Getting Started in Theosophy
(And its all Free Stuff )
But you don’t have to live in Wales
to find this guide useful
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
1831 – 1891
The Constitution of Man
A Textbook of Theosophy
Man is therefore in essence a Spark of the divine Fire, belonging to the monadic world. (The President has now decided upon a set of names for the planes, so for the future these will be used instead of those previously employed. A table of them is given below for reference) To that Spark, dwelling all the time in that world, we give the name “Monad”. For the purpose of human evolution Monad manifests itself in lower worlds. When it descends one stage and enters the spiritual world, it shows itself there as the triple Spirit, having itself three aspects (just as in worlds infinitely higher the Deity has His three Aspects.) Of those three - one remains always in that world, and we call that the Spirit in man. The second aspect manifests itself in the intuitional world, and we speak of it as the Intuition in man. The third shows itself in the higher mental world, and we call it the Intelligence in man. These three aspects taken together constitute the ego which ensouls the fragment from the group-soul.
Thus man as we know him
New Names & Old Names
1 Divine World Âdi Plane
2 Monadic World Anupâdaka
3 Spiritual World Âtmic or Nirvânic Plane
4 Intuitional World Buddhic Plane
5 Mental World Mental Plane
6 Emotional or Astral World Astral Plane
7 Physical World Physical Plane
reality a Monad residing in the monadic world, shows himself as an ego in the higher mental world, manifesting these three aspects of himself (Spirit, Intuition and Intelligence) through that vehicle of higher mental matter which we name the casual body.
This ego is the man during the human stage of evolution; he is the nearest correspondence, in fact, to the ordinary unscientific conception of the soul. He lives unchanged (except for his growth) from the moment of individualization until humanity is transcended and merged into divinity. He is in no way affected by what we call birth and death; what we commonly consider as his life is only a day in his life. The body which we can see, the body which is born and dies, is a garment which he puts on for the purposes of a certain part of his evolution.
Nor is it the only body which he assumes. Before he, the ego in the higher mental world, can take a vehicle belonging to the physical world, he must make a connection with it through the lower mental and astral worlds. When he wishes to descend he draws around himself a veil of the matter of the lower mental world, which we call his mental body. This is the instrument by means of which he thinks all his concrete thoughts – abstract thought being a power of the ego himself in the higher mental world.
Next he draws round himself a veil of astral matter, which we call his astral body; and that is the instrument of his passions and emotions, and also (in conjunction with the lower part of his mental body) the instrument of all such thought as is tinged by selfishness and personal feeling. Only after having assumed these intermediate vehicles can he come into touch with a baby physical body, and be born into the world which we know. He lives through what we call his life, gaining certain qualities as the result of its experiences; and at its end, when the physical body is worn out, he reverses the process of descent and lays aside one by one the temporary vehicles which he has assumed.
The first to go is the physical body, and when that is dropped, his life is centered in the astral world and he lives in his astral body.
The length of his stay in that world depends upon the amount of passion and emotion which he has developed within himself in his physical life. If there is much of these the astral body is strongly vitalized, and will persist for a long time; if there is but little, the astral body has less vitality, and he will soon be able to cast that vehicle aside in turn.
When that is done he finds himself living in his mental body. The strength of that depends upon the nature of the thoughts to which he had habituated himself, and usually his stay at this level is a long one. At last it comes to an end, he casts aside the mental body in turn, and is once more the ego in his own world.
Owing to lack of development, he is as yet but partially conscious in that world; the vibrations of its matter are too rapid to make any impression upon him, just as the ultraviolet rays are too rapid to make any impression upon our eyes. After a rest there, he feels the desire to descend to a level where the undulations are perceptible to him, in order that he may feel himself to be fully alive; so he repeats the process of descent into denser matter, and assumes once more a mental, an astral and a physical body. As his previous bodies have all disintegrated, each in its turn, these new vehicles are entirely distinct from them, and thus it happens that in his physical life he has no recollection whatever of other similar lives which have preceded it.
When functioning in this physical world he remembers by means of his mental body; but since that is a new one, assumed only for this birth, it naturally cannot contain the memory of previous births in which it had no part. The man himself, the ego, does remember them all when in his own world, and occasionally some partial recollection of them or influence from them filters through into his lower vehicles. He does not usually, in his physical life, remember the experiences of earlier lives, but he does manifest in physical life the qualities which those experiences have developed in him. Each man is therefore exactly what he has made himself during those past lives; if he has in them developed good qualities in himself, he possesses the good qualities now; if he neglected to train himself, and consequently left himself weak and of evil disposition, he finds himself precisely in that condition now. The qualities, good or evil, with which he is born are those which he has made for himself.
This development of the ego is the object of the whole process of materialization; he assumes those veils of matter precisely because through them he is able to receive vibrations to which he can respond, so that his latent faculties may thereby be unfolded.
Though man descends from on high into these lower worlds, it is only through that descent that a full cognizance of the higher worlds is developed in him. Full consciousness in any given world involves the power to perceive and respond to all the undulations of that world; therefore the ordinary man has not yet perfect consciousness at any level – not even in this physical world which he thinks he knows. It is possible for him to unfold his percipience in all these worlds, and it is by means of such developed consciousness that we observe all these facts which I am now describing.
The causal body is the permanent vehicle of the ego in the higher mental world. It consists of matter of the first, second and third subdivisions of that world. In ordinary people it is not yet fully active, only that matter which belongs to the third subdivision being vivified. As the ego unfolds his latent possibilities through the long course of his evolution, the higher matter is gradually brought into action, but it is only in the perfected man whom we call the Adept that it is developed to its fullest extent. Such matter can be discerned by clairvoyant sight, but only by a seer who knows how to use the sight of the ego.
It is difficult to describe a causal body fully, because the senses belonging to its world are altogether different from and higher than ours at this level. Such memory of the appearance of a causal body as it is possible for a clairvoyant to bring into his physical brain represents it as ovoid, and as surrounding the physical body of the man, extending to a distance of about eighteen inches from the normal surface of that body. In the case of primitive man it resembles a bubble, and gives the impression of being empty. It is in reality filled with higher mental matter, but as this is not yet brought into activity it remains colorless and transparent. As advancement continues it is gradually stirred into alertness by vibrations which reach it from the lower bodies. This comes but slowly, because the activities of man in the earlier stages of his evolution are not of a character to obtain expression in matter so fine as that of the higher mental body; but when a man reaches the stage where he is capable either of abstract thought or of unselfish emotion the matter of the causal body is aroused into response.
When these rates of undulation are awakened within him they show themselves in his causal body as colors, so that instead of being a mere transparent bubble it gradually becomes a sphere filled with matter of the most lovely and delicate
hues – an object beautiful beyond all conception. It is found by experience that these colors are significant. The vibration which denotes the power of unselfish affection shows itself as a pale rose-color; that which indicates high intellectual power is yellow; that which expresses sympathy is green, while blue betokens devotional feeling, and a luminous lilac-blue typifies the higher spirituality. The same scheme of color significance applies to the bodies which are built of denser matter, but as we approach the physical world the hues are in every case by comparison grosser – not only less delicate but also less living.
In the course of evolution in the lower worlds man often introduces into his vehicles qualities which are undesirable and entirely inappropriate for his life as an ego – such, for example, as pride, irritability, sensuality. These, like the rest, are reducible to vibrations, but they are in all cases vibrations of the lower subdivisions of their respective worlds, and therefore they cannot reproduce themselves in the casual body, which is built exclusively of the matter of the three higher subdivisions of its world. For each section of the astral body acts strongly upon the corresponding section of the mental body, but only upon the corresponding section; it cannot influence any other part. So the casual body can be affected only by the three higher portions of the astral body; and the oscillations of those represent only good qualities.
The practical effect of this is that the man can build into the ego (that is, into his true self) nothing but good qualities; the evil qualities which he develops are in their nature transitory and must be thrown aside as he advances, because he has no longer within him matter which can express them. The difference between the causal bodies of the savage and the saint is that the first is empty and colorless, while the second is full of brilliant coruscating tints. As the man passes beyond even sainthood and becomes a great spiritual power, his causal body increases in size, because it has so much more to express, and it also begins to pour out from itself in all directions powerful rays of living light. In one who has attained Adeptship this body is of enormous dimensions.
The mental body is built of matter of the four lower subdivisions of the mental world, and expresses the concrete thoughts of the man. Here also we find the same color scheme as in the casual body. The hues are somewhat less delicate, and we notice one or two additions. For example, a thought of pride shows itself as orange, while irritability is manifested by a brilliant scarlet.
We may see here sometimes the bright brown of avarice, the grey-brown of selfishness, and grey-green of deceit. Here also we perceive the possibility of a mixture of colors; the affection, the intellect, the devotion may be tinged by selfishness, and in that case their distinctive colors are mingled with the brown of selfishness, and so we have an impure and muddy appearance. Although its particles are always in intensely rapid motion among themselves, this body has at the same time a kind of loose organization.
The size and shape of the mental body are determined by those of the causal vehicle. There are in it certain striations which divide it more or less irregularly into segments, each of these corresponding to a certain department of the physical brain, so that every type of thought should function through its duly assigned portion. The mental body is as yet so imperfectly developed in ordinary men that there are many in whom a great number of special departments are not yet in activity, and any attempt at thought belonging to those departments has to travel round through some inappropriate channel which happens to be fully open. The result is that thought on those subjects is for those people clumsy and uncomprehending. This is why some people have a head for mathematics and others are unable to add correctly – why some people instinctively understand, appreciate and enjoy music, while others do not know one tune from another.
All the matter of the mental body should be circulating freely, but sometimes a man allows his thought upon a certain subject to set and solidify, and then the circulation is impeded, and there is congestion which presently hardens into a kind of wart on the mental body. Such a wart appears to us down here as a prejudice; and until it is absorbed and free circulation restored, it is impossible for man to think truly or to see clearly with regard to that particular department of his mind, as the congestion checks the free passage of undulations both outward and inward.
When a man uses any part of his mental body it not only vibrates for the time more rapidly, but it also temporarily swells out and increases in size. If there is prolonged thought upon a subject this increase becomes permanent, and it is thus open to any man to increase the size of his mental body either along desirable or undesirable lines.
Good thoughts produce vibrations of the finer matter of the body, which by its specific gravity tends to float in the upper part of the ovoid; whereas bad thoughts, such as selfishness and avarice, are always oscillations of the grosser matter, which tends to gravitate towards the lower part of the ovoid.
Consequently the ordinary man, who yields himself not infrequently to selfish thoughts to various kinds, usually expands the lower part of his mental body, and presents roughly the appearance of an egg with its larger end downwards. The man who has repressed those lower thoughts, and devoted himself
to higher ones, tends to expand the upper part of his mental body and therefore presents the appearance of an egg standing on its smaller end. From a study of the colors and striations of a man’s mental body the clairvoyant can perceive his character and the progress he has made in his present life. From similar features of the causal body he can see what progress the ego has made since its original formation, when the man left the animal kingdom.
When a man thinks of any concrete object – a book, a house, a landscape – he builds a tiny image of the object in the matter of his mental body. This image floats in the upper part of that body, usually in front of the face of the man and at about the level of the eyes. It remains there as long as the man is contemplating the object, and usually for a little time afterwards, the length of time depending upon the intensity and the clearness of the thought. This form is quite objective, and can be seen by another person, if that other has developed the sight of his own mental body. If a man thinks of another, he
creates a tiny portrait in just the same way. If his thought is merely contemplative and involves no feeling (such as affection or dislike) or desires (such as a wish to see the person) the thought does not usually perceptibly affect the man of whom he thinks.
If coupled with the thought of the person there is a feeling, as for example of affection, another phenomenon occurs besides the forming of the image. The thought of affection takes a definite form, which it builds out of the matter of the thinker’s mental body. Because of the emotion involved, it draws round it also matter of his astral body, and thus we have an astro-mental form which leaps out of the body in which it has been generated, and moves through space towards the object of the feeling of affection. If the thought is sufficiently strong, distance makes absolutely no difference to it; but the thought of an ordinary person is usually weak and diffused, and is therefore not effective outside a limited area.
When this thought-form reaches its object it discharges itself into his astral and mental bodies, communicating to them its own rate of vibration. Putting this in another way, a thought of love sent from one person to another involves the actual transference of a certain amount both of force and of matter from the sender to the recipient, and its effect upon the recipient is to arouse the feeling of affection in him, and slightly but permanently to increase his power of loving. But such a thought also strengthens the power of affection in the thinker, and therefore it does good simultaneously to both.
Every thought builds a form; if the thought be directed to another person it travels to him; if it be distinctly selfish it remains in the immediate neighbourhood of the thinker; if it belongs to neither of these categories it floats for awhile in space and then slowly disintegrates.
Every man therefore is leaving behind him wherever he goes a trail of thought-forms; as we go along the street we are walking all the same amidst a sea of other men’s thoughts. If a man leaves his mind blank for a time, these residual thoughts of others drifts through it, making in most cases but little impression upon him.
Sometimes one arrives which attracts his attention, so that his mind seizes upon it and makes it its own, strengthens it by the addition of its force, and then casts it out again to affect somebody else. A man, therefore, is not responsible for a thought which floats into his mind, because it may be not his, but someone else’s, but he is responsible if he takes it up, dwells upon it and then sends it out strengthened.
Self-centered thought of any kind hangs about the thinker, and most men surround their mental bodies with a shell of such thoughts. Such a shell obscures the mental vision and facilitates the formation of prejudice.
Each thought-form is a temporary entity. It resembles a charged battery, awaiting an opportunity to discharge itself. Its tendency is always to reproduce its own rate of vibration in the mental body upon which it fastens itself, and so to arouse in it a like thought. If the person at whom it is aimed happens to be busy, or already engaged in some definite train of thought, the particles of his mental body are already swinging at a certain determinate rate, and cannot for the moment be affected from without. In that case the thought-form bides its time, hanging about its object until he is sufficiently at rest to permit its entrance; then it discharges itself upon him, and in the act ceases to exist.
The self-centered thought behaves in exactly the same way with regard to its generator, and discharges itself upon him when opportunity offers. If it be an evil thought he generally regards it as the suggestion of a tempting demon, whereas in truth he tempts himself. Usually each definite thought creates a new thought-form; but if a thought-form of the same nature is already hovering round the thinker, under certain circumstances a new thought on the same subject, instead of creating a new form, coalesces with and strengthens the old one, so that by long brooding over the same subject a man may sometimes create a thought-form of tremendous power. If the thought be a wicked one, such a thought-form may become a veritable evil influence, lasting perhaps for many years, and having for a time all the appearance and powers of a real living entity.
All these which have been described are the ordinary unpremeditated thoughts of
man. A man can make a thought-form intentionally, and aim it at another with the
object of helping him. This is one of the lines of activity adopted by those who desire to serve humanity. A steady stream of powerful thought directed intelligently upon another person may be of the greatest assistance to him. A strong thought-form may be a real guardian angel, and protect its object from impurity, from irritability or from fear.
An interesting branch of the subject is the study of the various shapes and colors taken by thought-forms of different kinds. The colors indicate the nature of the thought, and are in agreement with those which we have already described as existing in the bodies. The shapes are of infinite variety, but are often in some way typical of the kind of thought which they express.
Every thought of definite character, such as a thought of affection or hatred, of devotion or suspicion, of anger or fear, of pride or jealousy, not only creates a form but also radiates an undulation. The fact that each one of these thoughts is expressed by a certain color indicates that the thought expresses itself as an oscillation of the matter of a certain part of the mental body. This rate of oscillation communicates itself to the surrounding mental matter precisely in the same way as the vibration of a bell communicates itself to the surrounding air.
This radiation travels out in all directions, and whenever it impinges upon another mental body in a passive or receptive condition it communicates to it something of its own vibration. This does not convey a definite complete idea, as does the thought-form, but it tends to produce a thought of the same character as itself. For example, if the thought be devotional its undulations will excite devotion, but the object of worship may be different in the case of each person upon whose mental body they impinge. The thought-form, on the other hand, can reach only one person, but will convey to that person (if receptive) not only a general devotional feeling, but also a precise image of the Being for whom the adoration was originally felt.
Any person who habitually thinks pure, good and strong thoughts is utilizing for that purpose the higher part of his mental body – a part which is not used at all by the ordinary man, and is entirely undeveloped in him. Such an one is therefore a power for good in the world, and is being of great use to all those of his neighbours who are capable of any sort of response. For the vibration which he sends out tends to arouse a new and higher part of their mental bodies, and consequently to open before them altogether new fields of thought.
It may not be exactly the same thought as that sent out, but it is of the same nature. The undulations generated by a man thinking of Theosophy do not necessarily communicate theosophical ideas to all those around him; but they do awaken in them more liberal and higher thought than that to which they have before been accustomed. On the other hand, the thought-forms generated under such circumstances, though more limited in their action than the radiation, are also more precise; they can affect only those who are to some extent open to them, but to them they will convey definite Theosophical ideas.
The colors of the astral body bear the same meaning as those of the higher vehicles, but are several octaves of color below them, and much more nearly approaching to such hues as we see in the physical world. It is the vehicle of passion and emotion and consequently it may exhibit additional colors, expressing man’s less desirable feelings, which cannot show themselves at higher levels; for example, a lurid brownish red indicates the presence of sensuality, while black clouds show malice and hatred. A curious livid grey betokens the presence of fear, and a much darker grey, usually arranged in heavy rings around the ovoid, indicates a condition of depression. Irritability is shown by the presence of a number of small scarlet flecks in the astral body, each representing a small angry impulse. Jealousy is shown by a peculiar brownish-green, generally studded with the same scarlet flecks. The astral body is in size and shape like those just described, and in the ordinary man its outline is usually clearly marked; but in the case of primitive man it is often exceedingly irregular, and resembles a rolling cloud composed of all the more unpleasant colors.
When the astral body is comparatively quiet (it is never actually at rest) the colors which are to be seen in it indicate those emotions to which the man is most in the habit of yielding himself. When the man experiences a rush of any particular feeling, the rate of vibration which expresses that feeling dominates for a time the entire astral body. If, for example, it be devotion, the whole of his astral body is flushed with blue, and while the emotion remains at its strongest the normal colors do little more than modify the blue, or appear faintly through a veil of it; but presently the vehemence of the sentiment dies away, and the normal colors reassert themselves. But because of that spasm of emotion the part of the astral body which is normally blue has been increased in size. Thus a man who frequently feels high devotion soon comes to have a large area of blue permanently existing in his astral body.
When the rush of devotional feeling comes over him it is usually accompanied by thoughts of devotion. Although primarily formed in the mental body, these draw round themselves a large amount of astral matter as well, so that their action is in both worlds. In both worlds also is the radiation which was previously described, so that devotional man is a center of devotion, and will influence other people to share both his thoughts and his feelings. The same is true in the case of affection, anger, depression – and, indeed, of all other feelings.
The flood of emotion does not itself greatly affect the mental body, although for a time it may render it almost impossible for any activity from that mental body to come through into the physical brain. That is not because that body itself is affected, but because the astral body, which acts as a bridge between it and the physical brain, is vibrating so entirely at one rate as to be incapable of conveying any undulation which is not in harmony with that.
The permanent colors of the astral body reacts upon the mental. They produce in it their correspondences, several octaves higher, in the same manner as a musical note produces overtones. The mental body in its turn reacts upon the causal in the same way, and thus all the good qualities expressed in the lower vehicles by degrees establish themselves permanently in the ego. The evil qualities cannot do so, as the rates of vibration which express them are impossible for the higher mental matter of which the causal body is constructed.
So far, we have described vehicles which are the expression of the ego in their respective worlds – vehicles which he provides for himself; in the physical world we come to a vehicle which is provided for him by nature under laws which will be explained later – which , though also in some sense an expression of him, is by no means a perfect manifestation. In ordinary life we see only a
small part of this physical body – only that which is built of the solid and liquid subdivisions of physical matter. The body contains matter of all the seven subdivisions, and all of them play their part in its life and are of equal importance to it.
We usually speak of the invisible part of the physical body as the etheric double; “double” because it exactly reproduces the size and shape of the part of the body that we can see, and “etheric” because it is built of that finer kind of matter by the vibrations of which light is conveyed to the retina of the eye. (This must not be confused with the true aether of space – that of which matter is the negation.) This invisible part of the physical body is of great importance to us, since it is the vehicle through which flow the streams of vitality which keeps the body alive, and without it, as a bridge to convey undulations of thought and feeling from the astral to the visible denser physical matter, the ego could make no use of the cells of his brain.
The life of a physical body is one of perpetual change and in order that it shall live, it needs constantly to be supplied from three distinct sources. It must have food for its digestion, air for its breathing, and vitality for its absorption. This vitality is essentially a force, but when clothed in matter it appears to us a definite element, which exists in all the worlds of which we have spoken. At the moment we are concerned with that manifestation of it which we find in the highest subdivision of the physical world. Just as the blood circulates through the veins, so does the vitality circulate along the nerves; and precisely as any abnormality in the flow of the blood at once affects the physical body so does the slightest irregularity in the absorption or flow of the vitality affect this higher part of the physical body.
Vitality is a force which comes originally from the sun. When an ultimate physical atom is charged with it, it draws round itself six other atoms and makes itself into an etheric element. The original force of vitality is then subdivided into seven, each of the atoms carrying a separate charge. The element thus made is absorbed into the human body through the etheric part of the spleen. It is there split up into its component parts, which at once flow to the
various parts of the body assigned to them. The spleen is one of the seven force-centers in the etheric part of the physical body. In each of our vehicles seven such centers should be in activity, and when they are thus active they are visible to clairvoyant sight. They appear usually as shallow vortices, for they are the points at which the force from the higher bodies enters the lower.
In the physical body these centers are:
(1) at the base of the spine
(2) at the solar plexus
(3) at the spleen
(4) over the heart
(5) at the throat
(6) between the eyebrows
(7) at the top of the head
There are other dormant centers, but their awakening is undesirable.
The shape of all the higher bodies as seen by the clairvoyant is ovoid, but the matter composing them is not equally distributed throughout the egg. In the midst of this ovoid is the physical body. The physical body strongly attracts astral matter, and in its turn the astral matter strongly attracts mental matter. Therefore by far the greater part of the matter of the astral body is gathered within the physical frame; and the same is true of the mental vehicle.
If we see the astral body of a man in its own world, apart from the physical body, we shall still perceive the astral matter aggregated in exactly the shape of the physical, although, as the matter is more fluidic in its nature, what we see is a body built of dense mist, in the midst of an ovoid of much finer mist.
The same is true for the mental body. Therefore, if in the astral or the mental world we should meet an acquaintance, we should recognize him by his appearance just as instantly as in the physical world.
This, then, is the true constitution of man. In the first place he is a Monad, a Spark of the Divine. Of that Monad the ego is a partial expression, formed in order that he may enter evolution, and may return to the Monad with joy, bringing his sheaves with him in the shape of qualities developed by garnered experience. The ego in his turn puts down part of himself for the same purpose into lower worlds, and we call that part a personality, because the Latin word persona means a mask, and this personality is the mask which the ego puts upon himself when he manifests in worlds lower than his own. Just as the ego is a small part and an imperfect expression of the Monad, so is the personality a small part and an imperfect expression of the ego; so that what we usually think of as the man is only in truth a fragment of a fragment.
The personality wears three bodies or vehicles, the mental, the astral and the physical. While the man is what we call alive and awake on the physical earth he is limited by his physical body, for he uses the astral and mental bodies only as bridges to connect himself with his lowest vehicle. One of the limitations of the physical body is that it quickly becomes fatigued and needs periodical rest.
Each night the man leaves it to sleep, and withdraws into his astral vehicle, which does not become fatigued, and therefore needs no sleep. During this sleep of the physical body the man is free to move about the astral world; but the extent to which he does this depends upon his development. The primitive savage usually does not move more than a few miles away from his sleeping physical form – often not as much as that; and he has only the vaguest consciousness.
The educated man is generally able to travel in his astral vehicle wherever he will, and has much more consciousness in the astral world, though he has not often the faculty of bringing into his waking life any memory of what he has seen and done while his physical body was asleep.
Sometimes he does remember some incident which he has seen, some experience which he has had, and then he calls it a vivid dream. More often his recollections are hopelessly entangled with vague memories of waking life, and with impressions made from without upon the etheric part of his brain. Thus we arrive at the confused and often absurd dreams of ordinary life.
The developed man becomes as fully conscious and active in the astral world as in the physical, and brings through into the latter full remembrance of what he has been doing in the former – that is, he has a continuous life without any loss of consciousness throughout the whole twenty-four hours, and thus throughout the whole of his physical life, and even through death itself.
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