THE GROWTH OF THE SOUL
CHAPTER 6: THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES.
The different vehicles of consciousness Enumeration of the principles Etheric matter Jiva free and specialised The true astral body Reflection of consciousness in the higher vehicles The true individual Man The Karana Sharira The Aura Its various elements The magnetic shell Colouring of the Aura.
To pave the way for an examination into which we must shortly enter concerning the actual conditions of those realms through which the soul must pass in the course of its progress from physical death to rebirth, it will be desirable to pause for a moment in order to get a clearer view of the complex constitution of man. This constitution includes within itself vehicles adapted to the expression of consciousness on every plane of Nature besides that with which, for the moment, we are chiefly concerned, and no adequate comprehension of the process through which the evolution of the central individual consciousness is accomplished, can be attained by any thinker who fails to grasp the true character of the various vehicles in which that consciousness may at different times be manifest. On the plane of physical incarnation the vehicles are all involved one within the other, and in higher realms of Nature, we are, from one point of view, simpler beings than on this level. The conditions of physical existence have necessitated the finer state of complexity we here encounter, but in passing on to the examination of those which occult teaching describes as the "seven principles of man" it is well to bear in mind that the septenary constitution is a part of man's physical aspect, and that the true individuality must not be thought of as a bundle of souls separable one from the other, as occult science has sometimes been unjustly supposed to teach. The complete entity as we see him here is rather a bundle of vehicles, and inspiring energies, each of which is adapted to function on different planes of Nature, which for mankind at large are almost inseparably imbedded in the lowest and most developed vehicle, the physical body. These various vehicles are to some extent separable, even as regards mankind at large, and are readily and completely separable in the case of persons whose spiritual training has advanced to certain points, and in whose case evolution, likely to be a slow process for the bulk of humanity, has been abnormally hastened.
Coming now to detail, I may enumerate the seven principles in a way which will be seen by readers of "Esoteric Buddhism" to differ in no essential manner from the early statements on the subject there set forth, but which, so far as the language is concerned, may avoid misconceptions which the former terminology, perhaps, made possible. Arranged in numerical order, the seven principles may be described in the following way:
The first three principles taken in this order belong entirely to the physical manifestation. In the earlier presentation of these ideas I put Jiva as the second principle, and the "Linga Sharira," or Etheric Double, as the third. The modification now adopted involves no variation in the essential teaching, but appears preferable from certain points of view. First of all, as regards the Linga Sharira, that term was imported from Oriental terminology into our theosophical literature in the beginning; but a fuller appreciation of the exact function of this element in our organism and of its own constitution considered separately shows that it is an Etheric rather than an Astral counterpart of the physical body, and, at the same time, the intermediate organism through which the Jiva, or life force, influences the whole system. Occult students can make a very clearly defined distinction in their own minds between the two words used above, which may not at first, to the ordinary reader, have a different signification. Etheric matter is still physical according to the most accurate classification that can be adopted, although it is already entirely beyond the reach of instrumental observation and can only be seen by the finer senses appertaining to the Astral vehicle. Each plane of Nature, as we ascend through the refinements of the Cosmos, is constituted of different orders of matter, each order being subject to various modifications on its own plane. For example, we have solid, liquid, and gaseous matter, and beyond these, four varieties of etheric matter into which the molecules of elementary matter, as known to ordinary chemistry, may gradually be broken up. The whole subject is one of very deep interest, but I should be turning too far aside from the main path of what I have to say if I stopped here to unravel its complexities, even as far as these have at present been examined by occult students qualified to engage in such researches. It will be enough to make the leading idea of this occult development of chemical science intelligible in its broad outlines. The molecule of matter which possesses the characteristics of one of the known chemical elements must be thought of, in accordance with the actual truth of Nature, as a complicated structure built up of numerous ultimate physical atoms. All these ultimate physical atoms are identical in their own composition and attributes, or approximately so; at all events for our present purposes whatever differences are latent within them have nothing to say to their physical plane aspects. Each molecule may be roughly thought of as a different building, but each building is constructed of similar bricks. A great many bricks are required for some molecular structures, and whereas the simplest known to ordinary chemistry, the hydrogen molecule, contains only eighteen atoms, the molecules of some gases include many hundreds, and those of other substances some thousands, the figures expanding enormously in the case of molecules representing the metallic elements.
On the lowest etheric condition the gaseous molecules known to chemistry are broken up into sub-divisions, and in this condition appear at once to escape entirely beyond the reach of physical senses and instruments. Their effects are, of course, manifest in all the various phenomena of Nature which have to do with etheric vibrations; and a time, of course, will come in the progress of physical plane knowledge when all this will be the A B C of the text books. In the higher varieties of etheric matter the sub-divisions get broken up again and again until finally, in the highest condition of etheric matter, we find the atoms entirely separated one from the other, and matter at that level to be perfectly uniform in its structure and homogeneous in its constitution.
It is of matter derived from the etheric sub-planes that the Etheric Double is composed under the guidance of extremely subtle laws, and as the expression indeed of the most exalted spiritual will with which the affairs of this planet are directly concerned. The Etheric Double guides the actual deposition of physical molecules as the body grows, growing with it indeed, but always one step in advance; and the force which circulates through the nerve system of the Etheric Double is that Jiva which constitutes the physical life-principle, which as it becomes differentiated from the vast stores of Nature for the purpose of human requirements, itself comes within the field of vision of the astral senses, and can actually be seen by persons adequately qualified coursing through the nerve system of the Etheric Double as the blood flows through the veins of the physical body. The Jiva itself is primarily a force which pours into this planet from the sun. It has a multitude of tasks to perform connected with organic Nature, but keeping for the present to the question of human growth, we find it undergoing, in healthy human organisations, a process of differentiation which adapts it for its peculiar task, just as organic food is converted into blood by the physical body. A strong and healthy human being specialises a good deal more Jiva than he requires for his own use, just as the bees make more honey than they really want for themselves. In such a case it is constantly radiating from him, supplying the deficiencies more or less completely of those who are too feeble to specialise enough Jiva for themselves.
A man in good health is thus constantly, even without intention, imparting some of his spare vitality to others, though he does this with far greater energy when he employs mesmeric passes to assist the process, and uses his will-power, in a greater or less degree according to the extent of its development, to render them effective. Conversely the man in bad health, who through inefficient action of the appropriate organs in his own system is unable to specialise for his own use an adequate volume of the solar Jiva all around us, acts unconsciously as a sponge, absorbing the specialised Jiva of others with whom he is in contact. To different degrees most people are conscious that some others weary and tire them by their contiguity, even though they may not be able to trace the nature of the process by which they are affected. Persons of a very robust temperament hardly experience this feeling, perhaps, because in most such persons the higher principles, including those subtle emanations belonging to the astral plane, are more inextricably entangled with their physical molecules; and the very materialistic nature which is extremely insensitive itself is generally as little disposed to part with its own influences. The sensitive, very ready to feel the magnetic emanations of others, is, on the other hand, generally the person who is most easily drained of whatever vitality he may himself possess. These considerations, however, must not be read as implying that perfect physical health and robust constitution are identical with materialistic self -involvement. The whole subject of sensitiveness is profoundly misunderstood when, as is too often the case, people imagine it to be in some way identified with states of health; but the complete examination of that idea would take me too far away from the main part of the explanation I am now pursuing.
The fourth principle, or Astral Body, is the vehicle in which the soul may function on the astral plane of Nature, that immediately above the physical, the nature and characteristics of which we shall come to investigate presently.
Nothing is more difficult, in dealing with occult interpretations of Nature, than to decide in what order to take up their various sub-divisions. Nothing can properly be understood without the comprehension of something else. This matter that we are upon for the moment, the septenary constitution of man, requires, of course, for its full appreciation, a comprehension of the whole planetary scheme to which we belong, but no treatise on this great subject can possibly be attempted without constant reference to the seven principles of man. However, if any aspect of the present explanation seems for the moment unintelligible it will fall into its place later on. After a certain degree of progress in occult study, nothing is more impressive to the student than the beautiful coherence of the whole structure and the marvellous way in which each part, as it ramifies through the whole, fits into every detail of the other.
Just as the body, during the activity of our waking life, involves within itself the vehicles or bodies calculated for service on higher planes of Nature, so the astral body, set free from the physical and considered apart from these, involves within itself the higher vehicles which are adapted to function on the spiritual planes of Nature. It includes the whole man, minus the physical vehicle; and as regards the whole man's capacity for thinking and feeling, we may appreciate the extent to which he loses nothing by transfer to the astral plane, if we ask how much is left behind of his original consciousness in the dead body? Nothing whatever, to put the matter briefly; and nothing in this way is lost from the consciousness and feeling of the soul transferred from the physical to the astral plane, and beginning to function in the astral body.
The principles, however, may be thought of as something more than a mere envelope for a central entity of consciousness, because the finer vehicles, as they are capable of separation from the astral, in turn are incapable of giving expression to the lower emotions, desires, and sentiments of the man as we know him here, or as we may deal with him, if properly qualified, on the astral plane. The astral body is not in any true sense, of the term a soul, but it is the manifestation of soul in reference to certain aspects of Nature and certain possibilities of life. If we think of it as apart from the interior consciousness, and apart from the higher vehicles belonging to the spiritual planes on which that consciousness may ultimately function, we can then speak of it in the language which has been usual with occult writers as the principle of Kama or desire; giving expression to all the proclivities of life as engendered by the experiences of physical existence, and as constituting that part of the man which is the seat of almost all evil or criminal propensities which the strain and pressure of physical existence can engender. The spiritual soul escaping from its embrace, leaves it enfeebled, withered, and in process of disintegration, in all cases where the higher nature is at all favourably evolved, and in which the lower nature has been rather the inevitable consequence of physical existence than a commanding condition of consciousness. The circumstances under which this separation is accomplished will be considered when we come to deal with the astral plane more fully, and so we may pass for the moment to the consideration of the fifth principle.
The true individual man, his Higher Self, as evolving under the stimulus of the sixth principle, includes all the product of his thinking forces which have to do with phases of consciousness superior to those concerned with the animal desires and requirements of physical existence. From one point of view, the fifth principle itself may be thought of as the vehicle of the Manas as the Devachanic body but by this time, in the marvellous attenuation of matter as we ascend to the higher realms, we find it so incomprehensibly blended with states of consciousness, that it would rather be misleading than helpful to the imagination to think of the Devachanic body as merely a vehicle of Buddhi. In one sense the sixth principle in man, to which this name is given, is itself the vehicle of that universal Atma, the all-pervading Spirit of the Universe, with the attributes of which it would almost be folly to attempt to concern ourselves, while thought is still limited by the conditions of the physical intellect. Of Atma, except through its effects, through its manifestations, which are the whole universe around us, including all conscious beings in whatever gradation of existence, it would be futile to speak. We can know as yet nothing of its nature. We can only regard it as, in some incomprehensible manner, the potentiality of all things and all manifestations. The Ocean of Buddhi is the first manifestation of Atma with which for the purposes of this explanation we need concern ourselves; and when it is sometimes declared in poetical language that every man has within him the spark of Divinity, the truth which this phrase embodies may be otherwise expressed by saying that he has touch or relationship with the Ocean of Buddhi. If we may materialise the thought, so as to render it in one degree more tangible, he has established an individual focus within the Buddhi, or in other words, an individual focus within the Buddhi has become him which focus or vortex is evermore a persistent fact. During all the ages of his earlier evolution it is little more than a remote possibility of the future, involving nothing that can be thought of as an individual consciousness on the level of Nature to which it belongs. Still, it is the manifestation of this spark of Buddhi on the Devachanic plane, and clothed in the vehicle of Devachanic matter, which constitutes the true human individuality with which we are concerned, sometimes spoken of as the fifth principle, sometimes as the the Higher Self, sometimes as the Higher Ego, sometimes as the Higher Manas. Occult science is a new study for modern writers, and its terminology is not yet thoroughly systematised, though the ideas with which it is concerned are very much more clearly defined in the minds of all advanced students than some surviving confusions of language would lead a hasty observer to imagine. On the Devachanic plane, on the highest levels of that plane itself, presenting various aspects on lower levels, as we shall see hereafter, the Buddhi principle actuates the vehicle which must now no longer be thought of as a vehicle, but as the permanent soul itself, though in its aspect as a vehicle it is spoken of in Oriental philosophy as the Karana Sharira. This, whether we think of it as the soul itself, or the permanent vehicle of that individuality which is a facet of the universal soul, passes on from one manifestation to another, re-incarnating in different physical bodies, and gathering around itself with each descent into physical life the constituent elements of a new astral body.
n the case of all ordinary humanity belonging to this present race of ours, the Karana Sharira itself is little more than the beginning of something which will ultimately become a true spiritual being. It is an imperishable germ from the first moment of its establishment as such in the Ocean of Buddhi, but before its growth can be accomplished it has to manifest on lower and lower planes of Nature till it gets down to the physical plane. Then it can get no further, and begins to expand and accrete self-consciousness and experience in the course of successive incarnations, bringing back something, however little, after each, to involve into its own permanent consciousness.
Amongst the humanity around us we already see this process of growth in progress at almost every possible stage. In some people the individual Higher Self, the Manas, the fifth principle, has become already a highly developed and magnificent entity. In others the corresponding principle of their being is perceptible for those whose vision can penetrate the Arupa levels of Devachan, as a film that has hardly as yet assumed a definite form, which is still less the vehicle of an exalted consciousness. But its progress is assured as regards the future. Those of us who may be best able now to function in the higher spiritual realm of Nature, have been filmy beginnings of Manasic manifestation in our time.
The study of the seven principles is really inseparably blended with the investigation of the Human Aura. The higher vehicles involved in the constitution of man or in reference to which it may equally be said, and perhaps with greater accuracy, that man is involved within them are actually visible to the astral senses and Devachanic perception of people whose clairvoyant powers are developed, and as so visible are habitually described as the aura. That aura, indeed, is blended with certain radiations from the three lower principles, which are in no sense vehicles of the soul, but which manifest themselves within the area to which the higher vehicles extend around the body, so that each aura, if we separate one from the other for the purpose of scientific treatment, must be thought of as conterminous with the others.
The aura extends to a distance of eighteen inches or two feet from the body in all directions, and is approximately oval in shape. In most cases it has no very definite outline, but its edges fade very gradually into invisibility. Closer study of this luminous cloud reveals the fact to which reference has already been made, that it has several distinct components. These components, indeed, consist of matter in different states; each of them is, as it were, a distinct aura, and would, if the others were withdrawn, be seen to occupy the whole space covered by the entire mass. They are described as of obviously different degrees of attenuation, and each apparently penetrates the one next below, as the Etheric Double is seen to penetrate the physical body.
The first, beginning at the lowest and most material level, may be regarded as appertaining more especially to the physical body, and may conveniently be called the "Health Aura," from the fact that its condition is greatly affected by the health of the body to which it is attached. It is almost colourless, but becomes perceptible by reason of possessing a curious system of radial striation that is to say, it is marked by, or perhaps might be described as composed of, an enormous number of straight lines radiating evenly in all directions from the body. That, at least, is the normal condition of these lines when the body is in perfect health. They are each separated from one another, and as nearly parallel as their radiation allows; but wherever disease affects the body there the lines in the neighbourhood of the organs affected fall into confusion, cross one another in all directions, and present the appearance of being tangled together.
The second component of the aura consists of that vital energy, or specialised Jiva, discernible when circulating within the Etheric Double. It is then of a delicate rosy tint, but loses this and becomes of a faint bluish white hue as it radiates outwards. It seems to be the influence under which the lines of the health aura remain radial in their position when the body is in good health. I have known a case in which the clairvoyant has perceived the more or less crumpled lines in the health aura of a person suffering from some nervous prostration, straighten out under the influence of fresh Jivic energy poured into him by a mesmeric operator. The appearance of the Jivic aura, to persons who can discern it, has some resemblance to that appearance which heated air presents when seen in summer rising from ground exposed to the sun's rays. It may also be likened to the faint condensation of vapour due to the breath when perceived in an atmosphere barely cold enough to render it visible, but just below the point at which it would be completely invisible. There is some curious resemblance to be further detected between the Jivic aura of a human being and the magnetic aura which Baron Reichenbach has studied. It is safe to conclude that there is a difference between these two phenomena, because the vital organism of a human being must specialise the general life-principle of Nature in some way different from that in which it is specialised by magnetic and electric instruments. But the Jivic aura (which is itself by far the most visible element in the human aura, so that it will sometimes be seen by persons not clairvoyant enough to perceive any of the other components) is to all appearance identical in its nature with similar emanations which may, under some circumstances, be perceived as coming from magnets and electrical instruments which have been in activity.
One very important and interesting circumstance connected with the Jivic aura is, that to a certain extent it seems to be under the control of the will. At all events, people far advanced enough in psychic development to see it, and others even who cannot see it, but who are intellectually advanced enough to comprehend it, can control its radiation, prevent its dispersion beyond the limits of their own aura, and gather it on the external periphery of this, so to speak, in such a way that it forms a kind of wall or shell around them, that greatly enhances its protective effect, and may render it impervious to any kind of astral or elemental influence as long as the effort of the will is maintained.
In this way an occultist may pass into the most infected atmosphere with perfect impunity. And here, perhaps, I may venture to attempt a little practical recipe for the benefit of those intuitive enough to appreciate its significance, and thus qualified to profit by the hint. The phrase, "an effort of will," is, of course, very vague and indefinite. The difficulty is to translate the want or desire for a certain result into the operative energy of that mysterious power residing within the human being which we call the will; and the first thing to do is to help that closely allied faculty, loosely described as the imagination, to picture before itself clearly the object to be gained. This may be done by any one whose imagination at all transcends the limits of commonplace ignorance and incredulity concerning the unseen, in the following way. I<et the person who desires to protect himself by a magnetic shell inhale a deep breath, and slowly breathe it out, picturing in his own imagination that he is as indeed in very truth he is doing throwing out a cloud of magnetic Jiva. Let him imagine this clinging to the external limits of the aura around him, spreading over it as water might spread in a thin film over a surface, and clinging more and more tenaciously with each exhalation of the breath. A person who does that with full belief in the efficacy of the process, whether such belief is derived from his own observation or from the intelligent appreciation of evidence on the subject, produces a definite result, and becomes protected for a time both from disease germs and from disagreeable influences on the astral plane. The protection, however, is likely to wear off in a little while in ten minutes or a quarter of an hour unless sustained by renewed thought directed to its maintenance.
Coming now to the aura of the fourth principle, we begin to approach the region of those appearances which have to do with something more than bodily conditions even of the finer order. Keeping to proper occult nomenclature, this aura would be called the Kamic aura that which has to do with the animal phase of man's consciousness, and the appearance of which expresses to those who comprehend its significance the general state of the lower sensual nature in any individual observed. This aura is the field of manifestation, or the mirror in which every feeling, every desire, is reflected. From it, material, bodily form is given to the dark elementals which men create and set in motion by evil wishes and malicious feeling. It constitutes that astral body in which those who find themselves able to do so, travel about on another plane, while the physical body sleeps. As might naturally be expected, there is little permanency about its manifestations. Its colours, its brilliancy, are all changing from moment to moment. An outburst of anger will charge the whole aura with deep red flashes on a dark ground, while sudden terror will in a moment change everything to a mass of ghastly livid grey.
The highest component of the aura to which clairvoyance short of adeptship can penetrate, is the aura of the Higher Manas. It is not by any means around every person that such an aura would be seen at all. In some mysterious way, of course, its potentiality resides in every human being, but except in those cases where the higher self is evolved to considerable activity, it would be vain to attempt to discern its emanation within the denser clouds of the lower principles. It is described by those who can see it as of almost inconceivable delicacy and beauty, perhaps less a cloud than a living light. But though rarely discernible in ordinary human beings, in those where the spiritual nature is very much the more powerful factor of the whole composition it simply outshines all the rest with startling brilliancy to observers qualified to perceive such phenomena.
This aura is, in fact, the Karana Sharira, the vehicle of the consciousness on the Arupa plane of Devachan the Higher Self for all practical purposes if we respectfully put aside for the present any attempt to examine the aspect of consciousness on the plane of Buddhi. The "Carrier Body" is a term applied to it in some Indian books, meaning that it is the vehicle which carries over the consciousness of the individual from life to life. As the human being advances in evolution the Karana Sharira becomes larger, as well as more defined in outline always maintaining the ovoid form, and has thus in some theosophic writings been spoken of as the "auric egg." This multiplicity of terms is confusing to the beginner, but all confusion disappears when the ideas concerned are rightly apprehended.
When the physical body is seen set in the midst of its higher vehicles, these, overlapping it on all sides, present the appearance of an emanation, and from this point of view are spoken of as the aura; but in all consideration of that subject it is well to keep hold of the fundamental thought that the aura is really made up of the higher vehicles extending over a larger volume of space than that occupied by the physical body. When people are closely massed together, the auras the higher vehicles mingle in a curious way and catch, influences one from the other, unless they are specially managed with occult knowledge.
Some of the principles are separable from one another during life, but from the explanations already given it will be seen that this conception in reference to them must not be pushed too far. At the lower end of the scale that the third principle the Jiva could not be separated from the Etheric Double, of which it is the very life. And though the Etheric Double, plus its Jiva, may under abnormal conditions be separated for a time from the physical body, such separation would mean the death of the physical body if prolonged beyond brief periods, and no such separation falls within the regular course of any occult exercise. Again, at the other end of the scale there is no possibility within the range of any conditions of spiritual elevation that we need talk about at present of separating the Buddhi principle from Karana Sharira. But the fourth and fifth principles are readily separable from their lower envelopes; and the fourth (carrying with it the higher principles) does actually separate from the body even of ordinary non-psychic people in sleep. The separation becomes possible for occultists advanced in training to a certain degree as an act of will, or again, in cases where the training is still further advanced, the fifth principle the true Ego or Higher Self may be disentangled from the astral body (which in such cases would be left behind with the physical body). The soul is then said to be established in its Mayavi Rupa, the vehicle adapted to its manifestation on the lower levels of Devachan. The character of these manifestations on the astral and Devachanic planes will be appreciated better when the regions of Nature in question have been more systematically examined.