The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett

Theosophical University Press Edition

Letter No. 16

[Mr. Sinnett's queries to which K.H. replies in this letter are printed in bold type. — Ed.]

(1) The remarks appended to a letter in the last Theosophist,page 226, Col. 1, strike me as very important and as qualifying — I do not say contradicting — a good deal of what we have hitherto been told in re Spiritualism.

We had heard already of a spiritual condition of life in which the redeveloped ego enjoyed a conscious existence for a time before reincarnation in another world; but that branch of the subject has hitherto been slurred over. Now some explicit statements are made about it; and these suggest further enquiries.

In the deva-chan (I have lent my Theosophist to a friend; and have not got it at hand to refer to but that if I remember rightly is the name given to the state of spiritual beatitude described) the new ego retains complete recollection of his life on earth apparently. Is that so or is there any misunderstanding on that point on my part?

(1) The Deva-Chan, or land of "Sukhavati," is allegorically described by our Lord Buddha himself. What he said may be found in the Shan-Mun-yi-Tung. Says Tathagata: —

. . . "Many thousand myriads of systems of worlds beyond this [ours] there is a region of Bliss called Sukhavati . . . . This region is encircled within seven rows of railings, seven rows of vast curtains, seven rows of waving trees; this holy abode of Arahats is governed by the Tathagatas [Dhyan Chohans] and is possessed by the Bodhisatwas. It hath seven precious lakes in the midst of which flow crystaline waters having 'seven and one' properties, or distinctive qualities [the 7 principles emanating from the One]. This, O Sariputra is the 'Deva-Chan.' Its divine Udambara flower casts a root in the shadow of every earth, and blossoms for all those who reach it. Those born in the blessed region are truly felicitous: there are no more griefs or sorrows in that cycle for them. . . . Myriads of spirits [lha] resort there for rest and then return to their own regions. (1) Again, O, Sariputra, in that land of joy many who are born in it are Avaivartyas (2) . . ." etc., etc.

(2) Now except in the fact that the duration of existence in the Deva Chan is limited, there is a very close resemblance between that condition and the Heaven of ordinary religion (omitting anthropomorphic ideas of God).

(2) Certainly the new Ego once that it is reborn, retains for a certain time — proportionate to its earth-life, a "complete recollection of his life on earth." (3) (See your preceding query.) But it can never return on earth from the Deva-Chan, nor has the latter — even omitting all "anthropomorphic ideas of God" — any resemblance to the paradise or heaven of any religion, and it is H.P.B.'s literary fancy that suggested to her the wonderful comparison.

(3) Now the question of importance — is who goes to Heaven — or Deva Chan? Is this condition only attained by the few who are very good, or by the many who are not very bad, — after the lapse in their case of a longer unconscious incubation or gestation.

(3) "Who goes to Deva-Chan?" The personal Ego of course, but beatified, purified, holy. Every Ego — the combination of the sixth and seventh principles — which, after the period of unconscious gestation is reborn into the Deva-Chan, is of necessity as innocent and pure as a new-born babe. The fact of his being reborn at all, shows the preponderance of good over evil in his old personality. And while the Karma (of Evil) steps aside for the time being to follow him in his future earth-reincamation, he brings along with him but the Karma of his good deeds, words, and thoughts into this Deva-Chan. "Bad" is a relative term for us — as you were told more than once before, — and the Law of Retribution is the only law that never errs. Hence all those who have not slipped down into the mire of unredeemable sin and bestiality — go to the Deva Chan. They will have to pay for their sins, voluntary and involuntary, later on. Meanwhile, they are rewarded; receive the effects of the causes produced by them.

Of course it is a state. One, so to say, of intense selfishness, during which an Ego reaps the reward of his unselfishness on earth. He is completely engrossed in the bliss of all his personal earthly affections, preferences and thoughts, and gathers in the fruit of his meritorious actions. No pain, no grief nor even the shadow of a sorrow comes to darken the bright horizon of his unalloyed happiness: for, it is a state of perpetual "Maya" . . . Since the conscious perception of one's personality on earth is but an evanescent dream that sense will be equally that of a dream in the Deva-Chan — only a hundred fold intensified. So much so, indeed, that the happy Ego is unable to see through the veil, the evils, sorrows and woes to which those it loved on earth may be subjected to. It lives in that sweet dream with its loved ones — whether gone before, or yet remaining on earth; it has them near itself, as happy, as blissful and as innocent as the disembodied dreamer himself; and yet, apart from rare visions, the denizens of our gross planet feel it not. It is in this — during such a condition of complete maya — that the Souls or astral Egos of pure, loving sensitives, labouring under the same illusion, think their loved ones come down to them on earth, while it is their own Spirits that are raised towards those in the Deva-Chan. Many of the subjective spiritual communications — most of them when the sensitives are pure minded — are real; but it is most difficult for the uninitiated medium to fix in his mind the true and correct pictures of what he sees and hears. Some of the phenomena called psychography (though more rarely) are also real. The spirit of the sensitive getting odylized, so to say, by the aura of the Spirit in the Deva-Chan, becomes for a few minutes that departed personality, and writes in the hand-writing of the latter, in his language and in his thoughts — as they were during his life time. The two spirits become blended in one; and, the preponderance of one over the other during such phenomena determines the preponderance of personality in the characteristics exhibited in such writings and "trance-speaking." What you call "rapport" is in plain fact an identity of molecular vibration between the astral part of the incarnate medium and the astral part of the disincarnate personality. I have just noticed an article on smell by some English professor (which I will cause to be reviewed in the Theosophist and say a few words), and find in it something that applies to our case. As, in music, two different sounds may be in accord and separately distinguishable, and this harmony or discord depends upon the synchronous vibrations and complementary periods; so there is rapport between medium and "control" when their astral molecules move in accord. And the question whether the communication shall reflect more of the one personal idiosyncracy or the other, is determined by the relative intensity of the two sets of vibrations in the compound wave of akasa. The less identical the vibratory impulses the more mediumistic and less spiritual will be the message. So then, measure your medium's moral state by that of the alleged "controlling" Intelligence, and your tests of genuineness leave nothing to be desired.

(4) Or are there great varieties of condition within the limits so to speak of Deva Chan, so that an appropriate state is dropped into by all, from which they will be born into lower or higher conditions in the next world of causes. It is no use multiplying hypotheses. We want some information to go upon.

(4) Yes; there are great varieties in the Deva-Chan states, and, it is all as you say. As many varieties of bliss, as on earth there are shades of perception and of capability to appreciate such reward. It is an ideated paradise, in each case of the Ego's own making, and by him filled with the scenery, crowded with the incidents, and thronged with the people he would expect to find in such a sphere of compensative bliss. And it is that variety which guides the temporary personal Ego into the current which will lead him to be reborn in a lower or higher condition in the next world of causes. Everything is so harmoniously adjusted in nature — especially in the subjective world, that no mistake can be ever committed by the Tathagatas — or Dhyan Chohans — who guide the impulses.

(5) On the face of the idea, a purely spiritual state would only be enjoyable to the entities highly spiritualized in this life. But there are myriads of very good people (morally) who are not spiritualized at all. How can they be fitted to pass, with their recollections of this life from a material to a spiritual condition of existence.

(5) It is "a spiritual condition" only as contrasted with our own grossly "material condition" and, as already stated — it is such degrees of spirituality that constitute and determine the great "varieties" of conditions within the limits of Deva-Chan. A mother from a savage tribe is not less happy than a mother from a regal palace, with her lost child in her arms; and although as actual Egos, children prematurely dying before the perfection of their septenary Entity do not find their way to Deva-Chan, yet all the same, the mother's loving fancy finds her children there, without one missing that her heart yearns for. Say — it is but a dream, but after all what is objective life itself but a panorama of vivid unrealities? The pleasure realised by a Red Indian in his "happy hunting grounds" in that Land of Dreams is not less intense than the ecstasy felt by a connoisseur who passes æons in the wrapt delight of listening to divine Symphonies by imaginary angelic choirs and orchestras. As it is no fault of the former, if born a "savage" with an instinct to kill — though it caused the death of many an innocent animal — why, if with it all, he was a loving father, son, husband, why should he not also enjoy his share of reward? The case would be quite different if the same cruel acts had been done by an educated and civilised person, from a mere love of sport. The savage in being reborn would simply take a low place in the scale, by reason of his imperfect moral development; while the Karma of the other would be tainted with moral delinquency. . . .

Every one but that ego which, attracted by its gross magnetism, falls into the current that will draw it into the "planet of Death" — the mental as well as physical satellite of our earth — is fitted to pass into a relative "spiritual" condition, adjusted to his previous condition in life and mode of thought. To my knowledge and recollection H.P.B. explained to Mr. Hume that man's sixth principle, as something purely spiritual could not exist, or have conscious being in the Deva-Chan, unless it assimilated some of the more abstract and pure of the mental attributes of the fifth principle or animal Soul: its manas (mind) and memory. When man dies his second and third principles die with him: the lower triad disappears, and the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh principles form the surviving Quaternary. (Read again page 6 in Fragments of O.T.) (4) Thenceforth it is a "death" struggle between the Upper and Lower dualities. If the upper wins, the sixth, having attracted to itself the quintessence of Good from the fifth — its nobler affections, its saintly (though they be earthly) aspirations, and the most spiritualised portions of its mind — follows its divine elder (the 7th) into the "Gestation" State; and the fifth and fourth remain in association as an empty shell — (the expression is quite correct) — to roam in the earth's atmosphere, with half the personal memory gone, and the more brutal instincts fully alive for a certain period — an "Elementary" in short. This is the "angel-guide" of the average medium. If, on the other hand, it is the Upper Duality which is defeated, then, it is the fifth principle that assimilates all that there may be left of personal recollection and perceptions of its personal individuality in the sixth. But, with all this additional stock, it will not remain in Kama-Loka — "the world of Desire" or our Earth's atmosphere. In a very short time like a straw floating within the attraction of the vortices and pits of the Maelstrom, it is caught up and drawn into the great whirlpool of human Egos; while the sixth and seventh — now a purely Spiritual, individual monad, with nothing left in it of the late personality, having no regular "gestation" period to pass through: (since there is no purified personal Ego to be reborn), after a more or less prolonged period of unconscious Rest in the boundless Space — will find itself reborn in another personality on the next planet. When arrives the period of "Full Individual Consciousness," which precedes that of Absolute Consciousness in the Pari-Nirvana — this lost personal life becomes as a torn out page in the great Book of Lives, without even a disconnected word left to mark its absence. The purified monad will neither perceive nor remember it in the series of its past rebirths — which it would had it gone to the "World of Forms" (rupa loka) — and its retrospective glance will not perceive even the slightest sign to indicate that it had been. The light of Samma-Sambuddh

". . . that light which shines beyond our mortal ken
 The line of all the lives in all the worlds " —

throws no ray upon that personal life in the series of lives foregone.

To the credit of mankind, I must say, that such an utter obliteration of an existence from the tablets of Universal Being does not occur often enough to make a great percentage. In fact, like the much mentioned "congenital idiot" such a thing is a lusus naturae — an exception, not the rule.

(6) And how is a spiritual existence in which everything has merged into the sixth principle, compatible with that consciousness of individual and personal material life which must be attributed to the Ego in DevaChan if he retains his earthly consciousness as stated in the Theosophist Note.

(6) The question is now sufficiently explained, I believe: the sixth and seventh principles apart from the rest constitute the eternal imperishable, but also unconscious "monad." To awaken in it to life the latent consciousness, especially that of personal individuality, requires the monad plus the highest attributes of the fifth — the "animal Soul"; and it is that which makes the ethereal Ego that lives and enjoys bliss in the Deva-Chan. Spirit, or the unalloyed emanation of the One — the latter forming with the seventh and sixth principles the highest triad — neither of the two emanations are capable of assimilating but that which is good, pure and holy; hence, no sensual, material or unholy recollection can follow the purified memory of the Ego to the region of Bliss. The Karma for these recollections of evil deeds and thought will reach the Ego when it changes its personality in the following world of causes. The monad or the "Spiritual Individuality" remains untainted in all cases. "No sorrow or Pain for those born there (in the Rupa-Loka of Deva-Chan); for this is the Pure-land. All the regions in Space possess such lands (Sakwala), but this land of Bliss is the most pure." In the Djnana Prasthana Shaster, it is said: "by personal purity and earnest meditation, we overleap the limits of the World of Desire, and enter in the World of Forms."

(7) The period of gestation between Death and Deva Chan has hitherto been conceived by me at all events as very long. Now it is said to be in some cases only a few days, in no cases (it is implied) more than a few years. This seems plainly stated, but I ask if it can be explicitly confirmed because it is a point on which so much turns.

(7) Another fine example of the habitual disorder in which Mrs. H.P.B.'s mental furniture is kept. She talks of "Bardo" and does not even say to her readers what it means! As in her writing room confusion is ten times confounded, so in her mind are crowded ideas piled in such a chaos that when she wants to express them the tail peeps out before the head. "Bardo" has nothing to do with the duration of time in the case you are referring to. "Bardo" is the period between death and rebirth — and may last from a few years to a Kalpa. It is divided into three sub-periods (1) when the Ego delivered of its mortal coil enters into Kama-Loka (5) (the abode of Elementaries); (2) when it enters into its "Gestation State"; (3) when it is reborn in the Rupa-Loka of Deva-Chan. Sub-period 1 may last from a few minutes to a number of years — the phrase "a few years" becoming puzzling and utterly worthless without a more complete explanation; Sub-period 2 is "very long"; as you say, longer sometimes than you may even imagine, yet proportionate to the Ego's spiritual stamina; Sub-period 3 lasts in proportion to the good Karma, after which the monad is again reincarnated. The Agama Sutra saying: — "in all these Rupa Lokas, the Devas (Spirits) are equally subjected to birth, decay, old age, and death," means only that an Ego is born thither then begins fading out and finally "dies," i.e., falls into that unconscious condition which precedes rebirth; and ends the Sloka with these words — "As the devas emerge from these heavens, they enter the lower world again": i.e., they leave a world of bliss to be reborn in a world of causes.

(8) In that case, and assuming that Deva Chan is not solely the heritage of adepts and persons almost as elevated, there is a condition of existence tantamount to Heaven actually going on, from which the life of Earth may be watched by an immense number of those who have gone before! (9) And for how long? Does this state of spiritual beatitude endure for years? for decades? for centuries?

(8) Most emphatically "the Deva-Chan is not solely the heritage of adepts," and most decidedly there is a "heaven" — if you must use this astro-geographical Christian term — for "an immense number of those who have gone before." But "the life of Earth" can be watched by none of these, for reasons of the Law of Bliss plus maya, already given.

(9) For years, decades, centuries and milleniums, oftentimes multiplied by something more. It all depends upon the duration of Karma. Fill with oil Den's little cup, and a city Reservoir of water, and lighting both, see which burns the longer. The Ego is the wick and Karma the oil: the difference in the quantity of the latter (in the cup and the reservoir) suggesting to you the great difference in the duration of various Karmas. Every effect must be proportionate to the cause. And, as man's terms of incarnate existence bear but a small proportion to his periods of internatal existence in the manvantaric cycle, so the good thoughts, words, and deeds of any one of these "lives" on a globe are causative of effects, the working out of which requires far more time than the evolution of the causes occupied. Therefore, when you read in the Jats and other fabulous stories of the Buddhist Scriptures that this or the other good action was rewarded by Kalpas of several figures of bliss, do not smile at the absurd exaggeration, but bear in mind what I have said. From a small seed, you know, sprung a tree whose life endures now for 22 centuries; I mean the Anurādha-pura Bo tree. Nor must you laugh, if ever you come across Pindha-dhana or any other Buddhist Sutra and read: "Between the Kama Loka and the Rupa Loka, there is a locality, the dwelling of 'Mara' (death). This Mara filled with passion and lust, destroys all virtuous principles, as a stone grinds corn. (6) His palace is 7,000 yojanas square, and is surrounded by a seven-fold wall," for you will feel now more prepared to understand the allegory. Also, when Beal, or Burnouf, or Rhys Davids in the innocence of their Christian and materialistic souls indulge in such translations as they generally do, we do not bear them malice for their commentaries, since they cannot know any better. But what can the following mean: — "The names of the Heavens" (a mistranslation; lokas are not heavens but localities or abodes) of Desire, Kama-Loka — so called, because the beings who occupy them are subject to desires of eating, drinking, sleeping and love. They are otherwise called the abodes of the five (?) orders of sentient creatures — Devas, men, asuras, beasts, demons" (Lantan Sutra, trans. by S. Beal). They mean simply that, had the reverend translator been acquainted with the true doctrine a little better — he would have (1) divided the Devas into two classes — and called them the "Rupa-devas" and the "Arupa-devas" (the "form" — or objective, and the "formless" or subjective Dhyan Chohans; and (2) — would have done the same for his class of "men," since there are shells, and "Mara-rupas" — i.e. bodies doomed to annihilation. All these are:

(1) "Rupa-devas" — Dhyan Chohans (7) having forms;
(2) "Arupa-devas" — Dhyan Chohans having no forms
         {above are} Ex-men.
(3) "Pisachas" — (two-principled) ghosts.
(4) "Mara-rupa" — Doomed to death (3 principled).
(5) Asuras — Elementals — having human form
(6) Beasts — Elementals 2nd class — animal Elementals
         {Asuras and Beasts are} Future men.
(7) Rakshasas (Demons) Souls or Astral Forms of sorcerers; men who have reached the apex of knowledge in the forbidden art. Dead or alive they have so to say cheated nature; but it is only temporary — until our planet goes into obscuration, after which they have nolens volens to be annihilated.

It is these seven groups that form the principal divisions of the Dwellers of the subjective world around us. It is in stock No. 1, that are the intelligent Rulers of this world of matter, and who, with all this intelligence are but the blindly obedient instruments of the One; the active agents of a Passive Principle.

And thus are misinterpreted and mistranslated nearly all our Sutras; yet even under that confused jumble of doctrines and words, for one who knows even superficially the true doctrine, there is firm ground to stand upon. Thus, for instance in enumerating the seven lokas of the "Kama-Loka" the Avatamsaka Sutra, gives as the seventh, the "Territory of Doubt." I will ask you to remember the name as we will have to speak of it hereafter. Every such "world" within the Sphere of Effects has a Tathagata, or "Dhyan Chohan" — to protect and watch over, not to interfere with it. Of course, of all men, Spiritualists will be the first to reject and throw off our doctrines to "the limbo of exploded superstitions." Were we to assure them that every one of their "Summerlands" had seven boarding houses in it, with the same number of "Spirit Guides" to "boss" in them, and call these "angels," St. Peters, Johns, and St. Ernests, they would welcome us with open arms. But whoever heard of Tathagats and Dhyan-Chohans, Asuras and Elementals? Preposterous! Still, we are happily allowed — by our friends (Mr. Eglinton, at least) — to be possessed "of a certain Knowledge of occult Sciences" (Vide "Light"). And thus, even this mite of "Knowledge" is at your service, and is now helping me to answer your following question:

Is there any intermediate condition between the spiritual beatitude of Deva Chan, and the forlorn shadow life of the only half conscious elementary reliquiaeof human beings who have lost their sixth principle. Because if so that might give a locus standi in imagination to the Earnests and Joeys of the spiritual mediums — the better sort of controlling "spirits." If so surely that must be a very populous world? from which any amount of "spiritual" communications might come.

Alas, no; my friend; not that I know of. From "Sukhavati" down to the "Territory of Doubt" there is a variety of spiritual states; but I am not aware of any such "intermediate condition." I have told you of the Sakwalas (though I cannot be enumerating them since it would be useless); and even of Avitchi — the "Hell" from which there is no return (7a), and I have no more to tell about. "The forlorn shadow" has to do the best it can. As soon as it has stepped outside the Kama-Loka, and crossed the "Golden Bridge" leading to the "Seven Golden Mountains" the Ego can confabulate no more, with easy-going mediums. No "Earnest" or "Joey" has ever returned from the Rupa Loka — let alone the Arupa-Loka — to hold sweet intercourse with mortals.

Of course there is a "better sort" of reliquiae; and the "shells" or the "earth-walkers" as they are here called, are not necessarily all bad. But even those that are good, are made bad for the time being by mediums. The "shells" may well not care, since they have nothing to lose, anyhow. But there is another kind of "Spirits," we have lost sight of: the suicides and those killed by accident. Both kinds can communicate, and both have to pay dearly for such visits. And now I have again to explain what I mean. Well, this class is the one that the French Spiritists call — "les esprits souffrants." They are an exception to the rule, as they have to remain within the earth's attraction, and in its atmosphere — the Kama-Loka -- till the very last moment of what would have been the natural duration of their lives. In other words, that particular wave of life-evolution must run on to its shore. But it is a sin and cruelty to revive their memory and intensify their suffering by giving them a chance of living an artificial life; a chance to overload their Karma, by tempting them into opened doors, viz., mediums and sensitives, for they will have to pay roundly for every such pleasure. I will explain. The suicides, who, foolishly hoping to escape life, found themselves still alive, have suffering enough in store for them from that very life. Their punishment is in the intensity of the latter. Having lost by the rash act their seventh and sixth principles, though not for ever, as they can regain both — instead of accepting their punishment, and taking their chances of redemption, they are often made to regret life and tempted to regain a hold upon it by sinful means. In the Kama-Loka, the land of intense desires, they can gratify their earthly yearnings but through a living proxy; and by so doing, at the expiration of the natural term, they generally lose their monad for ever. As to the victims of accident — these fare still worse. Unless they were so good and pure, as to be drawn immediately within the Akasic Samadhi, i.e. to fall into a state of quiet slumber, a sleep full of rosy dreams, during which, they have no recollection of the accident, but move and live among their familiar friends and scenes, until their natural life-term is finished, when they find themselves born in the Deva-Chan — a gloomy fate is theirs. Unhappy shades, if sinful and sensual they wander about — (not shells, for their connection with their two higher principles is not quite broken) — until their death-hour comes. Cut off in the full flush of earthly passions which bind them to familiar scenes, they are enticed by the opportunities which mediums afford, to gratify them vicariously. They are the Pisachas, the Incubi, and Succubi of mediaeval times; the demons of thirst, gluttony, lust and avarice, — Elementaries of intensified craft, wickedness and cruelty; provoking their victims to horrid crimes, and revelling in their commission! They not only ruin their victims, but these psychic vampires, borne along by the torrent of their hellish impulses, at last, at the fixed close of their natural period of life — they are carried out of the earth's aura into regions where for ages they endure exquisite suffering and end with entire destruction.

But if the victim of accident or violence be neither very good, nor very bad — an average person — then this may happen to him: A medium who attracts him, will create for him the most undesirable of things: a new combination of Skandhas and a new and evil Karma. But let me give you a clearer idea of what I mean by Karma in this case.

In connexion with this, let me tell you before, that since you seem so interested with the subject, you can do nothing better than to study the two doctrines — of Karma and Nirvana — as profoundly as you can. Unless you are thoroughly well acquainted with the two tenets — the double key to the metaphysics of Abidharma — you will always find yourself at sea in trying to comprehend the rest. We have several sorts of Karma and Nirvana in their various applications — to the Universe, the world, Devas, Buddhas, Bodhisatwas, men and animals — the second including its seven kingdoms. Karma and Nirvana are but two of the seven great Mysteries of Buddhist metaphysics; and but four of the seven are known to the best Orientalists, and that very imperfectly.

If you ask a learned Buddhist priest what is Karma? — he will tell you that Karma is what a Christian might call Providence (in a certain sense only) and a Mahomedan — Kismet, fate or destiny (again in one sense). That it is that cardinal tenet which teaches that, as soon as any conscious or sentient being, whether man, deva, or animal dies, a new being is produced and he or it reappears in another birth, on the same or another planet, under conditions of his or its own antecedent making. Or, in other words that Karma is the guiding power, and Trishna (in Pali Tanha) the thirst or desire to sentiently live — the proximate force or energy, the resultant of human (or animal) action, which, out of the old Skandhas (8) produce the new group that form the new being and control the nature of the birth itself. Or to make it still clearer, the new being, is rewarded and punished for the meritorious acts and misdeeds of the old one; Karma representing an Entry Book, in which all the acts of man, good, bad, or indifferent, are carefully recorded to his debit and credit — by himself, so to say, or rather by these very actions of his. There, where Christian poetical fiction created, and sees a "Recording" Guardian Angel, stern and realistic Buddhist logic, perceiving the necessity that every cause should have its effect — shows its real presence. The opponents of Buddhism have laid great stress upon the alleged injustice that the doer should escape and an innocent victim be made to suffer, — since the doer and the sufferer are different beings. The fact is, that while in one sense they may be so considered, yet in another they are identical. The "old being" is the sole parent — father and mother at once — of the "new being." It is the former who is the creator and fashioner, of the latter, in reality; and far more so in plain truth, than any father in flesh. And once that you have well mastered the meaning of Skandhas you will see what I mean.

It is the group of Skandhas, that form and constitute the physical and mental individuality we call man (or any being). This group consists (in the exoteric teaching) of five Skandhas, namely: Rupa — the material properties or attributes; Vedana — sensations; Sanna — abstract ideas; Sankhara — tendencies both physical and mental; and Vinnana — mental powers, an amplification of the fourth — meaning the mental, physical and moral predispositions. We add to them two more, the nature and names of which you may learn hereafter. Suffice for the present to let you know that they are connected with, and productive of Sakkayaditthi, the "heresy or delusion of individuality" and of Attavada "the doctrine of Self," both of which (in the case of the fifth principle the soul) lead to the maya of heresy and belief in the efficacy of vain rites and ceremonies; in prayers and intercession.

Now, returning to the question of identity between the old and the new "Ego." I may remind you once more, that even your Science has accepted the old, very old fact distinctly taught by our Lord (9), viz. — that a man of any given age, while sentiently the same, is yet physically not the same as he was a few years earlier (we say seven years and are prepared to maintain and prove it): buddhistically speaking, his Skandhas have changed. At the same time they are ever and ceaselessly at work in preparing the abstract mould, the "privation" of the future new being. Well, then, if it is just that a man of 40 should enjoy or suffer for the actions of the man of 20, so it is equally just that the being of the new birth, who is essentially identical with the previous being — since he is its outcome and creation — should feel the consequences of that begetting Self or personality. Your Western law which punishes the innocent son of a guilty father by depriving him of his parent, rights and property; your civilized Society which brands with infamy the guileless daughter of an immoral, criminal mother; your Christian Church and Scriptures which teach that the "Lord God visits the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation" are not all these far more unjust and cruel than anything done by Karma? Instead of punishing the innocent together with the culprit, the Karma avenges and rewards the former, which neither of your three Western potentates above mentioned ever thought of doing. But perhaps, to our physiological remark the objectors may reply that it is only the body that changes, there is only a molecular transformation, which has nothing to do with the mental evolution, and that the Skandhas represent not only a material but also a set of mental and moral qualities. But is there, I ask, either a sensation, an abstract idea, a tendency of mind, or a mental power, that one could call an absolutely non-molecular phenomenon? Can even a sensation or the most abstract of thoughts which is something, come out of nothing, or be nothing?

Now, the causes producing the "new being" and determining the nature of Karma are, as already said — Trishna (or "tanha") — thirst, desire for sentient existence and upadana — which is the realization or consummation of trishna or that desire. And both of these the medium helps to awaken and to develop nec plus ultra in an Elementary, be he a suicide or a victim. (10) The rule is, that a person who dies a natural death, will remain from "a few hours to several short years," within the earth's attraction, i.e., in the Kama Loka. But exceptions are the cases of suicides and those who die a violent death in general. Hence, one of such Egos, for instance, who was destined to live — say 80 or 90 years, but who either killed himself or was killed by some accident, let us suppose at the age of 20 — would have to pass in the Kama Loka not "a few years," but in his case 60 or 70 years, as an Elementary, or rather an "earth-walker"; since he is not, unfortunately for him, even a "shell." Happy, thrice happy, in comparison, are those disembodied entities, who sleep their long slumber and live in dream in the bosom of Space! And woe to those whose trishna will attract them to mediums, and woe to the latter, who tempt them with such an easy upadana. For in grasping them, and satisfying their thirst for life, the medium helps to develop in them — is in fact the cause of — a new set of skandhas, a new body, with far worse tendencies and passions than was the one they lost. All the future of this new body will be determined thus, not only by the Karma of demerit of the previous set or group but also by that of the new set of the future being. Were the mediums and Spiritualists but to know, as I said, that with every new "angel guide" they welcome with rapture, they entice the latter into an upadana which will be productive of a series of untold evils for the new Ego that will be born under its nefarious shadow, and that with every seance — especially for materialization — they multiply the causes for misery, causes that will make the unfortunate Ego fail in his spiritual birth or be reborn into a worse existence than ever — they would, perhaps, be less lavishing their hospitality.

And now, you may understand why we oppose so strongly Spiritualism and mediumship. And, you will also see, why, to satisfy Mr. Hume, — at least in one direction, — I got myself into a scrape with the Chohan, and mirabile dictu! — with both the Sahibs, "the young men by the name of" — Scott and Banon. To amuse you, I will ask H.P.B. to send you with this a page of the "Banon papyrus," an article of his that he winds up with a severe literary thrashing of my humble self. Shadows of the Asuras, in what a passion she flew upon reading this rather disrespectful criticism! I am sorry she does not print it, upon considerations of "family honour" as the "Disinherited" expressed it. As to the Chohan, the matter is more serious; and, he was far from satisfied that I should have allowed Eglinton to believe it was myself. He had permitted this proof of the power in living man to be given to the Spiritualists through a medium of theirs, but had left the programme and its details to ourselves; hence his displeasure at some trifling consequences. I tell you, my dear friend, that I am far less free to do as I like than you are in the matter of the Pioneer. None of us but the highest Chutuktus are their full masters. But I digress.

And now that you have been told much and had explained a good deal, you may as well read this letter to our irrepressible friend — Mrs. Gordon. The reasons given may throw some cold water on her Spiritualistic zeal, though I have my reasons to doubt it. Anyhow it may show her that it is not against true Spiritualism that we set ourselves, but only against indiscriminate mediumship and — physical manifestations, — materializations and trance-possessions especially. Could the Spiritualists be only made to understand the difference between individuality and personality, between individual and personal immortality and some other truths, they would be more easily persuaded that occultists may be fully convinced of the monad's immortality, and yet deny that of the soul — the vehicle of the personal Ego; that they can firmly believe in, and themselves practice spiritual communications and intercourse with the disembodied Egos of the Rupa Loka, and yet laugh at the insane idea of "shaking hands" with a "Spirit"!; that finally, that as the matter stands, it is the Occultists and the Theosophists who are true Spiritualists, while the modern sect of that name is composed simply of materialistic phenomenalists.

And once that we are discussing "individuality" and "personality," it is curious that H.P.B. when subjecting poor Mr. Hume's brain to torture with her muddled explanations, never thought — until receiving the explanation from himself, of the difference that exists between individuality and personality — that it was the very same doctrine she had been taught: that of Paccika-yana, and of Amita-rana. The two terms as above given by him are the correct and literal translation of the Pali, Sanskrit, and even of the Chino-Tibetan technical names for the many personal entities blended in one Individuality — the long string of lives emanating from the same Immortal monad. You will have to remember them: 

I. — The Paccika Yana — (in Sanskrit "Pratyeka") means literally — the "personal vehicle" or personal Ego, a combination of the five lower principles. While —

I. — The Amita-Yana — (in Sanskrit "Amrita") is translated: "The immortal vehicle," or the Individuality, the Spiritual Soul, or the Immortal monad — a combination of the fifth, sixth and seventh. (11)

It appears to me that one of our great difficulties in trying to understand the progress of affairs turns on our ignorance so far of the divisions of the seven principles. Each has in turn its seven elements we are told: can we be told something more concerning the seven-fold constitution of the fourth and fifth principles especially. It is evidently in the divisibility of these that the secret of the future and of many psychic phenomena here during life, resides.

Quite right. But I must be permitted to doubt whether with the desired explanations the difficulty will be removed, and you will become able to penetrate "the secret of psychic phenomena." You, my good friend, whom I had once or twice the pleasure of hearing playing on your piano in the quiet intervals between dress-coating and a beef & claret dinner — tell me, could you favour me as readily, as with one of your easy waltzes — with one of Beethoven's grand Sonatas? Pray, pray have patience! Yet, I would not refuse you by any means. You will find the fourth and the fifth Principles, divided into roots and Branches on a fly-sheet herein enclosed, if I find time. (12) And now, how long do you propose to abstain from interrogation marks?


K. H.

P.S. — I hope I have now removed all cause for reproaches — my delay in answering your queries notwithstanding, — and that my character is re-established. Yourself and Mr. Hume have received now more information about the A.E. Philosophy than was ever given out to non-initiates within my knowledge. Your sagacity, my kind friend, will have suggested long ago, that it is not so much because of your combined personal virtues — though Mr. Hume, I must confess, has run up a large claim since his conversion — or my personal preferences for either of you, as for other and very apparent reasons. Of all our semi-chelas you two are the most likely to utilize for the general good the facts given you. You must regard them received in trust for the benefit of the whole Society; to be turned over, and employed and re-employed in many ways and in all ways that are good. If you (Mr. Sinnett) would give pleasure to your trans-Himalayan friend, do not suffer any month to pass without writing a Fragment, long or short for the magazine, and then, issuing it as a pamphlet — since you so call it. You may sign them as "A Lay-Chela of K.H.," or in any way you choose. I dare not ask the same favour of Mr. Hume, who has already done more than his share in another direction.

I will not answer your query about your Pioneer connection just now: something may be said on both sides. But at least take no rash decision. We are at the end of the cycle, and you are connected with the T.S.

Under favour of my Karma — I mean to answer tomorrow Mr. Hume's long and kind personal letter. The abundance of MSS. from me of late shows that I have found a little leisure. Their blotched, patchy and mended appearance also proves that my leisure has come by snatches, by constant interruptions, and that my writing has been done in odd places here and there, with such materials as I could pick up. But for the Rule that forbids our using one minim of power until every ordinary means has been tried and failed, I might, of course, have given you a lovely "precipitation" as regards chirography and composition. I console myself for the miserable appearance of my letters with the thought that, perhaps, you may not value them the less, for these marks of my personal subjection to the way-side annoyances which you English so ingeniously reduce to a minimum with your appliances of sorts. As your lady once kindly remarked, they take away most effectually the flavour of miracle, and make us as human beings, more thinkable entities — a wise reflection for which I thank her.

H.P.B. is in despair: the Chohan refused permission to M. to let her come this year further than the Black Rock, and M. very coolly made her unpack her trunks. Try to console her, if you can. Besides, she is really wanted more at Bombay than Penlor. Olcott is on his way to Lanka and Damodar packed up to Poona for a month, his foolish austerities and hard work having broken down his physical constitution. I will have to look after him, and perhaps, to take him away, if it comes to the worst.

Just now I am able to give you a bit of information, which bears upon the so often discussed question of our allowing phenomena. The Egyptian operations of your blessed countrymen involve such local consequences to the body of occultists still remaining there and to what they are guarding, that two of our adepts are already there, having joined some Druze brethren and three more on their way. I was offered the agreeable privilege of becoming an eye-witness to the human butchery, but — declined with thanks. For such great emergencies is our Force stored up, and hence — we dare not waste it on fashionable tamasha.

In about a week — new religious ceremonies, new glittering bubbles to amuse the babes with, and once more I will be busy night and day, morning, noon, and evening. At times I feel a passing regret that the Chohans should not evolute the happy idea of allowing us also a "sumptuary allowance" in the shape of a little spare time. Oh, for the final Rest! For that Nirvana where — "To be one with Life, yet — to live not." Alas, alas! having personally realised that:

". . . the Soul of Things is sweet,
The Heart of Being is celestial Rest,"

one does long for — eternal Rest!

K. H.

Letter 17

Chronological Order

Next: Letter 20a

Previous: Letter 15

Table of Contents


1. Those who have not ended their earth rings. (return to text)

2. Literally — those who will never return — the 7th Round men, etc. (return to text)

3. See back — (1) of your questions. (return to text)

4. O.T. stands for Occult Truth. — ED. (return to text)

5. Tibetan: Yuh-Kai. (return to text)

6. This Mara, as you may well think, is the allegorical image of the sphere called the "Planet of Death" — the whirlpool whither disappear the lives doomed to destruction. It is between Kama and Rupa-Lokas that the struggle takes place. (return to text)

7. The Planetary Spirits of our Earth are not of the highest, as you may well imagine — since, as Subba Row says in his criticism upon Oxley's work that no Eastern adept would like to be compared with an angel or a deva.

See May Theosophist. (return to text)

7a. In Abidharma Shastra (metaphysics) we read: "Buddha taught that on the outskirts of all the Sakwalas, there is a black interval, without Sun or moonlight for him who falls into it. There is no rebirth from it. It is the cold Hell, the great naraka." This is avitchi. (return to text)

8. I remark that in the second as well as in the first edition of your Occult World the same misprint appears, and that the word Skandha is spelt Shandba — on page 130. As it now stands I am made to express myself in a very original way for a supposed adept. (return to text)

9. See the Abhidharma Kosha Vyakhya, the Sutta Pitaka, any Northern Buddhist book, all of which show Gautama Buddha saying that none of these Skandhas is the soul, since the body is constantly changing, and that neither man, animal, nor plant is ever the same for two consecutive days or even minutes. "Mendicants! Remember that there is within man no abiding principle whatever, and that only the learned disciple who acquires wisdom, in saying 'I am' — knows what he is saying." (return to text)

10. Alone the Shells and the Elementals are left unhurt, though the morality of the sensitives can by no means be improved by the intercourse. (return to text)

11. To avoid a fresh surprise and confusion at the news of the fifth keeping company with the sixth and seventh, please turn to page 3, et seq. {answer to question 5} (return to text)

12. I did not find time. Will send it a day or two later. (return to text)