To the Editor of Light.
“sir, – As this is a question of extreme importance, practically no less than philosophically, and we have been largely referred to in the discussion of it in your columns, and our teaching impugned, we shall be much obliged if you will allow us to supplement “C.C.M.’s” able exposition of the Theosophical doctrine concerning it by some remarks tending to elucidate it yet more fully.
For the attainment of a sound conclusion upon any subject it is indispensable that there be, first, sound premisses, and, secondly, sound reasoning from these premisses. For, however excellent in itself may be the superstructure constituted by the latter, it can have no stability unless the former also be secure. It is the second only of these conditions which has been fulfilled by the Hon. Roden Noel. He has reasoned correctly from his premisses, but those premisses are in themselves defective. Hence, notwithstanding the knowledge and skill displayed in his superstructure, it lacks that first condition of stability, a firm foundation.
The consequences of this characteristic of Mr. Noel’s treatment of the subject are, even to his own position, disastrous in the extreme. Not only does he deprive of their only possible explanation some of the principal and most incontestable facts of spiritual cognition, but, even while seeking to uphold the current orthodox presentments of the doctrines of the Trinity, the Logos, and Creation, he, in denying the possibility of differentiation of the Ego, and ignoring the differentiation of Substance, makes the Trinity, the Logos, and the Universe one and all alike impossible!
This assumption – so fatal – of the indivisibility of the Ego has its rise in a misconception of the nature of the Substance and the constitution of the entity concerned. Mr. Noel not only treats as simple that which is complex, but, in likening the
astral envelope, or “Shell,” to a material fabric, such as a coat, and arguing that the former is, when separated from its central Ego, as devoid of consciousness as the latter, he compares things which differ so essentially as to have between them no point of similitude, and which are, therefore, incapable of comparison, namely, living, conscient Substance with lifeless, manufactured stuff.
The following account of the nature and constitution of the individual system will render the Theosophical position clearly intelligible. Taking it for granted that those of your readers who are sufficiently interested in the question to follow this discussion have already made themselves familiar with The Perfect Way, we shall refrain from repeating what we have there said respecting the fourfoldness of the constitution of Existence, and come at once to the question of the nature and mode of distribution of Consciousness.
Remembering that Spirit is Consciousness, and that, therefore, all differentiations of Spirit – the material, the astral, and the psychic – are modes of Consciousness, originally proceeding from and indefeasibly permeated by Spirit, it becomes obvious that the consciousness of the Ego of any individual system consists in the sum-total of the consciousnesses of all its individual particles, and, though single, is the resultant of the innumerable minute individual personalities which, bound harmoniously together, compose the system.
The consciousness of the Ego thus resulting depends, necessarily, both in quantity and quality, upon the character and condition of the constituent elements of its system. Consciousness, therefore, is not so much a Thing as a Condition, as the following illustration will shew. Let us imagine an incandescent globe, consisting of several concentric spheres or zones, each zone of course containing all those which are nearer to the centre than itself. Of this fiery ball the radiant point, or heart, occupies and constitutes the innermost and central zone, and each successive zone constitutes a circumferential halo more or less intense according to its proximity to, or remoteness from, the radiant point. But each such zone is secondary and derived only, and is not in itself a source of luminous radiation.
This illustration applies alike to Macrocosm and to Microcosm. In the human kingdom the interior zone, which immediately contains the radiant point, the Divine Spirit, and is Nucleus to its Nucleolus, is the Soul, Psyche. And by this one indivisible
effulgence the successive zones are illuminated in unbroken continuity, but the source of this effulgence is not in them. As his radiant point is the Divine spark, or spiritual Ego, so this effulgence is Consciousness. And inasmuch as Spirit is Consciousness, and Consciousness is manifold, and all things are modes and manifestations of it, the Ego, though One, comprehends in its Unity many personalities. Were it not so, there could be no Universe, no Man, but only one point of Light, spreading no rays – a thing against reason and altogether impossible, since it is the very nature of light to be radiant, that is, to emit itself.
Similarly, in the human system Consciousness emits Consciousness, and transmits it first to the astral, and last to the material man; first, that is, to the Anima bruta, which, after death, constitutes the Phantom, Ruach, or “Shell”; and, last, to the physical body. But the more concentrated the Consciousness, the brighter and more effulgent the central spark. And every part of man is conscious in its own mode and degree, and capable of independent expression. Thus in the phenomenal manifestations of Somnambulism, either the Anima bruta and the physical body exhibit consciousness, while that of the soul is suspended; or the soul exhibits consciousness, while that of the spheres exterior to it is suspended. And the part which remains conscious (a thing dependent on the characters and desires of the person or persons concerned in the manifestation) is capable of reflection, of thought, of memory, even of intelligent invention, according to its kind and its endowments. For in being diffusive, Consciousness is also divisible.
Now, if from our supposed incandescent globe we take away the central radiant spark, the whole globe does not immediately become dark, but the effulgence lingers in each zone according to its position in regard to the centre, the outermost first becoming dark. So is it at the dissolution of the man. From his outermost and lowest sphere, the physical body, the consciousness speedily departs. In the shade, Nephesch, which is an emanation from the dead body, as the “Astral” is from the living, – Mr. Noel seems to confound the shade with the Ruach – consciousness lingers a brief while. In the Ruach (Anima bruta, astral soul, or Shell) consciousness lasts long, it may be for many centuries, according to the strength of the lower will of the individual, manifesting the distinctive characteristics of his outer personality. In the soul, the immediate receptacle of the Divine Spirit, the consciousness is everlasting as the soul herself. And while
the Ruach remains below in the astral sphere, the soul, Psyche, obeying the same universal law of gravitation, detaches herself and mounts to the higher atmosphere suited to her, there to undergo purification prior to her further evolution; unless, indeed, she be wholly gross and devoid of aspiration, in which case she remains “bound” in her astral envelope as in a prison.
For being an agglomeration of all the essences of the myriad consciousnesses which compose the human system, the soul is as the apex of a flame – its upper, purer, and intenser part – having for fuel the body, and for the lower part the astral sphere. And from these it is separable as is a flame from its fuel, or as one part of a flame from another part, yet leaving an energetic flame behind it, and it is capable of transference to other affinities as a flame is transferable from one mass of combustible material to another.
Meanwhile the Ruach, or astral Shell, on its detachment from the soul, continues to operate in the same manner as before such separation, just as does Mr. Noel’s hypothetical old coat after he has ceased to wear it. For to everything belongs its proper behaviour. The coat holds its parts and its warp and woof together; and maintains its colour, shape, consistency, and all other of its characteristics, after he has parted with it. It was a coat when he wore it. It is a coat still.
And so with a man’s astral Ego. In his lifetime its proper function was to reason and think electrically (as distinguished from psychically). It is not a coat; it is Substance having life. And when the soul puts it off, it continues to be what it was; for it is of thought-nature, and it keeps its nature as does the coat. And just as it would be a miracle were the coat, on being discarded, to change its nature and become something else than a coat – say, non-material; so it would be a miracle were the astral phantom, when the soul separates from it, suddenly to change its nature and become something else – say, non-substantial, and devoid of the characteristics it hitherto possessed. Matter remains matter, and psychic substance remains psychic substance. Mr. Noel would make differentiation in the substantial world impossible, a procedure of which the consequences have already been indicated.
This, as we have remarked, is not only a philosophical but a practical question, and we now come to the latter aspect of it. The phantoms of the dead resemble mirrors having double surfaces. On one side they reflect the earth-sphere
and its picture of the past; on the other they receive influxes from those higher spheres which have received their higher Egos – these consisting, as already described, of the most sublimated essences of the lower. The interval, however, between the two is better described as of condition than of place or time; for these belong to the physical and mundane, and have no existence for the freed soul. This is because there is no Far or Near in the Divine.
The Ruach, however, has hopes which are not without justification. It does not all die. The soul, on attaining Nirvana, gathers up all that it has left within the astral of holy memories and worthy experiences. To this end the Ruach rises in the astral sphere by the gradual decay and loss of its more material affinities, until these have so disintegrated and perished that its substance is thereby lightened and purified. But continued commerce and intercourse with earth add, as it were, fresh fuel to its earthly affinities, keeping these alive, and so hinders its recall to its spiritual Ego. And thus, therefore, the spiritual Ego itself is detained from perfect absorption into the Divine.
The Ruach survives only insomuch as it is worthy of such recall. The astral sphere which it inhabits is also its place of purgation. And “Saturn,” who, as Time, is the “devourer of his own children,” even those who being born only of Time have in them no Divine, enduring element, devours the dross, and suffers only that which is ethereal to escape.
This “death” of the Ruach is gradual and natural. It is a process of disintegration and elimination extending over periods greater or less according to the character of the individual. Those which have belonged to evil persons, having strong wills and disposed earthwards, persist longest and manifest most frequently and vividly, because they rise not, but being destined to extinction are not withdrawn from immediate contact with the earth. These are all dross; there is in them no redeemable or redemptive element. The Ruach of the righteous, on the other hand, complains if his evolution be disturbed. “Why callest thou me?” he may be represented as saying. “Disturb me not. The memories of my earth-life are chains about my neck. The desire of the past detains me. Suffer me to rise towards my rest, and hinder me not with evocations. But let thy love go after me and encompass me. Rise thou with me through sphere after sphere.”
Thus even though, as often happens, the Ruach of a righteous man remains near one who, being also righteous, has loved him,
it is still after the true soul of his dead that the love of the living friend goes, and not after his lower personality represented in the Ruach. And it is the strength and divinity of this love which helps the purgation of the astral soul, being to it an indication of the way it ought to go, “a light shining upon the upward path” which leads from the astral to the celestial and everlasting.
A knowledge of the physical is an indispensable aid to the comprehension of the metaphysical. The chemist is well aware that a great number of substances which to ordinary observation appear indubitably simple, both in their nature and in their operation, are in reality complex and divisible. Thus water, once universally regarded as an element, is now known by all to be a complex substance composed of two elements united in invariable proportion, and easily divisible into its factors. The same occurs with a number of chemical bodies which, though behaving as simple in many combinations, yet are divisible by analysis into several elementary substances. To all ordinary perception these bodies appear simple entities, since they exhibit affinities as such, but when the right test is applied, they dissolve and separate into their distinct constituents.
Similarly with the human body. The material of the brain is constituted of countless cells and connecting fibres, and each cell has its own consciousness according to its kind and degree. Nevertheless the resultant of all these concordant functions is one Perception and one Consciousness. There is also a Consciousness of the nerves, another of the blood, and another of the tissues. There is a consciousness of the eye, another of the ear, and another of the touch. And so with every bodily organ. And all these work continuously in the body, each according to its kind and its order, yet the intellect of the man knows nothing of it. And if one of these living organs be interrogated, it answers after its own kind.
If, then, man comprises in his own physical body so many diverse parts which he can neither direct nor discern, why should it appear strange that his ethereal Self should be similarly multiple? The Anima bruta is as an organ of the Spiritual Man, and though it be a part of him, its acts, its functions, and its consciousness are not identical with those of the Anima Divina. Consciousness is divisible, and diffusible, in man as in God, in the planet as in the universe. And One Law is throughout all, for “He who worketh is One.”
THE WRITERS OF “THE
(197:1) Letter written by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, and published in Light, 1883, p. 63. (See Life of A.K., Vol. II, pp. 107-109). – S.H.H.