The Mind and its Powers
[Below are given statements by H.P. Blavatsky on the mind and its powers, taken from The Key to Theosophy, Lucifer, Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, “Psychic and Noetic Action,” “Dialogues Between the Two Editors,” Notes from the Theosophist, Five Messages to the American Theosophists. There has been a minimum of editing and a little condensation.]
MANAS [or Mind] is a “principle,” and yet it is an “Entity” and individuality or Ego. He is a “God,” and yet he is doomed to an endless cycle of incarnations, for each of which he is made responsible, and for each of which he has to suffer. All this seems as contradictory as it is puzzling; nevertheless, there are hundreds of people, even in Europe, who realise all this perfectly, for they comprehend the Ego not only in its integrity but in its many aspects. The genealogy of this Ego, in a few lines: Try to imagine a “Spirit,” a celestial Being, whether we call it by one name or another, divine in its essential nature, yet not pure enough to be one with the All, and having, in order to achieve this, to so purify its nature as to finally gain that goal. It can do so only by passing individually and personally, i.e. spiritually and physically, through every experience and feeling that exists in the manifold or differentiated Universe.
Our Ego is a ray of the Universal Mind, individualized for the space of a cosmic life-cycle, during which space of time it gets experience in almost numberless reincarnations or rebirths, after which it returns to its Parent-Source. The Occultist would call the “Higher Ego” the immortal Entity, whose shadow and reflection is the human Manas, the Mind, limited by its physical senses. The two may be well compared to the Master-artist and the pupil-musician. The nature of the Harmony produced on the “organ,” the Divine melody or the harsh discord, depends on whether the pupil is inspired by the immortal Master, and follows its dictates, or, breaking from its high control, is satisfied with the terrestrial sounds produced by itself conjointly with its evil companion—the man of flesh—on the chords and keys of the brain-organ. In the course of natural evolution our “brain-mind” will be replaced by a finer organism, and helped by the sixth and the seventh senses. Even now, there are pioneer minds who have developed these senses.
The Two, the higher and lower Manas are one, and yet they are not—and that is the great mystery. The Higher Manas or ego is essentially divine, and therefore pure; no stain can pollute it, as no punishment can reach it, per se, the more since it is innocent of, and takes no part in, the deliberate transactions of its Lower Ego. Yet by the very fact that, though dual and during life the Higher is distinct from the Lower, “the Father and Son” are one, and because in reuniting with the parent Ego, the Lower Soul fastens upon and impresses upon it all its bad as well as good actions—both have to suffer, the Higher Ego, though innocent and without blemish, has to bear the punishment of the misdeeds committed by the lower Self together with it in their future incarnation. … the Ego is the antitype of that which is on this earth the type, namely the personality. … The Secret Doctrine shows that the Manasa-Putras or incarnating have taken upon themselves, voluntarily and knowingly, the burden of all the future sins of their future personalities. . . . Hence the mystic Hindus say that the Eternal Self, or the Ego (the one in three and three in one), is the “Charioteer” or driver; the personalities are the temporary and evanescent passengers; while the horses are the animal passions of man.
The whole of man is guided by the double-faced Entity. The impulse comes from the “Wisdom above,” the Force applied being noetic or spiritual, the results will be actions worthy of the divine propeller; if from the “terrestrial, devilish wisdom” (psychic power) man’s activities will be selfish, based solely on the exigencies of his physical, hence animal, nature.
The Spiritual thinking Ego, the permanent principle in man, or that which is the seat of Manas, is not Atma, or even Atma-Buddhi, regarded as the dual Monad, which is the individual, or divine man, but Manas; for Atma is the Universal All, and becomes the Higher-Self of Man only in conjunction with Buddhi, its vehicle, which links it to the individuality (or divine man). For it is the Buddhi-Manas which is called the Causal body, and which is Consciousness, that connects it with every personality it inhabits on earth.
Higher Manas (Mind or Ego), and the Kama-Manas, i.e., the rational, but earthly or physical intellect of man, encased in, and bound by matter”, therefore subject to the influence of the latter. . . . The latter “principle” is the Lower Self, or that, which manifesting through our organic system, acting on this plane of illusion, imagines itself the Ego Sum, and thus falls into what Buddhist philosophy brands as the “heresy of separateness.” The former, we term individuality, the latter Personality. From the first proceeds all the noetic element, from the second, the psychic, i.e., “terrestrial wisdom” at best, as it is influenced by all the chaotic stimuli of the human or rather animal passions of the living body. The “Higher Ego” cannot act directly on the body, as its consciousness belongs to quite another plane and planes of ideation; the “lower” Self does; and its action and behaviour depend on its free will and choice as to whether it will gravitate more towards its parent (“the Father in Heaven”) or the “animal” which it informs, the man of flesh. The “Higher Ego,” as part of the essence of the universal mind, is unconditionally omniscient on its own plane, and only potentially so in our terrestrial sphere, as it has to act solely through its alter ego—the Personal Self.
The mind is dual in its potentiality: it is physical and metaphysical. . . . There are persons who never think with the higher faculties of their mind at all; those who do so are the minority. . . . These will think even upon ordinary matters on that higher plane. The idiosyncracy of the person determines in which “principle” of the mind the thinking is done, as also the faculties of a preceding life, and sometimes the heredity of the physical. Optimism and pessimism depend on it also in a large measure. … This difference depends simply on the innate power of the mind to think on the higher or on the lower plane, with the astral, or with the physical brain.
Our “memory” is but a general agent, and its “tablets,” with their indelible impressions, but a figure of speech; the “brain-tablets” serve only as a upadhi or a vahan (basis, or vehicle) for reflecting at a given moment the memory of one or another thing. The records of past events, of every minutest action, and of passing thoughts, in fact are really impressed on the imperishable waves of the astral light, around us and everywhere, not in the brain alone, and these mental pictures, images, and sounds, pass from these waves via the consciousness of the personal Ego of Mind (the lower Manas) whose grosser essence is astral, into the “cerebral reflectors,” so to say, of our brain, whence they are delivered by the psychic to the sensuous consciousness. This at every moment of the day, and even during sleep.
If the Higher Mind-Entity—the permanent and the immortal—is of the divine homogeneous essence of “Alaya-Akasa,” or Mahat,—its reflection, the Personal Mind, is, as a temporary “Principle,” of the Substance of the Astral Light. As a pure ray of the “Son of the Universal Mind,” it could perform no functions in the body and would remain powerless over the turbulent organs of Matter. … It is a part of the mission of the Manasic Ray, to get gradually rid of the blind, deceptive element which, though it makes of it an active spiritual entity on this plane, still brings it into so close contact with matter as to entirely becloud its divine nature and stultify its intuitions.
Your position [the American Theosophist] as the fore-runners of the sixth sub-race of the fifth root-race has its own special perils as well as its special advantages. Psychism, with all its allurements and all its dangers, is necesarily developing among you, and you must beware lest the Psychic outruns the Manasic and Spiritual development. Psychic capacities held perfectly under control, checked and directed by the Manasic principle, are valuable aids in development. But these capacities running riot, controlling instead of controlled, using instead of being used, lead the Student into the most dangerous delusions and the certainty of moral destruction. Watch therefore carefully this development, inevitable in your race and evolution-period so that it may finally work for good and not for evil; and receive, in advance, the sincere and potent blessings of Those whose good-will will never fail you, if you do not fail yourselves.
WILLIAM Q. JUDGE
[The following are passages gathered from the writings of William Q. Judge, taken from The Ocean of Theosophy, “The Synthesis of Occult Science,” Notes on the Bhagavad-Gita, a note from Patanjali’s Yoga Aphorisms. Again there has been a minimum of editing and consolidation.]
There is a wide difference between the ordinary ideas about Mind and those found in Theosophy. Ordinarily the Mind is thought to be immaterial, or to be merely the name for the action of the brain in evolving thought, a process wholly unknown other than by inference, or that if there be no brain there can be no mind.
The Manasic, or mind principle, is cosmic and universal. It is the creator of all forms and the basis of all law in nature. Mind is not merely the developed “instinct” of the animal. It is the latent or active potentiality of Cosmic Ideation, the essence of every form, the basis of every law, the potency of every principle in the universe. Human thought is the reflection or reproduction in the realm of man’s consciousness of these forms, laws, and principles. Hence man senses and apprehends nature just as nature unfolds in him.
The course of evolution developed the lower principles and produced at last the form of man with a brain of better and deeper capacity than that of any other animal. But this man in form was not man in mind, and needed the fifth principle, Manas, the thinking, perceiving one, to differentiate him from the animal kingdom and to confer the power of becoming self-conscious. The question arises, “‘Who gave the mind, where did it come from, and what is it?” It is the link between the Spirit of God above and the personal below; it was given to the mindless monads by others who had gone all through this process ages upon ages before in other worlds and systems of worlds, and it therefore came from other evolutionary periods which were carried out and completed long before the solar system had begun. This is the theory, strange and unacceptable today, but which must be stated if we are to tell the truth about theosophy; and this is only handing on what others have said before. The manner in which this light of mind was given to the Mindless Men can be understood from the illustration of one candle lighting many. Given one lighted candle and numerous unlighted ones, it follows that from one light the others may also be set aflame. So in the case of Manas, or Mind.
Manas, the Thinker, the reincarnating being, carries the results and values of all the different lives lived on earth or elsewhere. Its nature becomes dual as soon as it is attached to a body. For the human brain is a superior organism and Manas uses it to reason from premises to conclusions. This also differentiates man from animal, for the animal acts from automatic and so-called instinctual impulses, whereas the man can use reason. This is the lower aspect of the Thinker, or Manas, and not as some have supposed, the highest and best gift belonging to man. Its other, and in theosophy higher, aspect is the intuitional, which knows, and does not depend on reason. The lower, and purely intellectual, is nearest to the principle of Desire, and is thus distinguished from its other side which has affinity for the spiritual principles above. If the Thinker, then, becomes wholly intellectual, the entire nature begins to tend downward; for intellect alone, is cold, heartless, selfish, because it is not lighted up by the two other principles of Buddhi and Atma, Spirit and spiritual discrimination.
In the higher Trinity of man we have the God above each one; this is Atma, or Spirit, and may be called the Higher Self. The spiritual part of the soul is called Buddhi, or spiritual discrimination; when thoroughly united with Manas this may be called the Divine Ego. The inner Ego, who reincarnates, taking on body after body, storing up the impressions of life after life, gaining experience and adding it to the divine Ego, suffering and enjoying through an immense period of years, is the fifth principle—Manas—not united to Buddhi. This is the permanent individuality which gives to every man the feeling of being himself and not some other; this which through all the changes of days and nights from youth to the end of life makes us feel one identity through all the periods; it bridges the gap made by the sleep of death. It is this, and not our brain, that lifts us above the animal.
Man, made of thought, occupant only of many bodies from time to time, is eternally thinking. His chains are through thought, his release due to nothing else. His mind is immediately tinted or altered by whatever object it is directed to. By this means the soul is enmeshed in the same thought or series of thoughts as is the mind. If the object be anything that is distinct from the Supreme Self then the mind is at once turned into that, becomes that, is tinted like that. This is one of the natural capacities of the mind. It is naturally clear and uncolored, as we would see if we were able to find one that had not gone through too many experiences. It is moveable and quick, having a disposition to bound from one point to another. Several words would describe it. Chameleon-like it changes color, sponge-like it absorbs that to which it is applied, sieve-like it at once loses its former color and shape the moment a different object is taken up. Thus, full of joy from an appropriate cause, it may suddenly become gloomy or morose upon the approach of that which is sorrowful or gloomy. We can therefore say it becomes that to which it is devoted.
In Manas the thoughts of all lives are stored. That is to say: in any one life, the sum total of thoughts underlying all the acts of the lifetime will be of one character in general, but may be placed in one or more classes. That is, the business man of today is a single type; his entire life thoughts represent but one single thread of thought. The artist is another. The man who has engaged in business, but also thought much upon fame and power which he never attained, is still another. The great mass of self-sacrificing, courageous, and strong poor people who have but little time to think, constitute another distinct class. In all these the total quantity of life thoughts makes up the stream or thread of a life’s meditation— “that upon which the heart was set”—and is stored in Manas, to be brought out again at any time in whatever life the brain and bodily environments are similar to those used in engendering that class of thoughts.
If the connection between Manas and brain be broken, intelligence will not be manifested unless Manas has by training found out how to project the astral body from the physical and thereby keep up communication with fellow-men. That the organs and senses do not cognize objects, hypnotism, mesmerism and hypnotic experiments, the object seen or felt, and from which all the effects of solid objects may be sensed, is often only an idea existing in the operator’s brain. In the same way Manas, using the astral body, has only to impress an idea upon the other person to make the latter see the idea and translate it into a visible body from which the usual effects of density and weight seem to follow. But all these phenomena are exhibitions of the powers of lower Manas acting in the astral body and fourth principle—Desire, using the physical body as the field for the exhibition of the forces.
It is lower Manas which retains all the impressions of a lifetime and sometimes strangely exhibits them in trances or dreams, delirium, induced states, here and there in normal conditions, and very often at the time of physical death. But it is so occupied with the brain, with memory and with sensation, that it usually presents but few recollections out of the mass of events that years have brought before it. It interferes with the action of Higher Manas because just at the present point of evolution, Desire and all corresponding powers, faculties, and senses are the most highly developed, thus obscuring, as it were, the white light of the spiritual side of Manas. It is tinted by each object presented to it, whether it be a thought-object or a material one. That is to say: Lower Manas operating through the brain is at once altered into the shape and other characteristics of any object, mental or otherwise. This causes it to have four peculiarities. First, to naturally fly off from any point, object, or subject; second, to fly to some pleasant idea; third, to fly to an unpleasant idea; fourth, to remain passive and considering naught. The first is due to memory and natural motion of Manas; the second and third are due to memory alone; the fourth signifies sleep when not abnormal, and when abnormal is going toward insanity.
Patanjali holds that Nature exists for the soul’s sake, and lays down that the real experiencer and knower is the soul and not the mind. … It follows, then, that the Mind, designated either as “internal organ,” or “thinking principle,” while higher and more subtle than the body, is only an instrument used by the Soul in gaining experience, just in the same way as an astronomer used his telescope for acquiring information respecting the heavens. … If we are but mind, or the slaves of mind, we never can attain real knowledge because the incessant panorama of objects eternally modifies that mind which is uncontrolled by the soul, always preventing real knowledge from being acquired. But as the Soul is held to be superior to Mind, it has the power to grasp and hold the latter if we but use the will to aid it in the work, and then only the real end and purpose of mind is brought about.
The mental characteristics belonging to lower Manas are those which the Higher Manas, aided by Buddhi and Atma, has to fight and conquer. Higher Manas, if able to act, becomes what we sometimes call Genius; if completely master, then one may become a god. But memory continually presents pictures to Lower Manas, and the result is that the Higher is obscured. Sometimes, however, along the pathway of life we do see here and there men who are geniuses or great seers and prophets. In these the Higher powers of Manas are active and the person illuminated. Such were the great Sages of the past, men like Buddha, Jesus, Confucius, Zoroaster, and others.