, and for this one has to turn to
the study of Eastern metaphysics. But in these two states—the waking and the
dreaming—every ordinary mortal, from a learned philosopher down to a poor
untutored savage, has a good proof that such states differ.
You do not accept, then, the well-known explanations of biology and
physiology to account for the dream state?
THEOSOPHIST. We do not. We reject even the hypotheses of your
psychologists, preferring the teachings of Eastern Wisdom. Believing in seven
planes of Kosmic being and states of Consciousness, with regard to the Universe
or the Macrocosm, we stop at the fourth plane, finding it impossible to go with
any degree of certainty beyond. But with respect to the Microcosm, or man, we
speculate freely on his seven states and principles.
How do you explain these?
THEOSOPHIST. We find, first of all, two distinct beings in man; the
spiritual and the physical, the man who thinks, and the man who records as much
of these thoughts as he is able to assimilate. Therefore we divide him into two
distinct natures; the upper or the spiritual being, composed of three
“principles” or aspects; and
the lower or the physical quaternary, composed of four—in all seven.
SEPTENARY NATURE OF MAN
Is it what we call Spirit and Soul, and the man of flesh?
THEOSOPHIST. It is not. That is the old Platonic division. Plato
was an Initiate, and therefore could not go into forbidden details; but he who
is acquainted with the archaic doctrine finds the seven in Plato’s various
combinations of Soul and Spirit. He regarded man as constituted of two
parts—one eternal, formed of the same essence as the Absoluteness, the other
mortal and corruptible, deriving its constituent parts from the minor
“created” Gods. Man is composed, he shows, of (1) a mortal body, (2) an
immortal principle, and (3) a “separate mortal kind of Soul.” It is that
which we respectively call the physical man, the Spiritual Soul or Spirit, and
the animal Soul (the Nous and psuche). This is the
division adopted by Paul, another Initiate, who maintains that there is a
psychical body which is sown in the corruptible (astral soul or body), and a spiritual
body that is raised in incorruptible substance. Even James (iii. 15)
corroborates the same by saying that the “wisdom” (of our lower soul)
descendeth not from the above, but is terrestrial (“psychical,”
“demoniacal,” vide Greek text); while the other is heavenly wisdom.
Now so plain is it that Plato and even Pythagoras, while speaking but of three
“principles,” give them seven separate functions, in their various
combinations, that if we contrast our teachings this will become quite plain.
Let us take a cursory view of these seven aspects by drawing two tables.
Now what does Plato teach? He speaks of the interior man as
constituted of two parts—one immutable and always the same, formed of the same
substance as Deity, and the other mortal and corruptible. These “two
parts” are found in our upper Triad, and the lower Quaternary (vide
Table). He explains that when the Soul, psuche, “allies herself to the Nous (divine spirit or substance),
she does everything aright and felicitously”; but the case is otherwise when
she attaches herself to Anoia, (folly,
or the irrational animal Soul). Here, then, we have Manas (or the Soul
in general) in its two aspects: when attaching itself to Anoia (our Kama
rupa, or the “Animal Soul” in “Esoteric Buddhism,”) it runs towards
entire annihilation, as far as the personal Ego is concerned; when allying
itself to the Nous (Atma-Buddhi) it merges into the immortal,
imperishable Ego, and then its spiritual consciousness of the personal that was,
DISTINCTION BETWEEN SOUL AND SPIRIT
Do you really teach, as you are accused of doing by some Spiritualists and
French Spiritists, the annihilation of every personality?
THEOSOPHIST. We do not. But as this question of the duality—the individuality
of the Divine Ego, and the personality of the human
animal—involves that of the possibility of the real immortal Ego appearing in Séance
rooms as a “materialised spirit,” which we deny as already explained,
our opponents have started the nonsensical charge.
ENQUIRER. You have just spoken of psuche running towards
its entire annihilation if it attaches itself to Anoia.
What did Plato, and do you mean by this?
THEOSOPHIST. The entire annihilation of the personal consciousness,
as an exceptional and rare case, I think. The general and almost invariable rule
is the merging of the personal into the individual or immortal consciousness of
the Ego, a transformation or a divine transfiguration, and the entire
annihilation only of the lower quaternary.
Would you expect the man of flesh, or the temporary personality,
his shadow, the “astral,” his animal instincts and even physical life,
to survive with the “spiritual EGO” and become sempiternal? Naturally all
this ceases to exist, either at, or soon after corporeal death. It becomes in
time entirely disintegrated and disappears from view, being annihilated as a
ENQUIRER. Then you also reject resurrection in the flesh?
THEOSOPHIST. Most decidedly we do! Why should we, who believe in
the archaic esoteric philosophy of the Ancients, accept the unphilosophical
speculations of the later Christian theology, borrowed from the Egyptian and
Greek exoteric Systems of the Gnostics?
ENQUIRER. The Egyptians revered Nature-Spirits, and deified even
onions: your Hindus are idolaters, to this day; the Zoroastrians
worshipped, and do still worship, the Sun; and the best Greek philosophers were
either dreamers or materialists—witness Plato and Democritus. How can you
THEOSOPHIST. It may be so in your modern Christian and even
Scientific catechism; it is not so for unbiased minds. The Egyptians revered the
“One-Only-One,” as Nout; and
it is from this word that Anaxagoras got his denomination Nous, or as
he calls it, Νους αυτοκρατης,
“the Mind or Spirit Self-potent,” the αρχή
leading motor, or primum mobile of all. With him the Nous was
God, and the logos was man, his emanation. The Nous is the
spirit (whether in Kosmos or in man), and the logos,
whether Universe or astral body, the emanation of the former, the physical
body being merely the animal. Our external powers perceive phenomena;
our Nous alone is able to recognise their noumena.
It is the logos alone, or the noumenon,
that survives, because it is immortal in its very nature and essence, and
the logos in man is the Eternal Ego, that which reincarnates and lasts
for ever. But how can the evanescent or external shadow, the temporary clothing
of that divine Emanation which returns to the source whence it proceeded, be
that which is raised in incorruptibility?
Still you can hardly escape the charge of having invented a new division of
man’s spiritual and psychic constituents; for no philosopher speaks of them,
though you believe that Plato does.
THEOSOPHIST. And I support the view. Besides Plato, there is
Pythagoras, who also followed the same idea.
He described the Soul as a self-moving Unit (monad) composed of three
elements, the Nous (Spirit), the phren (mind), and the thumos
(life, breath or the Nephesh of the Kabalists) which three
correspond to our “Atma-Buddhi,” (higher Spirit-Soul), to Manas
(the EGO), and to Kama-rupa in conjunction with the lower
reflection of Manas. That which the Ancient Greek philosophers termed Soul, in
general, we call Spirit, or Spiritual Soul, Buddhi, as the vehicle of Atma
(the Agathon, or Plato’s
Supreme Deity). The fact that Pythagoras and others state that phren
and thumos are shared by us with the brutes, proves that in this case
the lower Manasic reflection (instinct) and Kama-rupa (animal
living passions) are meant. And as Socrates and Plato accepted the clue and
followed it, if to these five, namely, Agathon (Deity or Atma), Psuche
(Soul in its collective sense), Nous (Spirit or Mind), Phren
(physical mind), and Thumos (Kama-rupa or passions) we add the eidolon
of the Mysteries, the shadowy form or the human double, and the physical
body, it will be easy to demonstrate
that the ideas of both Pythagoras and Plato were identical with ours. Even the
Egyptians held to the Septenary division. In its exit, they taught, the Soul
(EGO) had to pass through its seven chambers, or principles, those it left
behind, and those it took along with itself. The only difference is that, ever
bearing in mind the penalty of revealing Mystery-doctrines, which was death,
they gave out the teaching in a broad outline, while we elaborate it and
explain it in its details. But though we do give out to the world as much as is
lawful, even in our doctrine more than one important detail is withheld, which
those who study the esoteric philosophy and are pledged to silence, are
alone entitled to know.
We have magnificent Greek and Latin, Sanskrit and Hebrew scholars. How is it
that we find nothing in their translations that would afford us a clue to what
THEOSOPHIST. Because your translators, their great learning
notwithstanding, have made of the philosophers, the Greeks especially, misty
instead of mystic writers. Take as an instance Plutarch, and read what he
says of “the principles” of man. That which he describes was accepted
literally and attributed to metaphysical superstition and ignorance. Let me give
you an illustration in point: “Man,” says Plutarch, “is compound; and they
are mistaken who think him to be compounded of two parts only.
For they imagine that the understanding (brain intellect) is a part
of the soul (the upper Triad), but they err in this no less than those who make
the soul to be a part of the body, i.e. those who make of the Triad
part of the corruptible mortal quaternary.
For the understanding (nous) as far exceeds the soul, as
the soul is better and diviner than the body. Now this composition of the soul (ψυχη) with the understanding (νους)
makes reason; and with the body (or thumos, the animal soul) passion; of
which the one is the beginning or principle of pleasure and pain, and the other
of virtue and vice. Of these three parts conjoined and compacted together, the
earth has given the body, the moon the soul, and the sun the understanding to
the generation of man.”
This last sentence is purely allegorical, and will be comprehended only
by those who are versed in the esoteric science of correspondences and know
which planet is related to every principle. Plutarch divides the latter into three groups, and makes
of the body a compound of physical frame, astral shadow, and breath, or the
triple lower part, which “from earth was taken and to earth returns”; of the
middle principle and the instinctual soul, the second part, derived from
and through and ever influenced by the moon;
and only of the higher part or the Spiritual Soul, with the Atmic and
Manasic elements in it does he make a direct emanation of the Sun, who stands
here for Agathon the Supreme Deity. This is proven by what he says
further as follows:
“Now of the deaths we die, the one makes man two of three and the other
one of (out of) two. The former is in the region and jurisdiction of Demeter,
whence the name given to the Mysteries, τελειν,
resembled that given to death, τελευταν. The Athenians also heretofore called the deceased sacred to Demeter. As
for the other death, it is in the moon or region of Persephone.”
Here you have our doctrine, which shows man a septenary during
life; a quintile just after death, in Kamaloka; and a threefold Ego,
Spirit-Soul, and consciousness in Devachan. This separation, first in “the Meadows of Hades,” as
Plutarch calls the Kama-loka, then in Devachan, was part and parcel of
the performances during the sacred Mysteries, when the candidates for initiation
enacted the whole drama of death, and the resurrection as a glorified spirit, by
which name we mean Consciousness. This is what Plutarch means when he
“And as with the one, the terrestrial, so with the other celestial
Hermes doth dwell. This suddenly and with violence plucks the soul from the
body; but Proserpina mildly and in a long time disjoins the understanding from
For this reason she is called Monogenes, only begotten, or
rather begetting one alone; for the
better part of man becomes alone when it is separated by her.
Now both the one and the other happens thus according to nature. It is
ordained by Fate (Fatum or Karma) that every soul, whether with or without
understanding (mind), when gone out of the body, should wander for a time,
though not all for the same, in the region lying between the earth and moon (Kamaloka).
For those that have been unjust and dissolute suffer then the punishment due to
their offences; but the good and virtuous are there detained till they are
purified, and have, by expiation, purged out of them all the infections they
might have contracted from the contagion of the body, as if from foul health,
living in the mildest part of the air, called the Meadows of Hades, where they
must remain for a certain prefixed and appointed time. And then, as if they were
returning from a wandering pilgrimage or long exile into their country, they
have a taste of joy, such as they principally receive who are initiated into
Sacred Mysteries, mixed with trouble, admiration, and each one’s proper and
This is Nirvanic bliss, and no Theosophist could describe in plainer
though esoteric language the mental joys of Devachan, where every man has his
paradise around him, erected by his consciousness. But you must beware of the
general error into which too many even of our Theosophists fall. Do not imagine
that because man is called septenary, then quintuple and a triad, he is
a compound of seven, five, or three entities;
or, as well expressed by a Theosophical writer, of skins to be peeled off like
the skins of an onion. The “principles,” as already said, save the body, the
life, and the astral eidolon, all of which disperse at death, are
simply aspects and states of consciousness.
There is but one real man, enduring through the cycle of life and
immortal in essence, if not in form, and this is Manas,
the Mind-man or embodied Consciousness. The objection made by the
materialists, who deny the possibility of mind and consciousness acting without
matter is worthless in our case. We do not deny the soundness of their argument;
but we simply ask our opponents, “Are you acquainted with all the states
of matter, you who knew hitherto but of three? And how do you know whether
that which we refer to as ABSOLUTE CONSCIOUSNESS or Deity for ever invisible and
unknowable, be not that which, though it eludes for ever our human finite
conception, is still universal Spirit-matter or matter-Spirit in its
absolute infinitude?” It is then one of the lowest, and in its
manvantaric manifestations fractioned-aspects of this Spirit-matter,
which is the conscious Ego that creates its own paradise, a fool’s
paradise, it may be, still a state of bliss.
ENQUIRER. But what is Devachan?
THEOSOPHIST. The “land of gods” literally; a condition, a
state of mental bliss. Philosophically a mental condition analogous to, but far
more vivid and real than, the most vivid dream. It is the state after death of
In Mr. Sinnett’s “Esoteric Buddhism” d, e, and
f, are respectively called the Animal, the Human, and the Spiritual
Souls, which answers as well. Though the principles in Esoteric Buddhism
are numbered, this is, strictly speaking, useless. The dual Monad
alone (Atma-Buddhi) is susceptible of being thought of as the two
highest numbers (the 6th and 7th). As to all others,
since that “principle” only which is predominant in man has to
be considered as the first and foremost, no numeration is possible as a
general rule. In some men it is the higher Intelligence (Manas or the 5th)
which dominates the rest; in others the Animal Soul (Kama-rupa) that reigns
supreme, exhibiting the most bestial instincts, etc.
Paul calls Plato’s Nous “Spirit”; but as this spirit is
“substance,” then, of course, Buddhi and not Atma is
meant, as the latter cannot philosophically be called “substance” under
any circumstance. We include Atma among the human “principles” in order
not to create additional confusion. In reality it is no “human” but the
universal absolute principle of which Buddhi, the Soul-Spirit, is
“Plato and Pythagoras,” says Plutarch,
“distribute the soul into two parts, the rational (noetic) and irrational
(agnoia); that that part of the soul of man which is rational is
eternal; for though it be not God, yet it is the product of an eternal
deity, but that part of the soul which is divested of reason (agnoia)
dies.” The modern term Agnostic comes from Agnosis,
a cognate word. We wonder why Mr. Huxley, the author of the word,
should have connected his great intellect with “the soul divested of
reason” which dies? Is it the exaggerated humility of the modern
The Kabalists who know the relation of Jehovah, the
life and children-giver, to the Moon, and the influence of the latter on
generation, will again see the point as much as some astrologers will.
Proserpina, or Persephone, stands here for post mortem
Karma, which is said to regulate the separation of the lower from the higher
“principles”: the Soul, as
Nephesh, the breath of
animal life, which remains for a time in Kama-loka, from the higher compound
Ego, which goes into the state of Devachan, or bliss.
 Until the separation of the higher, spiritual “principle” takes place from the lower ones, which remain in the Kama-loka until disintegrated.